In an attempt to go paperless and become more efficient, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the purchase of 30 tablet computers, in this case Apple iPads, for official use by members of the Town Council, Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen.

The purchase is expected to cost no more than $20,000, which will come out of a network reserve account in the budget, according to the town's Chief Financial Officer Gary Conrad.

"I want to give an example of why I think this is an important initiative," First Selectman Jeb Walker said at Tuesday morning's BOS meeting. "We have, sitting in front of us here, about eight pounds of paper. What we're talking about now is to try to use the business of technology to try and make the town far more efficient going forward."

Christopher Kaiser, director of the IT Department, presented the uses and benefits of the iPad to the Board of Selectmen while Budget Director Jennifer Charneski presented it to the Board of Finance Tuesday evening.

"We tested three or four different [tablets]," Kaiser said. "The iPad, we're looking into [version] one, so that we could save some money on the generation. We don't need the video camera or any of those bells and whistles."

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Out of the models they tested, Kaiser said the iPad was the smoothest and had the necessary programs already available on the device. His department has created a server online for all three town bodies to use. When they receive their iPads town officials simply go to that online reservoir and download an agenda and all the necessary attachments or presentations they might need for that particular meeting. He said any and everything town officials might need would be available on that secure server available for immediate download onto their iPad.

"The excuse `Oh, I didn't get it,' will no longer be relevant," Walker said.

Selectman Rob Mallozzi also supported the initiative enthusiastically and reassured everyone that these devices would not be used for distracting purposes like playing games or checking scores. In fact, many of those features will be blocked.

"We will not be surfing the Internet with these. These will be preloaded with the documents that we need. These will not be devices we will use for personal use or like I said, in a meeting we can't go out and look at the Mets score or whatever," Mallozzi said. "So they are business-oriented and to be used only for purposes."

Charneski and Walker said it goes even further when dealing with the budget process. Say goodbye to those giant blue binders with more than 500 pages of facts and figures.

"Once you're in the site, the document you open up is now available to save locally on your tablet," Charneski said. "Any editing or changes that you do saves only onto the local tablet and so what is in the repository stays as the original unedited document."

So each member of the Board of Finance would be able to have the whole budget digitally on that device, which they could adjust to their own liking by taking notes, moving cells, running scenarios and sharing that with their colleagues via e-mail, which is also already on the iPad.

"You will have full access to all of the budget documents and full control over anything you wanted to do on the files that you downloaded," Charneski told the Board of Finance members.

Still, town officials are fairly confident the savings in paper and improvements in efficiency will offset the $20,000 costs fairly quickly. Conrad said getting rid of the big blue budget binders for more than 30 people in government is going to instantly save time and money. The production costs of those binders was around $800 while productivity loss was even greater.

"Putting the book together is probably the most time consuming process," Conrad said. "We would have four people spending three quarters of the day putting those together and just making sure everything was done properly."

As far as costs go, Kaiser said $20,000 was on the high end and that it might end up being significantly less if they go with refurbished models.

"We are actually, off the Apple site, going to look at the refurbished versions," Kaiser said. "So we should be well under our number."