PITTSFIELD -- Many organizations set a goal of "going paperless" only to fall short, but 11 new iPad tablets should allow the City Council to actually save some trees.

"This has been an important initiative for me for quite a while," said City Clerk Linda Tyer, referring to the purchase of the devices councilors began using at their last meeting.

A former councilor herself, Tyer said she was struck by the tremendous amount of paper and related supplies -- not to mention staff time -- involved in making photocopies of council agendas and backup information. The cost in paper alone, she said, is roughly $170 per meeting for the 11 councilors.

The agenda itself and the backup information -- such as copies of contracts, appointee resumes, grant information -- can easily run to more than 100 pages per councilor.

Tyer said she first sought funding for laptops in 2010 and persisted each budget year until $6,000 was approved for Apple iPad tablets, which were by this time considered a better option for council members.

She said the implementation was done in cooperation with the city's Information Technology Department, which recommended iAnnotate software and other software features. That program allows councilors to make notes in PDF files, as they could do on paper copies.

In addition, the tablets allow councilors to check email, do Internet searches during meetings, access city code or other documents posted on the Pittsfield website, and take photos of potholes or other situations to document them or send to the relative city departments.

"I've also been encouraging the councilors to separate their personal from public emails," Tyer said. "There should be a boundary, and this will allow that."

The iPads were in evidence during the council's April 22 meeting, propped on folding stands in front of the councilors.

Tyer said periodic training sessions will be held to ensure that councilors, who represent a range of computer savviness, are aware of all of the iPad capabilities. "Right now, we are taking baby steps," she said. "But I think there is a lot more that can be done."

The clerk plans to wean the councilors off paper agenda copies over the next three or four meetings.

To reach Jim Therrien:
jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247
On Twitter: @BE_therrien