Friday Follow-a-FOIA, Part 4

Friday Follow-a-FOIA, Part 3.

What we’re doing with the Friday Follow-a-FOIA series is figuring out how much effort and thought it takes to create, file and follow through on a public records request.

Our first experiment has been with getting copies of the natural gas and electric bills for the Wisconsin governor’s mansion.

They came in the mail this week, without any further effort on our part beyond what we described here.

As a result, we now know that the Wisconsin Governor’s Executive Residence used 216,720 kilowatt hours of electricity in 2006, at a cost of $25,067.94 and 15,508 therms of natural gas, at a cost of $16,683.06.

The total energy cost for 2006 was $41,751.00.

The mansion has 20,777 square feet.

We also learned that the mansion’s energy providers, Madison Gas & Electric, provides an easily searchable online database of what the energy costs are for any residence it serves, including the Governor’s Mansion, although that doesn’t provide the cumulative figures we got through our open records request.

How does the governor’s energy use compare to other residences in the area? After a bit of searching, we didn’t find an average of residential energy consumption.

We did plug in the coordinates for this luxurious $969,900 residence. Here, the gas & electric bill ran $3,540 per year for a home with 4,342 square feet.

The luxury residence paid $.81 for gas & electricity for each of its square feet. The governor’s executive residence paid $2.30 per square foot.

If the executive residence used natural gas and electricity at the same rate per square foot as the comparison home, it would have paid $16,939.00 in gas/electric in 2006, versus the $41,751.00 it actually paid.

Does the governor’s mansion need insulation?

Friday FOIA scorecard:

Time invested this week: Five minutes.

Time invested overall: 70 minutes.

Overall, I give the ease of this process an 8 out of 10. The administrators we contacted by email were extremely helpful and sent the requested information immediately–and they didn’t charge. The only drawback to the process is the time it took us to figure out where to send the request. We’d like to see websites of government agencies post prominently about where to send open records requests. Other than that, it was a very satisfactory experience.

We’ll start a new Friday Follow-a-FOIA series in January. Any nominations for what Wisconsin public record we should ask for?

Updates and note:

You can see the actual utility bills for the executive residence at this link.

Thank you to Boots and Sabers for mentioning this story.

Wisconsin environmental advocate James Rowen is working on a story that uses documents obtained through Wisconsin’s open records law.

Thanks to WisOpinion for the link.

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