In 2019 the City of Nelson received 16 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from its residents.
Between 2015 and 2019 an average of 14.25 requests per year were made, amounting to a total of 73 requests over five years.
Almost half of those requests (33) were made by two people.
“We do respond to every single one of them,” the city’s corporate officer Sarah Winton told council at its Jan. 13 meeting. “We try to connect with each requester and figure out what documents they are after.”
FOI requests are made under B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Its purpose is to make public bodies more accountable.
Winton explained that citizens can request letters, emails, maps, documents, consultant reports, permits, and other city records, from which she will redact any personal information about anyone outside of city hall.
“What they are asking for might be quite broad, such as emails between such and such a date between two people, and we have to narrow it down to the topic.”
Winton said that in 2019 the city released 381 pages of material and it took 16.5 business days for staff to find and compile it.
From 2015 to 2019, the highest number of released pages was 1,209 pages in 2018. Searches in that year took 20.7 business days, she said.
Many of the requests made by the two prolific requesters are repetitions of their earlier requests, or the same request worded in a different way, she said.
Many of the documents requested by the public are already on the city website so she directs them there.
“Mostly bylaws, consultant reports, the Water Master Plan for example, people don’t know where to look for these things.”
Anyone wishing to make an FOI request should search Freedom of Information at www.nelson.ca.