An $850 one-time expense for iPads gets green light

Forest Grove city councilors are at least as smart as a 3-year-old girl.

That was the opening point from Forest Grove Fire Chief and unofficial IT geek Michael Kinkade, as he made his case last month for bringing the council into the digital age.

“This is a 3-year-old girl,” he narrated after bringing up a video clip at a work session in the Community Auditorium. “She can’t read, can’t count.”

But she can master an iPad, he noted, as the toddler nimbly touched and swiped at a small screen in front of her.

If she could do it, so could the councilors, Kinkade said, pacing in front of their dais like a lawyer giving a closing argument.

Kinkade’s encouragement paid off Monday night, when the council authorized the purchase of an iPad or similar device for each councilor.

Although the decision has a small up-front cost, it will save resources, labor and energy and provide more efficient service for councilors, staff and the general public, according to a staff report.

City Recorder Anna Ruggles said she spends two to four hours preparing the twice-monthly city council packets and stacks reams of paper in her office.

Packet preparation cost roughly $200 in printing and staff time for Monday’s council session, Ruggles estimated, and costs more than $4,800 over the course of a year. Online documents will cut that time at least in half.

In his presentation last month, Kinkade ticked off iPad benefits: “They’re very easy to maintain. They’re not prone to viruses. There’s only three buttons you have to worry about: on, off and volume. It’s cheaper and it’s easier than paper. It’s environmentally aware.”

He demonstrated how to make documents appear on the iPad screen and how to circle items or scribble notes as if on paper.

When Councilor Camille Miller asked about training, Kinkade promised his services, estimating it wouldn’t take more than an hour.

He said he’d already bought three iPads for his department “and it saved us some money almost instantly.” The cost was paid back in 1.5 years, he said, although one of the iPads was destroyed when a firefighter set it on top of a Forest Grove Fire & Rescue pickup, then drove off without remembering to bring it inside the truck.

Some council members are already using smartphones.

Councilor Richard Kidd said his wife, Christine, broke out in tears when he got one. “Now you can’t pry it out of her hands,” he added.

And Kinkade had already videoconferenced with Mayor Pete Truax during a windstorm about whether to activate the Emergency Operations Center.

Technology, however, has its limits. At the end of Kinkade’s presentation last month, Truax unsuccessfully attempted to access the personal wi-fi account for his smartphone. The problem, however, had nothing to do with the device.

“I can’t remember the damn password,” he said.

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