Selectmen seek 'paper weight' solutions

Mayor Robbie Robinson and the West Point Board of Selectmen discuss matters during a special meeting on Tuesday.
Staff Writer

The paper burden for West Point Selectmen likely will change but exactly how still is up for discussion.

And when interim City Clerk Eddie Longstreet starts work Tuesday, he'll be paid $40,000 annually until a permanent clerk is named, Selectmen decided Tuesday.

Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman suggested the $40,000 figure during a special meeting.

"That's in line with what the clerk pay starts," Ward 4's Keith McBrayer stated.

The city will advertise for a permanent replacement for veteran clerk and human resources director Delores Doss, who is retiring at the end of this week, although she will help train Longstreet and her eventual replacement.

A deputy clerk will be hired to handle payroll and human resources, which Doss has been doing in addition to the clerk responsibilities.

Doss makes $60,000 a year for wearing both hats. She also has completed the four-year certification process for city clerks. She started out at $48,000, Mayor Robbie Robinson said.

Meanwhile, reducing the amount of papers city leaders have to hang on to has been an on-again, off-again debate for years. Ward 3's Ken Poole and Pittman jump-started the latest discussions earlier this month when they pushed for information on getting laptop computers or iPads for use by Selectmen.

"It's time for us to get away from all this paper we've been using...I'm not a tree-hugger, but we need to do something," Poole said to kick off Tuesday's roundtable. "I'd like to have something I can put my hands on and look at and not have to ramble around looking for something," he continued, encouraging city records be put on a searchable database.

"I am tired of paper," Pittman echoed.

But ideas and opinions diverged based on personal tastes, different needs and even legal issues.

"I am going to stick with paper. I want something I can touch and feel," said Mayor Robbie Robinson, whose preference for the "old school" is well known.

City Administrator Randy Jones said city staff could address some of the concerns by e-mailing documents to Selectmen, allowing them to set up electronic storage systems to meet their needs on their own computers.

"I'm just worried about things being transmitted electronically," Ward 1's Leta Turner noted. "We can do that," Jones replied.

Furthermore, minutes of meetings back to 2011 are on the city's web site, Ward 2 Selectman William Binder noted.

The city also could return to giving Selectmen information on storage drives, which was done for awhile when Pittman was on the board previously.

"Keeping up with them gets to be a problem. And you don't want to have too many of them floating around out there," Jones admonished. "But we could do that."

But the digital age also raises some questions.

"As soon as we do, it be comes public domain. It opens it all up to what the public can ask for, everything you've done on it, visited, everything," McBrayer said, referencing public access issues that could come with Selectmen having city-owned computer devices.

"It's complete transparency for me. I'm not going to do anything I mind the public seeing," Poole noted. "I don't have any problem leaving mine at City Hall and coming here to look at it, it's city owned," Binder noted.

But other issues do come up, Jones said, including attorney-client privilege matters involving discussions with

City Attorney Orlando Richmond, personnel, legal and business recruitment matters, and records that might include Social Security numbers and other personal information. McBrayer said he keeps about six months of the information folders board members get for each meeting so he can answer questions from constituents. He keeps some parts longer if it is a major subject or continuing issue.

He keeps a couple of month's worth with him in case he runs into people on the street who have questions.

"But after about six months, I throw them away and keep the stuff I might need," he said, holding up two fingers about an inch apart demonstrating how much paperwork is involved for most meetings. "It hasn't been a hassle for me."

Ultimately, much of the final decision will end up on the shoulders of city IT Director Edgar Harris.

He told board members laptops would be more durable than iPads or similar devices but also would be at least three to four times more expensive.

The board directed Harris to have more exact costs and options available to the board's Finance Committee specifically and members in general as early as next week so the Finance Committee can be looking for ways to pay for the devices and related services.

Harris, Jones and Robinson also will research what cities like Columbus and Starkville handle the issue.

For instance, Columbus uses a fixed system which City Council members use to access information during meetings. They also have online access to materials and can get paper copies if they want.

Poole said he also plans to research and have possible recommendations.

The Selectmen will review the information at their Jan. 8 study session and make a decision at their regular meeting Jan. 9.

"Come back with some solid proposals," Poole told Harris. "Come February, I don't want to be dealing with paper."