Another look at the situation of regulating the placement of written materials on the property of Derby homeowners resulted in the City Council following a recommended action of having the staff report back in six months.
The council examined the situation at its Nov. 12 meeting and was undertaking a second reading of the ordinance at the Nov. 26 meeting.
However, in between that period, there was a meeting with city officials and representatives from the Wichita Eagle and ANS Newspapers. ANS is the entity that places the printed materials in Derby under contract with the Eagle.
At issue is concern that the printed material can pile up in driveways and yards, especially if a house is vacant, and can get blown into the street and become litter.
An outright ban on them is not possible as that runs into First Amendment issues and the city would likely lose a legal challenge.
Thus, city officials put their attention on how such materials are located under what they term a “content-neutral ordinance.”
The city had proposed new rules that would require a distributor to place such materials on the front porch in a secure fashion. Other methods could be attached to the front door, through a mail slot or between the screen and front door. However, Eagle officials say those methods would be too time-consuming and increase their labor costs.
“The Eagle opposes passage of this ordinance and would rather see the city allow them and their distributor a chance to work on cleaning up distribution of the product,” said Kiel Mangus, deputy city manager, in his remarks to the council.
Council members agreed with the concept.
“I’m OK with kicking the can down the road and see what kind of feedback we get,” said member Mark Staats.
Distributor suggests changes in system
Staats said the recent conversation has been good and needed. At the same time, he doesn’t want to see the issue continue on without a resolution.
He asked Mangus if he believes the commitment from the Eagle is stronger than it was back in 2008, when the issue also was brought up.
“I hope so. I do think they were sincere in wanting to work with the city,” Mangus said. “They do want to take action.”
One thing that has changed in the past 11 years is that technology has improved, he said, and they also have examples from other markets where similar issues have been handled.
Eagle officials say they want to work with the city and suggested possible answers.
• Establishing a customer service telephone number routed directly to their distribution agent for residents with questions or service issues. The number will be local, not overseas.
• Create a customer service website for Derby. The website is to be used as a method for Derby residents to register delivery issues such as placement requests, temporary stops and starts or a request for delivery of either product to cease at their address. Similar portal websites for Wichita, Park City, Colwich and Andover have been in place.
• Distributors using a device with software that tells the contractor which addresses are to receive delivery and which addresses requested no delivery. They will not deliver to an address where a “Do Not Deliver” request has been made.
Also, the Eagle will publish the opt-out information in the written materials that are delivered once the phone number and website address are established and active.
Until the website is completed and the phone line is activated, ANS has provided to the city an email address and a phone number that can be directly used for complaints, he said.
Member Tom Keil said he, too, is fine with “delaying it for a little bit,” but he had a concern about just communicating on social media. “There’s a lot of people not on social media.”
Weather conditions affect delivery
He suggested an option of doing a mailer.
Member Cheryl Bannon said the city is extending a good-faith effort to the Eagle to make their plans work.
“We’re giving them lots of chances,” she said.
There are two publications distributed in Derby: Neighbors, which is the weekly free paper that goes to about 6,800 households in Derby. It fits the city’s definition of unsolicited written material. People can opt-out of getting it. The other publication is called Sunday Select and it is an opt-in publication. About 1,500 people signed up to get it.
If the proposed ordinance passes, both publications will cease in Derby, representatives said.
Not everyone is opposed to getting the publications. Mangus himself mentioned that his spouse likes to get Sunday Select for the coupons it offers.
Other proposed steps, Mangus said, is for them to not deliver to an address where more than two weeks of newspapers have not been picked up.
Those addresses will be marked on their device as ones that should be updated to Do Not Deliver status.
He also said that in situations with more than two weeks of materials, the carrier will personally remove the publications.
Furthermore, distributors will put a rubber band around each product before delivery.
Such a step will reduce friction when tossed through the air, and that will permit it to travel further up the driveway.
In related moves, unless rain is predicted, the publication won’t be in a plastic bag. Putting it in a bag results in it not being able to move up the driveway as far as without it.
Additionally, when heavy wind conditions are forecasted, the delivery vendor will work to put the materials on grassy areas and not the concrete driveways. That will cut back on them being blown away and into the streets, ANS officials say.