iPads Invade City Hall

Several cities in my part of the world are buying iPads for city council members. The primary impetus seems to be saving the cost of paper. The Peninsula Daily Press reviews some of the calculations.

Williamsburg (Va.) spends about $2,000 a year on printing council packets for regular meetings and work sessions, according to City manager Jack Tuttle.

Last year, the city printed 1,716 pages of agendas. Multiply that by 20 for copies used by council members and staff and the total grows to 34,320 sheets, or about 69 reams of paper. While cutting costs is a priority, printed agenda packets will remain available upon request at no charge, said city spokeswoman Kate Hoving.

An costs about $600. Buying them for five WIlliamsburg council members is a one-time cost of $3,000, so the computers should pay for themselves in 18 months.

The Hampton (Va.) City Council anticipates saving $18,000 a year in printing costs, though council members have not yet used them in a regular meeting. Mayor Molly Joseph Ward has used her own iPad, however, “with great success.”

One concern quoted in the paper is that participants in council meetings could use chat and messaging technology to conceal private side conversations in what are supposed to be open public meetings. It was expressed as a caution, not as a reason not to proceed with the change.

I have my own question: How did they miss the news about the invention of the two decades ago?

I guess that the wireless infrastructure needs are different, since the iPad can tap into the AT&T network, but that becomes a cost that was not factored into the savings calculations in the story. If they use AT&T in addition to local wireless access, assuming the lower priced 250 MB per month fee of $14.99 a month, that totals $899.40 a year for the five Williamsburg council members, just to pick on Williamsburg because I went to school there.

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