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Published: Tuesday, 2/10/2009

Laptops for Archbold councilmen would download meeting papers

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ARCHBOLD, Ohio - Archbold Village Council should soon be shifting from printed pages to Web pages to conduct most of its business.

Council recently directed Village Administrator Dennis Howell to develop a cost estimate for providing the village board with laptop computers, onto which members could download electronic copies of documents they now receive in paper form before meetings.

"From what I can see, the cost is not going to be prohibitive," Mr. Howell said last week. "It's going to be less than $10,000, and we can justify that."

A typical meeting packet contains between 50 and 80 printed pages, the administrator said. Add the likely reduction in maintenance costs for photocopying machines and the savings from going digital will add up fast, he said.

"I've got to think we're spending $3,000 to $5,000 a year generating paper," Mr. Howell said.

Besides saving money on paper and printing costs, Archbold Mayor Jim Wyse said, using laptops will give council members ready access to information for, and from, meetings without having to keep paper files.

"When meetings are over, it's typical to throw papers away because there's so much of it," the mayor said.

Having information at hand should also enable council members to respond faster to citizens' queries about government issues, he said.

But no final decision has been made, with council expecting to consider an appropriation during its March 2 meeting, Mr. Wyse said.

"It still depends on how council feels about spending that kind of money in this economic climate," he said.

Mr. Howell said he has issued requests for proposals to several local suppliers for basic computers capable of word processing and Internet navigation. With accessories, he expects each computer to cost about $900.

At least for now, Archbold does not have wireless Internet in the village hall, so council members would have to retrieve their meeting packets from home or work.

"We would create a secure area on the village Web site, from which council would download documents before the meetings," the administrator said.

All public documents will remain available to the public at the village offices - switching to electronic versions for council simply will reduce the number of copies made and improve organization, Mr. Howell said.

The computers will remain village property and council members also will be advised that, unless excepted by law, the computers' contents will be public records.

"They will have to be aware of that and act accordingly, and they will have to comply with village computer policy," Mr. Howell said.


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