Mesa County public trustee shifting legal advertising from Sentinel to weeklies

Legal notices about foreclosures in Mesa County are to be published as of next week in two small weekly newspapers that are printed in Montrose County.

The change is worrisome to Grand Junction attorneys and other observers who said it could have consequences for property owners and others seeking public information from government agencies during difficult economic times.

Mesa County Public Trustee Paul Brown signed an agreement to have his legal advertising, which includes notifications of foreclosures, published in the Palisade Tribune and Fruita Times, which have a combined press run of 2,500.

Brown’s agreement to publish foreclosure notices for Mesa County begins on Tuesday.

The Daily Sentinel, which now publishes the legal advertising, has a weekday circulation more than 10 times greater, 28,000.

Brown said he was making the change because of reduced publication costs, citing the lower price, about 43 percent of The Sentinel’s price. Brown noted it would cost $651.55 to publish an ad five times in The Sentinel, and $280 in the weekly publications, which are owned by a Denver company, the Villager newspapers.

As to whether people who might be affected by foreclosures will see the notices, Brown said he is confident that smaller publications will be adequate.

“Quite honestly, I don’t consider it a huge factor because people who want it will find it. I believe that,” he said.

Brown consulted with his attorney, Rich Krohn of Grand Junction, who also advises trustees statewide, and Brown noted Krohn was “comfortable that my decision is both legal and in the best interest of the public.”

State law requires that legal notices be published in daily, triweekly, semiweekly or weekly newspapers “of general circulation and printed or published in whole or in part in the county in which such notice or advertisement is required to be published.”

“It’s strange he would do that” because creditors and others who pay attention to such advertising tend to look for it in The Sentinel, as a daily paper, rather than a small weekly, attorney Larry Beckner said.

With legal advertising, “You’re trying to give people the best notice,” Beckner said.

The implications of limited notice in a small publication could be significant, Beckner said, noting one reason for seeking wide notice is to obtain the best possible price when foreclosures go to bid.

That’s why maximum notice is necessary in a publication generally recognized as one providing important legal advertising, Beckner said.

“The whole issue is proper notice,” he said.

Grand Junction attorney Dan Wilson said the idea the small papers in Palisade and Fruita are of general circulation in Mesa County “is simply silly.”

Most people are less likely to see the foreclosure ads if they’re published in limited-circulation publications, Sentinel Publisher Jay Seaton said, noting The Daily Sentinel’s circulation of 28,000 falls short of the paper’s market penetration, or the number of people who actually read the daily. Community newspapers such as The Sentinel are read by 2.3 people, “which means The Sentinel is read by 64,400 people in this valley,” Seaton said. “Every day.”

Publishing the foreclosure advertising in The Sentinel also keeps about $500,000 in fees collected by a local-government agency in the county, Seaton said. Instead, it “is being shipped to Denver, where the Palisade Tribune is owned and where the work will be done,” Seaton said.

Brown said he decided to seek out a new publication after he had become troubled by a misprint he saw in a foreclosure ad.

The Sentinel transcribes foreclosure notices into the legal-advertising format with which readers have become familiar after decades of publication in The Sentinel, as is the case with most daily newspapers.

Sometimes, he had to proof ads as many as three times, Brown said.

To eliminate errors, Brown proposed that the newspaper, in effect, photograph legal papers and reproduce them at a smaller size in the newspaper.

“I asked why not take a pic of a combined notice and run the picture of it, which they said they could not do,” Brown said.

It was only when he said he was moving to the weekly newspapers that he got the attention of The Sentinel, Brown said.

Brown offered no notice that he intended to change publishing outlets and only sought requests for proposals after The Sentinel objected to the potential loss of a decades-long relationship, Seaton said.

When he saw the difference in the price, “It became a no-brainer,” Brown said.

The cost of legal advertising is generally far less than the other costs associated with foreclosures, Beckner said. Those costs are generally borne by lenders for which it’s important to gain the best notice, Beckner said, noting the trustee’s office isn’t reducing any of its costs.

To publish as Brown asked would greatly increase the size of the paper, by as many as 24 pages, Seaton said.

The price quoted by the weeklies mirrors the current price charged by The Sentinel, Seaton said, noting The Sentinel hasn’t changed its price on legal advertising since 1993.

The Sentinel also published the legal advertising on its website without additional charge, Seaton said.

In a statement emailed to The Sentinel, Bob Sweeney, publisher of the weekly newspapers, said his publications have 100 years of history each in the county.

“The two newspapers were able to streamline the process, saving the trustee and his staff considerable expense that in turn will save the foreclosed parties and banks considerable money,” Sweeney said.

He also will place the legal advertising on the web at MesaCountyLegals.com, which will launch with the legal publication in the weeklies, Sweeney said.


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