The Nebraska Press Association (NPA) has launched a new public website to provide greater public access and notification to the workings of all government entities and courts in Nebraska. The website – www.nepublicnotices.com – is a cooperative effort of all Nebraska newspapers and is managed through the NPA.
The free-access website was initiated in June 2021. Currently there are over 90,000 notices on the site and more are posted each day. The notices are fully searchable by keyword, type of notice, by date, by publication, by county ,or by city or village. After public notices appear in print in newspapers – as required by state statutes, they are then uploaded by newspapers to the website within 24 to 48 hours of publication.
The executive director of the Nebraska Press Association, Dennis DeRossett, said the newspapers across Nebraska funded development of the site, as well as all costs involved with hosting and maintaining it; there is no additional cost to any government entity or court for notices to appear on this website. “This is a true public service to the people of Nebraska, provided by community newspapers across the state,” he said.
Amy Johnson, owner and publisher of the Springview Herald and current board president of NPA, said, “This project has come together extremely well because Nebraska’s newspapers are committed to the belief that public notices are an essential part of the foundation of a democracy. Through public notices, units of government at all levels notify taxpayers when, where and how they conduct the public’s business. Nebraskans get their local news and information from printed newspapers and digital platforms and this new statewide public notice website enables a larger audience to have access to this important information.”
DeRossett said the goal is to have 100% of all public notices in Nebraska to be on the website after first appearing in print, which establishes the legal basis for statutory publishing requirements. “Through the cooperation of all newspapers across the state, and using advances in technology, we are confident we can achieve this self-imposed benchmark by June 2022 – the first anniversary date of the site. To back up its commitment to provide for expanded accessibility of public notices, the NPA board of directors recently amended its bylaws that makes compliance with uploading to the website a condition of membership.”
Johnson added, “The aggregation of all public notices from the units of government and courts in all 93 Nebraska counties did not exist before now.
Most people may only be affected by or concerned with notices from their local community but having access to all notices statewide is a valuable resource in many ways.” As an example, she said, bid notices will now get wider exposure which could result in more bidders for projects and possibly more competitive pricing. She added, “whether it’s a notice of a meeting or public hearing, or an ordinance that changes zoning requirements, or a request for bids, these involve use of taxpayer dollars. Public notices are the key in providing that information from the unit of government back to the taxpayers.”
DeRossett said that state statutes spell out publication requirements for public notices to appear in newspapers, as well as rates newspapers can charge. “Public notices are not just advertising – they are an integral part of a legal process of notification and accountability by units of government, and the courts, to the taxpayers. I’m proud of the commitment Nebraska newspapers have made to ensure public notices are available to all citizens of Nebraska.”
The Nebraska Press Association is the oldest trade association in Nebraska; it will celebrate its 150th anniversary year in 2023.