The city is buying a dozen tablet computer devices for City Council members to reduce paper usage.
Council members agreed to award a $24,388 contract to GovConnection of Merrimack, NH for 13 Microsoft Surface Professional tablet computers last week. Each machine will have 512 GB of storage, Intel Core i7 processor, and 16 GB of memory, according to municipal records.
At first the council appeared divided on purchasing the devices as the city deals with a massive budget shortfall that may result in a big tax increase on homeowners beyond the two-percent cap. But last week, the council voted 8-1 to purchase the tablets.
Council members Al Abdelaziz, Ruby Cotton, Michael Jackson, Shahin Khalique, Maritza Davila, Lilisa Mimms, William McKoy, and Flavio Rivera voted in favor while Luis Velez voted against.
Rivera, chairman of the finance committee, said the tablets will produce a great deal of savings for the city. “Instead of having all this paper, we’ll have ready access right there,” he said. “It’s not just papers there’s also human hours.”
The city produces more than a dozen packets, made up of hundreds of sheets of papers, ahead of every public meeting. Employees make copies, staple documents, and arrange them in folders.
Packets are delivered by employees to the homes of council members. This creates workers compensation liabilities and costs money, said Rivera. He suggested this practice will end after the purchase of the tablets.
There was no clear estimate of how much money the city will save by “going green.”
Velez, 5th Ward councilman, was not convinced. He argued the money would be better spent on buying equipment for public works.
“We could use that money to equip DPW workers that take care of our parks,” said Velez. “I don’t need a tablet. I use my phone and I utilize my office a lot.”
Mimms and Abdelaziz opposed buying the tablets at a past meeting, but changed their positions last week.
“We’re getting a better deal and it will save us money,” said Mimms. “It’s less work for the clerk’s office.”
Mimms said when the measure was first presented to the council the price tag was almost $27,600. She needed to see the bids and wanted to make sure the tablets had protective covers.
She was provided the prices three firms submitted for the contracts, she said.
“I support the council’s vision to go paperless. I support this resolution to go green,” said Abdelaziz. He said he has no plans to take a Microsoft Surface device.
Abdelaziz previously told his colleagues the purchase of these machines at a time the city faces deep fiscal problems will create a negative perception and invite public criticism.