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Watertown Town Council Going Paperless, Not Everyone Happy About Move

Councilors will receive laptops and all communication electronically.

The Town Council will take advantage of technology to go paperless, but at least one member of the board is not happy with the move.

On Tuesday, the Council voted 8-1 to accept a resolution to require all communications with the board to be done electronically, and each councilor would receive a laptop computer from the town.

Until now, councilors had the option of receiving information in paper form, too. Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis was the only councilor to receive printed materials for meetings, and she voted against the move to require councilors to get information via computer at their town-issued email address.

Kounelis said she felt the ordinance targeted her, and she thinks the move may prevent some in town from seeking elected office. She does not use a computer and does not have an email address.

"This would be discriminatory toward people (who don't use computers)," Kounelis said. "I represent my constituents. I am there for them and they can reach me (by phone)."

The move to go paperless was one to save the town money, said Town Councilor John Donohue, a member of the Rules and Ordinances Committee. In the committee report, Donohue said that in a year, each councilor receives about 15,000 pages of documents, which cost $40 an hour to make in Town Hall, and $70 an hour to be delivered by the Police Department.

Kounelis said she is skeptical about the figures in the report. 

"We had two meetings this month, maybe 50 pages each. We are talking 6,050 pages - add a few more reams of paper and you are up to 8,000," Kounelis said. "Don't tell me we get 15,000 pages. Don't tell me it costs $40 an hour to make copies or $70 for the police to deliver it."

Donohue said he received the information about the number of pages and the cost from the Town Auditor Tom Tracy. The $70 for the police is based on a police lieutenant's pay, he said.

Councilors can print out information themselves, and can be reimbursed up to $300 a year for the cost.

Town Council President Mark Sideris said the council has unofficially followed the no-paper rule for the last few years.

"This is how we have been doing it, going on four years," Sideris said. "This is a formal policy. We have never had a formal policy. ... I am very comfortable to move forward with the times."

Former Town Council President Clyde Younger said the issue of going paperless is not just being considered in Watertown.

"Congress  has been grappling over this issue for some time, and they don't feel they have come to a conclusion," Younger said.

Younger said the policy should allow for exceptions so information can be printed for those who want it, such as the general public attending meetings.

What do you think? Is the requirement to receive information electronically fair? Do you like the idea of the Town Council going paperless? Share in the comment section below.

Tina Conlon January 11, 2013 at 05:20 PM
I would be happy to provide technical support for Angie.

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