City staff directed to move forward on paperless agenda

September 07, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

City of Hagerstown staff members will resurrect an old request for proposal for paperless meeting agendas, reviving the document after five years.

The Hagerstown City Council listened to a 30-minute presentation from a technology vendor Tuesday before directing staff members to move forward on plans to delete paper from its meetings.

The council asked staff members to draft an updated request for proposal (RFP) for the technology and to assess the system's cost savings.

John Kercher of Tampa, Fla.-based Novusolutions gave the council an overview of the technology it offers, highlighting its features.

City Technology and Support Services Director Scott Nicewarner noted that Kercher's presentation was a generalization of paperless solutions not a pitch for Novusolutions' product, NovusAGENDA.


From creation and staff approvals to preparation and distribution, the entire agenda would be automated through the system, which could be hosted in-house or remotely over the Internet, Kercher said.

During the meeting, council members could view the agenda and supporting materials from a variety of hardware, as the system would be compatible with laptops and iPads, Nicewarner said.

More sophisticated systems could equip the city to stream meetings live on the Internet, Kercher said.

After the meeting, the city clerk could document votes and comments, quickly publish draft minutes, and archive final minutes and agenda documents for easy research, he said.

Some systems, like NovusAGENDA, offer unlimited-use licenses that allow customers to automate agenda processes for any board or commission under their constitutional authority at no additional cost, he said.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman has said the city spends an estimated $35,000 annually producing the agenda for city council meetings.

Kercher said his company estimated that Hagerstown spends twice that amount. Most of the cost is in preparing the agenda, he said.

Calling that cost hidden in the city budget, Kercher said a major benefit of an automated system is a "real and immediate" cost savings.

Paperless systems cost about $6,000 to $7,000 a year, which would save the city about 90 percent of what it spends on the paper agenda, he said

Councilman Martin Brubaker asked city staff to conduct its own analysis of projected savings, quantifying it within the budget.

Questioning Kercher's estimate, Zimmerman said his numbers likely include labor costs. Zimmerman noted that, for instance, the city would not eliminate the city clerk's position if it went paperless.

Therefore the cost-savings would not necessarily be all cash in the city's pocket, he said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said if staff members can confirm the cost savings, the city should go for RFP as rapidly as possible.

If the technology is a cost savings to the city, he said it would be like "having your cake and eating it, too."

Nicewarner said the cost of an automated meeting system would not include hardware for council members, which would range from $350 each for low-end laptops to $700 each for iPads.

Kercher said the city could implement paperless technology without initially investing in hardware for the council.

Zimmerman said staff members should have a completed RFP for the council by early October.

Tuesday was the first meeting that the agenda packet was available digitally on Google Docs, Nicewarner said.

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