City weighs paper vs. iPad

Vancouver invests in tablet computers for city leaders to determine if they will save money, staff time on copies; county also studies technology

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer



By the Numbers

126,706: Number of pages printed for the Vancouver City Council in 2011.

$21.10: Cost to print 10 copies of a 10-page, full-color, double-sided and stapled packet (average amount of copies needed for one meeting agenda item).

8 to 10: Average number of agenda items per council meeting.

$211: Average cost of 10 full council packets for 10 people for one meeting.

$336: Annual savings per person for employees who change their data plans from BlackBerry devices to iPads (BlackBerry has $71 average monthly data charge; iPad has average of $33 a month).

54: Number of iPads distributed.

$32,094: Total cost of iPads ($17,000 from city coffers, the rest was covered by grants).

$10,207: Total estimated savings in first year.

The city of Vancouver has turned to Apple to save trees.

Vancouver like all other local governments spends thousands of dollars each year in staff time and paper to get information to elected and top officials.

In 2011, more than 126,700 copies were made for the seven city council members alone, largely for the vast amount of information they need for each council meeting.

So Vancouver has purchased 54 iPads for the city council, police command staff and city department heads in the hopes of saving paper and money. Clark County also started a small trial of the tablet computer, purchasing eight iPads for its three elected officials and five top staff.

The city spent $32,094 ($17,000 of that from city coffers, the rest was covered by grants) on the devices. Officials predict the move will save $10,207 in other costs during the first year.

Already, city officials are saying there’s been a 40 percent reduction in paper use in the first three meetings of 2012 and that’s with only a few council members using their iPads. Printed pages went from 5,371 in 2011 to 3,182 during the same time this year.

“If we kept pace with a 40 percent page reduction, we would print 75,646 pages this year, saving more than 50,000 sheets of paper, additional hours of staff time spent printing and collating,” city spokeswoman Barbara Ayers said in an email. “If we projected these kinds of savings to more departments, we think we can make an incredible impact, demonstrating good stewardship of resources.”

Councilor Jack Burkman started the iMovement last year by purchasing an iPad for himself with his own money, intending to take all of his city business totally paperless. Once he saw that it was working for him, he suggested it may be something for the city to look into.

“It’s likely to be perceived as controversial, because it’s true, it does cost money,” said Burkman, 57, who argued that the technology will prove to be a cost saver in many ways.

He said that while carpooling back from Olympia, the city’s transportation planning manager, Matt Ransom, was catching up with all his email during the long drive which the small interface of a BlackBerry would have made difficult, and a larger laptop would have been unwieldy.

“He was much more accessible and got more work done,” Burkman said. “That’s a cost savings. It shows up in so many different areas.”

The tablet computers cost an average of $33.49 for access. That’s down from $71 a month, which is what Vancouver paid for BlackBerry access for staff members who had them. Switching from BlackBerry to iPad also creates a $336 annual savings for each employee that does so, Ayers said.

BlackBerry users are not required to switch and could end up using both devices, according to Ayers.

The city is holding a training for Apple newcomers, one that Councilor Bill Turlay said he’ll attend.

“I’m just not into the 21st century … but as I learn, I think it’s a tremendous tool,” said Turlay, 76. “I think we’re going to save a lot of money here.”

Clark County is also in the early stages of a pilot program to look at potential savings an iPad can bring.

The county has purchased eight iPads, including three for the Clark County Board of Commissioners, said Jim Hominiuk, county director of application services.

“Part of our evaluation …is to go through and measure the savings for these approaches, based on what we put forward in software and internal effort to make this happen, versus the manual process and the cost of those supplies,” Hominiuk said.

He said the county will have its first measurable results early this summer, at which point they will decide whether to expand the iPads’ use.

Hominiuk said he’s been pleased with his iPad, including its size and ability to interface with other technology so that he can plug in and start a presentation right away.

“Speaking to how I like mine, I do find it very convenient, to walk around the office and use it from meeting to meeting,” he said.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542;;