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City Council discusses options of going paperless

July 20, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • A laptop, iPad and a flash drive are shown. The City of Hagerstown is exploring the options of going paperless by using more technology.
Photo illustration by Colleen Helf/Staff Photographer,

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council could go paperless as early as this year, according to a council discussion Tuesday.

The council asked staff to present in August the details of possible paperless systems and solutions.

"I'd like to see a decision by the end of August," Councilman William M. Breichner said.

"Whatever is done has to be fair and we have to review our options," Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said.

Scott Nicewarner, director of city technology and support services, said he would compile the pros, cons, features, and long- and short-term costs of each option as well as research other area governments that went paperless.

The discussion Tuesday focused less on whether the council should implement a paperless system and more on which system would best suit its needs.

Municipalities are using everything from laptops, netbooks and flash drives to iPads and Amazon's Kindle reading devices to conduct business, Nicewarner said.

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He said he has been working on a paperless solution for the council since 2005 and was pleased to see it discussed again.

In 2005, Nicewarner began preparing an approach that included laptops and agenda software, he said.

Agenda software could cost about $40,000, but would provide efficiencies beyond using technology to view the agenda packet, he said.

Brubaker said functionality is key for him.

He said he makes notes and highlights text on his paper agenda and would like to be able to do that once paperless.

"If we lose the ability to make notes, then I don't see what we are gaining," he said.

Nicewarner said he would prefer the council use laptops because of their familiarity, however, the city technology department will be getting an iPad to test in the coming weeks, he said.

As for other options, Nicewarner said the city does not use Apple's OSX technology, the interface for the iPad, but there are ways to make iPads compatible if that is was what the council wanted.

Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said she plans to bring her laptop to the next work session to test using a flash drive to download the agenda packet.

Readers, such as Kindle, received a less-than-enthusiastic response from council members who favored being able to at least access the Internet and e-mail as well.

Nicewarner said he will include all feasible options in his presentation to the council in August.

The city already has taken steps to reduce its use of paper, Nicewarner said.

Purchasing the MUNIS technology in 2008 allowed the city to dramatically cut down on paper used for processing invoices, requisition of materials and other documents, he said.

In addition to smaller measures like offering to e-mail employee direct deposit statements, the city also offers residents the ability to pay utility bills online and in 2011 will offer paperless billing for utilities, he said.

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