Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 1, 2013

Grand Traverse abandons tech stipend

BY MICHAEL WALTON
mwalton@record-eagle.

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Commissioners are one step closer to ditching the antiquated methods of governing with pens and paper.

Commissioners unanimously voted on Jan. 30 to task county IT Director Don Sheehan with researching the best way for the county to purchase either tablet devices or laptop computers for county board use.

Commissioners originally wanted to go paperless through adoption of an $850 technology stipend added to the paychecks of board members, but the stipend was abandoned amidst questions of its legality. State statute prevents county commissions from altering the compensation of board members mid-term.

The county, not individual commissioners, will eventually purchase and own a set of digital devices recommended by Sheehan.

"That solves the whole compensation issue and makes it a lot cleaner," Commissioner Larry Inman said.

County Administrator Dave Benda said he does not know what Sheehan will recommend, but he said most county technology runs on Windows operating systems.

A technology stipend originally was proposed to give board members freedom to choose a device they liked best, but commissioners said they favor adopting a uniform device.

"We decided we all should be going in the same direction with the same unit," Commission Chairman Herb Lemcool said.

The board has discussed going paperless for months, arguing it will save money and make the commission a more efficient entity.

"I'm just thrilled we are putting down the hammers and chisels we are using at meetings," Commissioner Christine Maxbauer said.