NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 7, 2013

Merrimac selectmen join digital meeting age

MERRIMAC — At an October selectmen’s meeting, Jennifer Penney, selectmen’s administrative assistant, buzzed among selectmen like a study hall teacher offering individual coaching, consultation and praise as the members struggled with passwords and new software. Each selectman was momentarily transfixed by a shiny new piece of equipment that will eventually help their office go paperless: personal Dell tablets.

By the following meeting all members were comfortable with the new hardware. The move to have selectmen’s meetings conducted digitally with tablets uploaded with all pertinent documents is an idea spearheaded by chairman Rick Pinciaro. The agenda as well as all correspondence and relevant documents will now be viewed on the tablets at each meeting. This avoids the triple printed copies that have been supplied to each selectman’s weekly packet for years.

According to Pinciaro, “The idea was floated a couple of years ago.”

The town was considering offering a stipend to selectmen in compensation for their work.

“We were offered a stipend for the BOS and instead of us getting paid, we decided to use the money to be more efficient in the office and save some trees,” Pinciaro said.

The $7,950 for the project was appropriated at Special Town Meeting in April from the Free Cash fund, according to Carol McLeod, finance director. Of the total, $2,481 is for the tablets and $4,950 will cover the cost of the software.

Penney is confident the system will introduce greater transparency, efficiency and paper saving.

“The selectmen will have access to all of the present and past agenda documents wherever they are as the program is web based. They can note comments (for their viewing only), search previous documents by keywords, and not carry and store 3 years worth of paper files on them, in their car, at their home, in this office. As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of paper used and accumulated over time,” Penney wrote in an email.

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