Cornelius goes paperless, buys iPads
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Town Manager Anthony Roberts estimates the town is saving the cost of new iPads with the money it no longer spends printing meeting agenda packets and the time that saves Town Clerk Lori Pearson.
Mayor Jeff Tarte and the town’s five commissioners displayed their new town-issued iPad 2s at the town board meeting Monday, June 20. Tarte asked those in the audience to be patient as commissioners get used to calling up every part of the agenda – including budget worksheets, zoning maps and PowerPoint attachments – on their new computers.
“It’s just a no brainer,” the town manager said late last week, as he ran through the numbers. “We used to print all those agenda packets and people threw them in the recycling bin after the meeting. The beauty of this system is you have everything online. It’s there forever and a day, and the general public sees everything.”
And the town saves money, he said. Before the town made its agendas and meeting packets entirely electronic this spring, Pearson was spending an average of eight hours before every meeting gathering agenda materials, making copies and making sure they were in the correct order, she and Roberts said.
The town printed 19 agendas, averaging 210 pages each, for every meeting. That was one for every department head, members of the town board and at least four copies for media regularly attending the meetings. The town also had to pay for copying equipment.
Huntersville officials also had considered spending $18,000 on iPads for board members and some staff members but the measure was cut from the budget to save money.
About six months ago, Cornelius purchased NovusAgenda software, which is designed for collecting and maintaining meeting materials, and Pearson began preparing for the conversion. At the same time, Roberts, Finance Director Jackie Huffman and Police Chief Bence Hoyle, three administrators handling a lot of paperwork and memos, got the town’s first three iPads to begin testing their use and reliability with town documents. The town paid $400 for each one for the basic package of about 16 gigabytes. “You don’t need a lot of storage because you’re using the iPad to plug into the town server, where all the information is stored,” Roberts said.
“We did some trial agendas” and found the Apple product was much faster, more convenient and, in the end, cheaper than laptop computers. Since they’re more mobile, commissioners can review agendas at home or anywhere WiFi is available and make notes, as if they had a paper copy.
So the town got six new iPads 2s for $500 each, and three more are on order for Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant, Planning Director Karen Floyd and Pearson.
All the new computers belong to the town, Roberts said, “so if a town board member leaves, it comes back to the town.”
Besides the cost of the NovusAgenda software, the town has spent $5,200 so far, and Roberts said he expects the iPad 2 will gradually take the place of all the town’s laptops, which cost $700 to $800.
Town officials are even considering placing the iPads in town police cars, though Roberts said they’re not sure if they could replace the larger computer stations.
“People ask why? To save money. They’re cheaper. That’s why,” he said.