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Palmer Government Goes Paperless

Palmer Township Manager Christopher Christman believes government can save $38,000 a year by going digital with documents.

It's usually a running joke at some of the recent Board of Supervisors meetings.

Supervisors Chairman Dave Colver will be maneuvering on his iPad when he'll hit a key and lose a document as Supervisor tries to help him out.

But supervisors using iPads at board meetings is no laughing matter. In fact, it's part of an overall plan for Palmer Township to go paperless.

"Palmer Township has always been progressive," Lammi said. "This is a natural progression."

The concept came about last August when Lammi and Township Manager were trying to figure out how to streamline the process of information coming into supervisors.

Christman discovered the Novus Agenda, a third-party product that would enable the township to have a paperless agenda and also provide a workflow process so all township department heads could track projects better.

Christman invested $3,500 in iPads for the supervisors and Public Safety Director Tom Adams and $4,900 for the Novus system with maintenance costing $4,200 in following years.

"The challenge was convincing my colleagues that this was the way to go," Lammi said. "I've always been a nut for efficiency. This would make people more efficient. There was a fear about no paper. But the supervisors all bought into it. They're still getting used to it."

Colver made a big announcement at the start of a June meeting.

"The township is going paperless," Colver said. "All agendas, minutes, maps...everything under the sun. It should make life easier for us. So if you see us fumbling with these iPads, everything will be streamlined. Everything will be simplified."

At the end of a recent meeting, Colver pointed out how the township saved 1,608 sheets of paper in just one week by not printing out blueprints for an agenda item.

The township even saved 134 pages by not printing out the supervisors meeting packet.

"If you multiply that by 30-36 meetings a year, it's unbelievable," Colver said. "As we get more familiar with the iPads, right now there's a little fumbling, we'll have bigtime savings."

Christman said the board had originally intended to go live in January, but it really started going at the end of May.

He believes going paperless will save the township $38,000 a year based on the number of supervisors meetings, the labor of making copies, fuel costs to deliver packets to supervisors and other expenses.

Over five years, that savings could add up to nearly $195,000, Christman said.

"It could only be $10,000, but it's the value of it, the efficiency you're creating," Lammi said.

Christman said the plan was to roll paperless out to supervisors first and then getting it to the zoning board and to parks and recreation. He said that Planning Director Cynthia Carman will be getting an iPad shortly.

"The system's ability to track projects provides a level of accountability," Christman said. "That's the beauty of it -- when you're working on something that this eliminates wasted time."

Christman says Palmer Township is serving as a model for other townships in going paperless.

He said that has expressed interest and that Warminster and Lower Moreland in suburban Philadelphia are also looking into it.

WILFREDO G. SALCEDO, Sr. August 07, 2012 at 11:30 AM
I would like to pay my Palmer bills online, too...I can do this with my water bills as well as the county tax already...This way, clerks/collectors won't be necessary saving us more money from payrolls of these employees, not to mention car trips to the offices and save on gasoline in the process.

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