WHILE ITS IMPACT ON SMALL TOWNS LIKE HAWLEY may be minimal at first, a new Massachusetts State Law will go into effect on January 1 that will affect the way public information is handled, stored and made available by municipalities throughout the Commonwealth. Called “An Act to Improve Public Records,” Chapter 121 of the Acts of 2016 provides for:
♦ The Establishment of a Records Access Officer (RAO) position for each Town, charged with providing help to residents who are seeking information, as well as oversight of how public records are processed, stored and accessed;
♦ Definitions of the kinds of information that can be withheld from public records access;
♦ More precise deadlines for responding to requests for information, and specification of copying and research fees;
♦ Use of the “Cloud” and specification of file types for on-line storage of municipal data.
This last set of provisions may actually have the most visible effect for Hawley. Documents like the Hawley Selectboard Minutes will have to be made available on the Town website in a machine-readable format like “.txt” as well as the old standard “.pdf,” as this latter file type has been adjudged to be non-machine-readable.