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Brown Deer village leaders going paperless

Dec. 4, 2012

Brown Deer - In an effort to be cost-effective and environmentally conscious, Brown Deer officials on Monday took greater strides toward going paperless.

By late March, members of the Village Board will receive packets for regular and special meetings electronically, rather than in paper form. To accommodate the change, each of the seven members will be issued an electronic reader that will be funded by the village.

Matt Janecke, assistant village manager, came before the board with the proposed switch and presented a number of cost scenarios that pointed to savings by going paperless.

Janecke said about 29,100 sheets of paper are used annually to print packets for board members. Nearly $7,700 is spent annually on the expense when consumables and staff preparation time are taken into account. A police officer also delivers paper packets to each of the seven board members' homes.

Going digital could more than cut the cost in half when the price of an electronic reader is spread over a three-year period. Janecke's calculations for an iPad and associated software - including a cloud-based storage system - would hover around $3,080 annually for all seven members.

The board's vote in favor of the change was unanimous. Several members lauded Janecke and other village staffers for harnessing the full benefits of 21st Century technology.

"The more virtual we go, the better," Trustee Tim Schilz said. "And we'll save a few trees, too."

While there was overwhelming support, a few questions were raised, including a replacement cycle for the device.

"That's unknown at this point," Janecke said. "It really depends on the functionality of the iPads into the future."

In conjunction with the decision to purchase the iPads, the board adopted an electronic media device policy that outlines permissible and prohibited uses. Board members will be offered training before full integration to the paperless format takes place.

Based on the plans discussed this week, a board member would be able to retain the electronic device for the duration of his or her term in office. Afterward, there would be a cost-sharing option that would enable a board member to purchase the device for personal use.

The paperless packets apply only to board members. Residents serving on the village's various committees will still receive paper packets.

In his presentation, Janecke pointed to a number of municipalities that have issued electronic devices to elected officials. On the North Shore, participants include Bayside, Mequon and Thiensville.

The board's most recent action follows suit with past decisions. Trustees previously directed village staff to cut down on the amount of paper used for printing packets, which at one time was upwards of 50,000 sheets annually but was reduced when such practices as double-sided printing were enacted.

Earlier this year, Brown Deer staff began posting all supplementary material for agendas in open session on the village's website, browndeerwi.org. Most of the other North Shore municipalities have adopted a similar practice.

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