News Column

Some Cities Moving to iPads, Away From Paper

July 9, 2012

Eric Robinette


People use iPads for everything from downloading music to playing games to watching movies -- and soon they may be used to save money in local governments.

Fairfield City Councilman Tim Meyers publicly suggested that council members be given iPads to cut down on the large amount of paperwork that flows through city offices, thereby saving taxpayer dollars. Hamilton is not at the iPad stage just yet, but technological cost-cutting measures have already been put in place to cut down on paper and expenses. Other Butler County cities, Middletown and Monroe are both moving towards a more digitized world.

Meyers made his proposal at a Fairfield City Council meeting in May and said that city staff has followed up on it, preparing a cost-benefit analysis.

Meyers estimates that council packets alone -- the documents that council members reference during meetings -- range from 30 to 50 pages each. Multiply that by eight council members with two meetings per month and that's 9,600 pages a year.

"At least once a week I pick up the paperwork, and there are literally reams of paper provided, and it's all good information -- why can't we digitize it and why don't we streamline?" he asks.

Hamilton hasn't gotten iPads yet, but the city has used technology in other ways to cut costs. City Clerk Adam Helms has used scanners to make digital copies of paperwork associated with council meetings, such as council packets, and copies of legislation, saving the city about $2,000 a year.

"It makes it much easier to archive past legislation," he said.

Other areas in the region have begun using iPads in an official capacity.

Earlier this year, Columbus City Council and city staff received 23 iPads, at the suggestion of Councilman A. Troy Miller, as part of an initiative called e-council.

"I have a data consulting firm, and I've been trying to go paperless and going green, But I didn't want the public to think we were just getting toys," he said.

Meyers also used that line of logic, saying, "More relevant, current, and at your fingertip information means quicker response to resident and business owner inquiries. This equates to an improved service and an improved quality of life for everyone," he said.

The city of Monroe hasn't gone as far as using iPads, but the council packets used during meetings are distributed electronically, and Councilwoman Suzi Rubin uses her own personal iPad to access those.

"I can follow along. Some people use laptops, but the iPad is easier to carry," she said.

Middletown still relies largely on actual paper, though some movement has been made toward reducing that paper, said Les Landen, the city's law director.

"I don't think there's an initiative here to go paperless, which I know some communities are trying to do," he said.

"Most of our paper things are being maintained because we feel the need to have them," said Landen.

All that said, Fairfield Mayor Ron D'Epifanio still prefers real paper and doesn't feel comfortable with the idea of using iPads.

"I think this sounds like a great idea for Jan. 1, 2014. That's when I'm gone," he said with a laugh. He won't oppose anyone who does want to use high-tech devices -- he would simply rather have paper himself, he said.

Meyers said that even in a more electronic world, some paper copies would still be maintained. If someone has no online access and makes a public records requests, paper copies will have to be provided.

"We still have to do that by law. I don't think it will be zero paper all the way across," he said.

Source: (c)2012 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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