For an average Town Council meeting, Clerk Jim Casey said he prints out thousands of sheets of paper: agendas, minutes and supporting documents for the nine councilors, himself, the press and various other town officials.
Soon, though, much of that paper and ink will be saved and communication will improve among the council and with the public, Casey said, thanks to a batch of iPads that will arrive next week.
Casey and Council President Charles Kokoros already have their iPads, and have been working out the kinks in an application that allows quick digital access to that load of documents. Nine more Apple devices have been ordered for the other councilors and Town Clerk Joe Powers.
"Is it going to save us a ton of money?" Casey said. "It will save us money over time. What it does is help us communicate better."
Casey said he negotiated a deal to buy the new iPads at $489 each, with no tax because the council is a government entity. They normally start at $499, as listed on the Apple Store. The funding comes from the council's budget for the year.
Councilor Tom Bowes said that the council should have explored more options for the purchase, such as teaming with an application company that may have provided the devices in exchange for the use of its technology.
Going with the iPad was the obvious choice because it is the most proven product, Kokoros said, adding that he does not know of a way to get them at a steeper discount because Apple is strict about the devices' price point. Maybe down the line, when more government bodies begin transitioning from paper to digital, there will be a stronger buying group, he said.
"There’s really no comparison to the Apple product," Kokoros said. "There’s no reason not to be informed as a councilor with the iPad."
Once all of the members have their devices, the council will take part in training at the Apple Store at the South Shore Plaza. There will be a transition time through the beginning of next year where paperwork will still be in heavy use, but by January Casey said he would like to have a 50-inch monitor setup in the Town Hall auditorium during meetings and connected to BCAM to allow the public to follow along on documentation.
The council portion of the town website will have an additional section for supporting documents, next to the links for agendas and minutes. Casey will also pre-load each iPad with contact information and connect them to members' emails, then automatically update the devices and the app, called pdf-notes, as necessary.
"It's all connected," Casey said. "They will have more information at their fingertips."
One of the most impressive features of the app for Kokoros is its ability to collect notes on documents and store them for future reference "with the tap of a finger."
"Under the old system of government, paper has always been the way, and unfortunately you’re not able to communicate information to the public as easily," Kokoros said. "The electronic system allows us to display to the audience and to the people at home."