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Published: Monday, 2/13/2006

Laptops help county leaders to go paperless

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The piles of paper that the Lucas County commissioners usually carry through One Government Center on their way to meetings will soon be replaced with a laptop computer for each.

In an attempt to go "paperless," the county commissioners have outfitted their first-floor meeting room with technology that enables them to view agenda items on their laptops. Although still working out the kinks, the county's Information Services department has outfitted the meeting room with a secure connection so that only commissioners can tap into the information.

Not only will the move to laptops mean less paper, but it will allow commissioners to access more information while they are conducting a meeting.

"The program that we have, that our [information services] department has created, allows the commissioners to view the agenda and then click on the agenda item so the resolution comes up," explained Bridgette Kabat, assistant county administrator. "Our next step is if we want to link up a document, for example a contract, to the agenda items, it will be scanned in and linked."

Commissioner Pete Gerken tested the technology at the Feb. 7 meeting. All three commissioners are expected to be switching to paperless agendas by the end of the month.

The laptops cost about $1,500 each, and the county spent about $400 to outfit the meeting room with a wireless router. A wireless router allows the commissioners to use laptops without requiring them to plug into a system.

After spending the meeting following items on his laptop, Mr. Gerken said he was pleased so far with the results. "I can follow the agendas paperlessly," he said.

The laptops will be used for other business conducted by the commissioners and the network could be used by the staffs of other departments as well, Ms. Kabat said.

Eventually, the county hopes to put additional information online for public use as well. In addition to copies of the agenda that can currently be found via the Internet, the public will be able to access copies of resolutions and any supporting information that is available.

But the public will not be able to access the information if they bring their own laptops to commissioners' meetings.

"The data has to be secured," Ms. Kabat said. "We don't see it moving into the public arena any time in the future."



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