- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

SITKA, Alaska (AP) - In an effort to cut down on providing printed materials, the Sitka assembly has gone paperless.

Each assembly member and top staffers have all been provided new iPads as part of the effort.

Previously each member received a packet of paper that was between 60 to 100 pages. Packets that included the agenda, minutes of the last meeting, ordinances and resolutions on the agenda, supporting information and staff recommendations were also made available to the media, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported (http://is.gd/RRPgz9).

That information is now available on the city’s website, but members of the public can still choose to get paper copies.

“We’ve been talking about it for over a year,” said Acting City Clerk Sara Peterson. “We’ve been wanting to get away from using paper, paper, paper.”

The iPads cost $644 apiece, and the city paying for the tablets and associated software for legislative bodies out of the general fund. The city will also cover the $40 monthly service charge.

Members will be able to review all meeting information and take notes on their iPads, just as they had previously done with printed materials, Peterson said.

“We’ll still have all of that,” Peterson said.

There will also be opportunities in the future for a “social media” component during meetings, she said.

A number of Alaska cities, such as Ketchikan, Kenai, Fairbanks, Valdez and Anchorage, already use the paperless system and the legislative applications. Peterson said this system has received positive reviews.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Mayor Mim McConnell. “I think it’s long overdue.”

“It may take a little getting used to,” McConnell said before Tuesday’s first meeting using the tablets. But she didn’t have any doubts she and other six Assembly members who have been issued iPads will take to it in the digital age.

“Everyone’s got computers now, and we’re all pretty digitized these days,” McConnell said. “The transition should go well.”

The iPads will offer more dividends in the future. The city is planning to livestream its meetings, and members will be able to participate when they are out of town.

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