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Paper-saving intitiative on hold in Elyria

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ELYRIA — City Council’s Utilities, Safety and Environment Committee on Wednesday discussed a member’s recommendation on how to “go green” and limit the amount of paper documents crossing Council members’ desks.

Councilman Phil Tollett, D-4th Ward and the newest member of City Council — he was appointed in August to fill an unexpired term — brought the matter to the committee’s attention based on his first few months of experience in the post, he said.

“Because I am new, I was amazed at the amount of paper and how much we generate,” Tollett said.

The City Council Clerk’s Office spends hundreds of dollars on paper for Council documents Tollett said could be saved by the one-time purchase of digital tablets. Council members could access documents digitally, rather than wasting paper.

“We could take Council down to one copy only of everything, and replace it with a lower-end tablet that could go with us everywhere we go — at home, our offices or on vacation, on top of being able to go green at enough of a savings to pay for the tablets,” Tollett said.

Council clerks could scan a single final copy of documents and send it out in an email format, which Council members could then decide whether or not to print, he said. An Amazon Fire tablet with a 7-inch screen is $49.99, while one with a 12-inch screen costs about $120, city IT Director Brian Rothgery told the committee.

The tablets would be issued to Council members but remain property of the city, and turned in when Council members retire or lose an election, Tollett said.

Councilman Jack Cerra, D-7th Ward, said the savings cost on paper and ink would more than cover the cost of the tablets.

“This sounds intriguing to me and headed in the right direction,” he said. “I would be willing to try it.”

There’s also “no reason any one, three, five (Council members) could only receive documentation by email,” Assistant Law Director Erik Breunig told the committee.

Councilwoman Donna Mitchell,

D-6th Ward and the committee’s chairperson, said she also was in favor of the plan, but questioned whether upgrading the computerized display system in Council chambers would be a better use of funds.

“I’m not against this, I think it’s a great idea, but is it a wise use of money?” she asked.

Mitchell also said she was not in favor of making Council appear less transparent by not offering members of the public sufficient numbers of copies of committee and Council agendas.

“For me to use a tablet would be no big deal,” but limiting paper copies for the audience “looks like we’re trying to isolate them or hide something and I don’t want to do that,” she said.

In the end, Tollett recommended the committee table his recommendation for one year while Council members “use their own personal devices to see if it works.”

Cerra and Councilwoman Brenda Davis, D-2nd Ward, both said they would be in favor of trying that and revisiting the issue in a year.

A second item on the agenda — exploring the use of a collection service for unpaid water, sewer and sanitation accounts — was tabled prior to Wednesday’s meeting and will be considered by the committee at a later date.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’brien@chroniclet.com. Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.
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