AUGUSTA — City councilors may be trading in reams of meeting paperwork for electronic tablets.

At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander suggested the devices could be an efficient way for councilors to conduct business and asked to have the issue placed on Thursday’s informational council meeting for discussion, according to City Manager William Bridgeo.

City-provided iPad tablets — costing about $5,000 total — could allow councilors and staff members to go paperless with the weekly packets of information that police officers now drive to councilors’ homes.

Bridgeo said a number of Maine municipalities now provide such devices to their elected officials and share agendas and other documents with them, while others continue to distribute printed agendas and other documents.

“We’ll talk about it Thursday night and see if the rest of the councilors want to do it,” Bridgeo said. “There are a number of communities that provide their city council, or their town council, with laptops or iPads or notebooks. And they seem to be happy with them. And a number of communities still do it the way we do it. It’s a matter of preference, by the City Council. In this case I’ll defer to them.”

Councilors plan to meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center to discuss the idea.

Police distribute the meeting packets in part to make sure councilors get the information, which can include legal documents and other dated correspondence. If councilors decide they should get electronic tablets, Bridgeo said, it would be up to them whether they still wished to receive their packets in print, or go paperless.

Fred Kahl, the city’s director of information technology, recommends the city go with Apple iPads because of their cost and ease of use and repair. He said the model best suited for councilors’ likely needs would be the iPad Air 2, which he said would cost around $340 per tablet. He also recommended adding a case and Bluetooth keyboard, for another $50 per unit.

Kahl said it could take the city staff less time to put together weekly council packets if the packets go paperless and instead are distributed electronically.

Bridgeo said the city probably would need to get about a dozen iPads — one each for the eight councilors and Mayor David Rollins, as well as tablets for the city manager, the assistant city manager, and the clerk. That would bring the total cost to about $5,000.

Bridgeo said that could come from a council contingency account, for which $10,000 was included in the budget, and there is enough money in that account now if councilors wish to use it to buy iPads or other devices for their use.

School board members in Augusta got iPads four years ago. They originally received iPad 1s, but those have since been updated to iPad Airs. When board members got the new machines, their original iPads were then put to use in classrooms, by students, and are still used daily, Kahl said.

In other business, councilors also are scheduled to discuss a proposal for a Tax Increment Financing agreement with Richard Parkhurst. The agreement would help offset the developer’s cost of renovating and redeveloping 275-287 Water St., the building housing Patricia Buck Bridal and the former Gagliano’s restaurant.

The proposal, recommended unanimously by the city’s TIF Committee, would return 100 percent of the new tax revenue generated by the project for the first five years of the 30-year agreement, with the developer’s share decreasing to 75 percent in years six through eight of the agreement, 50 percent in years nine through 12, and 25 percent in years 13 through 15. In the final 15 years of the agreement, the city would retain 100 percent of the tax revenue generated by the project, to use for city infrastructure and other uses allowed with TIF funds by state rules.

Over the life of the TIF, $320,158 would be reimbursed to the developer and the city would retain $640,136, which could be used to fund city projects such as the future renovation of Hartford Fire Station, according to Keith Luke, deputy development director.

TIFs allow municipalities to shelter property taxes generated by new development within designated districts. Sheltering money through a TIF means it would not be added to the city’s total property valuation for state tax calculation purposes. Without that, as a municipality’s total property valuation increases, its state-provided revenue — such as aid for education and revenue sharing — decreases, and its county tax liability increases. New value sheltered in a TIF doesn’t count toward a municipality’s property tax value.

Councilors also are scheduled to discuss:

• A proposal for a TIF district to capture tax revenue to be generated by the Homewood Suites hotel under construction on Western Avenue, with the city, not the developer, retaining 100 percent of the proceeds.

• A proposed contract with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency by which one of the city’s two new drug detectives would be assigned to the Augusta office of the MDEA to work in coordination with Augusta and other local police combating illegal drug trafficking in the area. In return, according to Bridgeo, the state drug agency would compensate the city for the full cost of that officer and the city would in turn use that money to create an additional detective’s position.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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