Council members to work with digital devices
By Scott Bellile
The New London City Council and its standing committees plan to go paperless by next year in a move to save taxpayer dollars.
Members of the New London Finance and Personnel Committee acknowledged that there would be a learning curve to conduct all council business on an electronic device, including Second District Alderwoman Mary Tate, who said she’s still learning the ropes of her own desktop computer.
Regardless, committee members on Aug. 2 voted unanimously to recommend the proposal to council.
The council’s vote was scheduled to take place Tuesday, Aug. 8, after press time.
Each city alderperson would choose between the city buying him or her a laptop computer or a tablet. Finance Director Judy Radke said they would arrive later this year or early next.
The devices would be primarily used for accessing emails and viewing meeting packets digitally rather than on paper.
Missy Kempen, the city’s media specialist, estimated it would cost the city $300 per laptop or $700 per tablet. Any keyboards or mice for tablets would cost extra.
“The laptops are much cheaper and you can get more space, more RAM on the laptops,” Kempen told the committee.
With 10 representatives on the council, it would cost approximately $3,000 for 10 laptops, $7,000 for 10 tablets, and somewhere in between for a mixture of devices.
The city has $50,000 in technology funds in this year’s assigned fund balance to cover the electronics, Radke said.
Committee member and First District Alderman John Faucher asked if the city would purchase insurance for devices as New London High School does for its students’ take-home Chromebooks. He said he wouldn’t want taxpayers to cover the cost if he broke his computer.
“We don’t need special insurance,” New London Mayor Gary Henke said. “It’s not worth it. You’re going to find very seldom anything ever happens. Things have happened [among city hall staff]. We just simply fix it.”
Home internet connections would not be provided, Kempen said, but there are locations in town including the library and city hall where an alderperson could access Wi-Fi.
Saving trees and dollars
It is the digital packets where the city of New London expects to save its dollars.
Henke said each month the city prints off 21 city council packets at 75 to 120 pages each. Packets are distributed to alderpeople, department heads and city administrative staff.
“That’s the sad thing is we use it once,” and by the next week the packet is in the recycling bin, Henke said.
Then there are monthly packets printed for members of the city’s standing committees: the board of public works, the finance and personnel committee, the economic development committee, the parks and recreation committee and the planning commission.
These packets are typically three to 20 pages each, Henke said.
“We would save in paper costs alone at least $1,000 a year in just paper, period,” Henke said.
Henke predicted the investment in laptops and tablets would produce cost savings three years after they are purchased.
“We really think that this is the way to go,” he said.
Henke also advised the city to quit printing information on legal size paper, which is pricier than the standard 8.5-by-11-inch paper.
He said there would be other indirect cost savings. The city clerk spends time assembling the council and committee packets, and city police officers drive to council members’ homes to personally deliver them.
Hortonville remains on paper
The village of Hortonville, like New London, currently provides its village board members paper packets.
Village Administrator Diane Wessel told the Press Star discussions of switching to electronic packets have not occurred since she was hired in 2015.
“I personally like the idea, it was implemented in my previous employment and saved printing and mailing costs as well as staff resources (printing, sorting, stuffing),” Wessel said in an email.