Montcalm County Commissioners going paperless, purchasing iPads

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 2:15 pm on Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Members of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners will no longer be flipping through hundreds of pages of meeting packets as they make the switch to wireless electronic tablet devices, which will allow the commissioners to read their packets on the devices, saving on the cost of printing on paper. — Daily News/Cory Smith

STANTON — The idea of moving forward into the digital age has now officially become a reality for the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners as each member of the board will soon possess a wireless tablet device to use during meetings and on a daily basis.

With each commissioner sitting with their 139-page meeting packet before them at the Montcalm County Administration Building Monday afternoon in Stanton, members of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to do away with the paper packets and approved the purchase of wireless electronic tablet devices to use in order to replace the paper packets.

According to County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer, after the most recent Finance and Personnel Committee meeting, it was decided to bring the idea of electronic packets to the full board.

Currently each county commissioner receives an electronic packet via email and also receives a mailed paper packet.

“The committee felt in their discussions that it would be a cost savings to the county to look at the option of removing the paper packets,” Hyzer said.

Hyzer said factors included in the cost of the physical print packets include postage, paper, copying costs and personnel costs to copy the pages.

For packets to be mailed to the nine commissioners, including the cost of postage and personnel time to copy the packets, total costs were estimated at $185.03, or $16.82 per packet.

Over a period of 12 months, Hyzer said the total cost would be $2,220.31 on the year for just the monthly county commissioner meetings.

The nine members of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners will soon use an Apple iPad, such as the one shown here, to use a digital copy of the meeting packets instead of printed versions, which consist of hundreds of pages, as seen below the iPad. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Including monthly committee meetings, another $1,097.68 would be added for an estimated total cost on the year to produce packets at $3,317.99

Moving forward with the vote, commissioners approved the purchase of wireless tablet devices, Apple iPads, at $450 per device.

The total cost to purchase 9 devices would be $4,050.

Hyzer said it would not take long for the devices to pay for themselves.

“Spending just over $4,000, we would see savings after 15 months of use,” he said. “You’ll have the device for at least four, if not five years. That’s at least two and a half years of savings for the county.”

Aside from the time spent to become acclimated with the new devices, Hyzer said the new devices will not create any additional work for the commissioners, aside from assuring that they work in a home environment that includes wireless internet.

He added that paper will still be used to print the meeting agendas, averaged around four pages, for commissioners to take notes on during meetings and to have available for the public.

County Commissioner Ron Retloff of Crystal said he was personally glad to see the board move forward with the decision.

“This is something that I’ve been trying to get us to move forward on for quite some time, to go paperless,” Retzloff said. “I started saving some of the packets at home and I have three or for boxes full of paper. I think to myself, how useless and what a waste.”

Commissioner Steve DeWitt of Coral was also glad to see the decision move forward, citing the savings for the county after the 15-month period it will take to pay off the devices.

“With five years of life out of these devices, and the breaking point being 15 months, you are talking three and a half years of profit after that and (saving paper in the process),” DeWitt said.

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