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Council members could be outfitted with iPads

Preparing for a city council meeting?

There is an app for that.

Want to treat it like paper and make notes and comments in the margins?

There is an app for that, too.

Woodbury City Council discussed the possibility of going completely digital with its agenda packets at a Wednesday, Feb. 15, workshop.

The idea is to use iPads for all documents, instead of having a community service officer drive to each home to deliver packets three times a month.

Using iPads would save the city $7,800 annually in printing and distribution costs, Information Technology Director Robert James said. Using iPads would cost the city a one-time expense of $715 for each council member.

Five staff members would also need iPads to upload and work with the agendas, adding another $3,575.

"We can save money if we go this route," James said, as he showed the council how the iPad application works.

The city would use Granicus, an application that allows local governments to upload documents for free. The service is connected to the South Washington County Cable Commission server.

The city would have to pay $11 for each council member to add a PDF annotation application.

Staff gave the council three options:

1. Buy individual iPads and utilize them for council as well as personal use without reimbursement,

2. Each council member would get a one-time technology stipend for buying an iPad, as well as a stipend for Internet and WiFi service at home,

3. Providing city-owned tablets.

Staff and council weren't so excited about the third option and said they wouldn't want to restrict the iPads to government use only.

Council member Christopher Burns said it wouldn't be necessary to reimburse the council for Internet and WiFi since almost everyone in the city has Internet service anyway.

James said the savings would be about $24,050 over a four-year period, which is the life expectancy of the tablet as well as a typical term, if the council were to go with the second option.

Council member Paul Rebholz said if one of the current or future members were to resign in the middle of a term, they need to understand they would owe the city a portion of the reimbursement.

"There should be some expectation that if you leave, that you owe that difference back and you can offset that against someone's paycheck," he said, later adding, "you can't serve two months and realize, 'oh my God, this is more work than I thought' and leave with the iPad."

Council members Amy Scoggins and Rebholz both said they still like printed versions of the agendas and would continue to print them on their own.

"Personally, I love paper and pencil," Scoggins said, "But if that's the route we're going."

Currently, Rebholz and Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens are the only two on the council who own personal iPads.

Scoggins said she prefers to have a city-owned tablet, but she doesn't think it's the right time because she's unsure of whether or not she'll run for re-election in November.

"I don't know I just feel funny about it," she said.

The council decided it would be best if Rebholz and Stephens test out the application and give their feedback to the IT department before moving forward with purchasing iPads for the entire council.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.