Douglas County considers iPads for boardWith technology getting easier to use, Douglas County is considering a change in how board members access information to make decisions. A small committee will be appointed to study the idea of supplying members of the county board with iPads to access information necessary to make informed decisions about county business.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
With technology getting easier to use, Douglas County is considering a change in how board members access information to make decisions.
A small committee will be appointed to study the idea of supplying members of the county board with iPads to access information necessary to make informed decisions about county business.
“This is something Nick (Baker) has brought up several times,” said Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn.
Instead of printing hundreds of pages of documents to supply to a variety of committees and the county board, the board would have access to the necessary documents through a wireless connection.
Supervisor Kay Johnson said she noticed a majority of board members from other counties with them during the annual Superior Days lobbying effort. While she didn’t know if the board members owned them or they were supplied by the county, she said she never thought to bring hers to Madison last week.
“I have one,” Johnson said. “It’s my own.”
The panel of supervisors and staff will begin to explore the possibility of the county supplying them.
“Some counties are going this route,” said County Clerk Sue Sandvick. She did some preliminary research into the issue by talking to Burnett County, which supplies its board with tablets.
“The bottom line is what do you want to accomplish by providing these to the county board,” Sandvick said. “There needs to be a reason to do it.”
In talking to Burnett County, she said agendas, minutes and documents are all provided to the board on the tablets. The board decided to go that route after an ad hoc committee explored the potential.
Initially, members of the committee used the tablets — members had a range of computer experience from a good deal of expertise to some who had none — and found out that they didn’t need the paper anymore, Sandvick said. Now, the entire 21-member board has them, and only one is having a little bit of trouble with it, but overall it’s worked well so far, she said.
Burnett County implemented its full program about three months ago.
“What we would like to do is to a similar thing — appoint a five person committee,” Finn said. The panel would consist of four county board members and one staff member. Sandvick and Douglas County’s IT director Dave Dusek would serve as advisers to the committee, he said.
Sandvick said the county has already gained a lot of information for the panel to consider.
A rough estimate of the cost of supplying the 21-member board with the iPad would be about $15,000, Finn said.
“I throw away tons of papers,” Baker said. “I know I do. I have a 95-gallon recycle bin and that thing’s full.”
He said if board members prefer to have information printed, the iPad does allow them to print what they need specifically to their computer printed.
Supervisor Pat Ryan said when she was in a meeting in Madison, it was very handy to be able to access state information online while she was still in the meeting.
While some questioned the availability of networks to provide that kind of access, Supervisor Dan Corbin advised the members of the Executive Committee that the devices are so intuitive that they connect to networks seamlessly.
Finn said it’s his goal to have the panel make a decision about supplying the board with iPads in time for the county’s annual budget process. He hopes to appoint the committee later this month.
“I’m about as dumb as a board when it comes to a computer,” said Supervisor Mary Lou Bergman. “I got an iPad for Christmas and I really like it. It’s much more user friendly.”