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Braintree Town Council to put everything on iPads

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 27, 2012 03:30 PM

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Preparing for a leap into the 21st century, Braintree’s Town Council is developing a system to use iPads for all council documents and correspondence, starting in November.

The idea has been in development since February, said Town Council Clerk Jim Casey, who initially had the idea to implement the technology.

“I got the idea from when my daughter was in Australia. She wrote a blog and I downloaded it on my iPad…I thought, this is an application I could utilize with the council, and push to them all their meeting materials electronically. They can read it at their leisure, don’t have to come in to pick up paperwork,” Casey said.

Soon afterward, he received the go-ahead from the council to look further into the idea, and has since purchased two iPads for himself and Council President Chuck Kokoros to work out the kinks.

Using the application pdf-notes, Casey said he has been able to upload all the documents a councilor may need. Councilors can then scribble on the notes using their finger or a stylus pen on the touch screen.

The application is free, though if councilors tire of the advertisements on the page, Casey said he could pay a flat $10 fee to upload the advertisement-free application.

Other applications enable Casey to erase the contents of an iPad that is lost, or use GPS to locate a missing iPad.

“I’ve been thinking about it, thinking of complications or obstacles, and I think it’s a great benefit,” Casey said. “And I think we may be one of the first government agency going forward with something like this.”

Casey is also starting to sync all the calendars the councilors have into a central location accessible from the iPad, which will include links to the event websites where councilors can find out more.

“There’s a 5k run at Morrison school, if they want to find info or participate in that, they can see that and how it conflicts with anything that have in their calendars,” Casey said. “It’s putting the burden on me to enter all this info, which I don’t mind, I enjoy expanding the role of the clerk of the council, as long as it provides meaningful info to those who should be using it.”

Casey said he has already purchased nine more iPads, costing $489 each, using funds from the councilor’s budget, which should be arriving in the next few weeks.

From there it will take some time to install all the applications and perfect the settings so that it’s ready for use, Casey said.

Overall, there is a high level of excitement with councilors about the new endeavor.

“The councilors have all been excited about it, they like to embrace technology, and they see some benefits for it,” Casey said.

“It will be clumsy at first, we’ll have paper and electronics then we’ll break away from the paper,” Kokoros agreed.

The iPad rollout is only the first of new initiatives Casey hopes to develop with the council. He also plans to use $1,000 donated from the dissolved League of Women Voters to purchase a monitor to allow people in the audience to see documents the council is viewing on their iPads.

“This way you will see the same motion as they are reading it. You may have a better understanding, and we may have more people come up and ask additional questions, especially in a public meeting,” Casey said.

The use of iPads also opens up the possibility of remote access to councilor meetings, and may possibly be the gateway for Braintree Community Access and Media to show documents on the television feed during meetings.

Documents available at councilor meetings will also be posted online next to meeting agendas and minutes, Casey said.

“It’s opening up greater access into documentation of what transpires in the government. It’s opening up the transparency in government,” he said.

Casey expects the entire council to have their iPads in working order by Nov. 7.

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