City Council tries iPads to replace some paperwork

Apple iPads are becoming commonplace at Medford City Hall as councilors and other staff members increasingly give up their stacks of paper in exchange for technology that helps them manage local government.

"It's changed my whole world," Councilor Dick Gordon said. "Everything's at my fingertips."

The city currently has 35 iPads distributed to the nine members of the City Council as well as to the Planning Commission, the Site Plan and Architectural Commission, and some staff members.

Fire Department personnel have them, and the Police Department is looking into ordering some.

The city has calculated the 11 iPads for the council, the city manager and the assistant to the city manager save about $2,800 annually in paper and photocopy charges and reduce the cost of employees preparing documents by $813.

Over a two-year period, which is roughly the life span of an iPad depending on use, the savings would total about $7,200. The iPads cost from $500 to $600 each, or $5,500 to $6,600. As the city buys new iPads, older devices will be distributed to key city employees.

Prior to receiving their iPads, the councilors didn't have a dedicated email address through the city.

"This way we all have an email address," Gordon said. "Constituents can email directly and I can email back."

Gordon was one of the first councilors to get an iPad in 2010 and has become a power user. He's on his second iPad after wearing out the first one.

Instead of stacks of documents at his house, Gordon can get access to every city file through his iPad with chapters clearly bookmarked.

Before he went digital, city staff had to deliver important or timely documents to his house. Now, everything can be emailed or accessed through the city's server, Gordon said.

Councilor Bob Strosser, who said he has had his share of computers over the years, wasn't sold on the idea of getting iPads for the council.

"They serve a useful purpose cutting down the labor intensive process of preparing the agenda documentation," he said. "Sometimes, it's almost easier to have the paper documents rather looking at it on the screen."

He agreed it's beneficial having a device that is strictly for government use rather than relying on a personal computer.

As to the cost savings to the city, Strosser said he's not sure that's much of a factor.

"Overall, when you consider everything, it's probably a wash," he said.

Strosser said he was initially resistant to getting the devices for budgetary reasons but thinks that as city staff is asked to do more with no additional hiring, the iPads do help.

— Damian Mann

Read more in the Mail Tribune on Tuesday.

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