Sebastian council considering paperless agendas

SEBASTIAN — The Sebastian City Council is considering ways it could cut costs and be more environmentally friendly by adopting paperless meeting agendas.

But how that would be implemented is up for debate, which is what the council will be doing tomorrow evening during a special workshop set for 5 p.m. Three council members have requested paperless agendas – meaning the agenda and backup material would be in a digital format – while one other has expressed she would be willing to give paperless a try.

According to city staff, printed agendas have their benefits and their disadvantages. Unlike using electric devices – such as laptops, desktop computers or other gadgets – paper agendas continue to “work” regardless of whether there is power. Also, there are no batteries to replace.

The benefits, though, appear to end there for staff. The cons listed under paper agendas include the cost – “paper gets expensive” – and if a change is made, those changes need to be sent out to the council, according to the staff’s memo to the council. Fuel costs, too, are a consideration.

However, the backup material does not include a monetary figure for the costs of printing or fuel.

Some potential solutions for going paperless include council members using their own personal laptops or desktop computers to review the digital agenda or council members receiving a city-issued netbook or laptop.

Another solution that was proposed were council members receiving iPads, which was suggested by Mayor Richard Gillmor.

City staff does not recommend purchasing iPads for the council members, though staff would assist individual members who have their own to access the meeting agendas.

Some concerns staff has regarding iPads include the cost – which ranges from $499 to $900, system support, non-user replaceable batteries, and the lack of a business relationship between the city and Apple, the manufacturer.

The Sebastian City Council is expected to test out full sized laptops, netbooks, and a desktop computer stationed at the dais during the workshop Wednesday evening.

They will also be briefed on electronic records retention under Florida’s public records law, including e-mails.

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