Selectmen seek paperwork relief

Staff Writer

After a recent board meeting, Ward 3 Selectman Ken Poole, a thick notebook tucked under his arm, asked out loud whether something could be done about the mound of paperwork that came with city government.

"I'm already running out of room to keep all this material. Can't we do something, computers or something?" he said, with Ward 1's Leta Turner nodding in agreement.

Poole's complaint is not new or unique to West Point. Selectmen, aldermen and city council members in cities and towns increasingly have struggled with the problem as every bit of city business became associated with pieces of paper.

Tuesday, West Point Selectmen will start discussing some options.

The board has called a special meeting to consider a salary for new interim City Clerk Eddie Longstreet, who starts work Jan. 1 as long-time city clerk Delores Doss retires.

Also on the agenda is talking about laptop computers or i-Pads for selectmen to use during meetings. Many school boards and other local governments already use some form of computerized system.

To equip the five selectmen would cost about $6,000 based on preliminary research, according to City Administrative Officer Randy Jones. Mayor Robbie Robinson, City Attorney Orlando Richmond, Jones and other city department heads would not be included in the current discussions, Jones said.

While getting the devices is easy, many local governments have encountered other problems with managing information flow, responsibility for damages, and late additions to agendas, among other things.

In most cases, the devices don't go home with the elected officials but remain at city hall as a storage receptacle and information portal rather than an actual operating tool.

For instance, Columbus City Council members have a centralized computer system and screen they access with information during meetings, but it doesn't leave with them.

"Many times we are copying materials up until right before meetings because that's when it comes in or is ready. We get late items brought up by selectmen for the agenda. And what if a member is going to miss a meeting? We'd have to figure out a way to update it, all those things," Jones said of topics to be discussed at Tuesday's meeting.

As for a salary for the interim clerk's position, selectmen have tossed around numbers in the "$30,000 to $40,000" a year range. Part of that is based on the clerk's responsibilities as the city's record keeper. but without human resources and payroll responsibilities which Doss also shouldered.

Tuesday's special meeting is at 9 a.m. in the downstairs conference room at City Hall.