The irony of the situation was not lost on the eight city councilors who showed up Wednesday night to learn more about iPads and how they might help them govern the city more efficiently.
The council's committee on finance and administration had scheduled a hearing at 6:30 p.m. on “Governing with iPads” and asked a Boston representative of a company that supplies the technology to meet with it to answer questions.
But after she promised to attend the hearing, the technology salesperson did not show. And Ward 4 Councilor Jerry Ryan, who called her cell phone several times, couldn't get in touch with her.
The councilors waited on her for about 20 minutes. Then Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy announced the meeting would be one of “the shortest we've had.”
But not so fast. The councilors wanted to discuss the issue of using iPads anyway. Or at least they wanted to raise questions.
The idea of governing with iPads came from a Web-based seminar on how local governments are using the Apple technology to cut down on the costs of printing all the documents like those clerk Cheryl LaPointe prints every week for the 11 councilors. Ryan introduced a measure to consider having the city purchase the iPads.
“It is a great idea. We should pursue it,” said Ward 7 Councilor Joe O'Keefe, Sr., the oldest and longest serving member of the council.
Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski agreed. “This is a good direction to go.”
Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel, who already owns an iPad, said it might be as simple as adding an app to their existing iPads. Of course, not every councilor, like Turiel and Ward 3 Councilor Todd Siegel, owns an iPad.
Councilor-at-Large Tom Furey proudly announced he does not even own a computer, nor have an email address.
Councilor-at-Large Kevin Carr said he wanted someone to tell the council how much the iPads would cost, what the benefits would be and what the return on the investment would be.
Ryan said the city could buy the iPads for each council member, and the council members would declare the gift of the iPad on their tax returns.
As far as Salem's future in the technology, McCarthy, who thanked his colleagues for raising the questions, said the use of the iPads in council meetings would be presented to city solicitor Elizabeth Rennard to make sure it conforms with legalities the city is bound to.
In the interim, the councilors, who adjourned after another 30 minutes of discussion, would like to hear from companies that sell iPads and the supporting software.
Some other communities already using iPads
Several towns and cities in Massachusetts already use the iPad technology to increase efficiencies and reduce printing costs.
Ipswich bought iPads for each for its five Selectmen and a sixth for the town manager two years ago. It has expanded the use of iPads to city departments like the building inspector and other boards and commissions. The town now owns more than one dozen.
The iPads the town bought cost $574 each when purchased, and software that makes the iPads easy to navigate cost $299. The price of the machines and software can vary depending on the model.
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