AUGUSTA — The City Council will vote Thursday on a proposal to provide iPads to city councilors who want them, while still delivering printed documents to councilors not ready or willing to make the switch to electronic versions of city documents.

At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander proposed the city consider providing electronic tablets to councilors as a more efficient and flexible way to provide and share city documents now included in printed packets provided to councilors nearly every week.

Last week, councilors discussed the proposal and several had concerns with going all-electronic and no longer providing them with printed documents.

Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said he values having a hard copy of documents on hand because he saves them and refers to them in subsequent meetings. He also expressed concern that switching from paper documents to electronic versions of them would have councilors spending more time looking at video screens during council meetings, and thus limit give-and-take between them and the public.

Mayor David Rollins and Ward 4 Councilor Anna Blodgett also expressed concerns about councilors looking at electronic devices during council meetings.

Blodgett said she’s seen school board meetings during which board members, who have had iPads provided to them for about four years, are looking at their electronic devices.

“It seems rude and impersonal,” she said last week. “I just think face-to-face is better.”

At-Large Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau noted, however, that councilors, during a meeting, will have to look at printed documents at times, too, and it shouldn’t matter whether councilors are looking at a piece of paper or an electronic tablet screen.

Given the lukewarm response to any thoughts of switching from printed to electronic document distribution, rather than requiring all councilors to be given iPads and use them to conduct city business, the proposal councilors are scheduled to vote on Thursday merely would authorize City Manager William Bridgeo to provide iPads to councilors who request them.

Alexander said that is fine.

“My request was I could be a test subject,” she said of switching to iPads. “I agree to be the guinea pig. I don’t want to force anybody to use it.”

She said she thinks the devices would be handy in that councilors would be able to use them to look up materials they’ve been given previously, but that they may not still have hard copies of with them.

At-Large Councilor Dale McCormick also expressed interest in having a city-provided iPad for her use in city business.

At-Large Councilor Cecil Munson said he already has one, and he would just use his. He said he already has the weekly council packet sent to him electronically. He noted councilors can print some or all of the packet if they want to have a hard copy.

“I’m older than a lot of you, and I use them,” Munson said of electronic tablets. “They’re a useful tool.”

Bilodeau said he would support switching to tablets or staying with printed documents, but he doesn’t want to do both, which he said would be a waste of money.

Bridgeo said whether councilors who get iPads also will still receive paper council packets will be up to those individual councilors.

The weekly printed packets of information that police officers now drive to councilors’ homes would continue to be delivered to councilors who elect to stay with the paper packets.

Bridgeo noted police don’t generally make a special trip to deliver council packets; they deliver them as part of their regular patrols in the city.

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.

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.

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.

Councilors expect to meet to consider the proposal at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center. Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Consider a proposed contract with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency that calls for one of the city’s two new drug detectives to 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, in turn, would use that money to create an additional detective’s position.

• Present a Mayor’s Recognition of Excellence Award to former resident, Cony High School graduate and world-renowned dancer Alphonse “Alphy” Poulin;

• Authorize a conservation easement with the state Department of Environmental Protection barring any future development on a narrow strip of land on the Quimby lot, a parcel of land where the city plans to build a new fire station across from the intersection of Leighton Road and Anthony Avenue; and

• Meet in a closed-door session to discuss pending and potential litigation.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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