Bulky notebooks filled with agenda items and supporting materials soon could be a thing of the past for Columbia County commissioners.
On Tuesday, the board of commissioners goes high-tech when it switches to electronic meetings.
At a commissioners' meeting Aug. 19, commissioners received compact discs containing agenda items and supporting materials as a step toward holding their monthly meetings electronically.
Columbia County Clerk Phebe Dent, who is overseeing the transition, said commissioners were given CDs, "along with their notebooks, so they can see the difference and have a sort of comfort zone. They'll be able to see the direction we're going and have it to look at for comparison purposes."
The switch to an electronic meeting format will be fully implemented Tuesday, which gave officials time to improve and get used to the new format, Dent said.
Each commissioner will have a laptop computer at the meeting. CDs with the agenda and supporting materials will be issued on Fridays prior to each meeting. A projector will also be set up at commission meetings to allow spectators to follow along as each item is discussed.
Dent said the new format will cut down on paperwork and make the meeting process faster.
"We simply put the agenda and back-up documentation onto a CD, and they'll see the agenda," she said. "We'll do a hyperlink onto a word or a letter, and that will link it to a recommendation sheet or a document."
The Columbia County Board of Education implemented a similar system for its meetings last October.
"It's amazing the ease of it," said school board member Regina Buccafusco, who also is a network analyst for the Medical College of Georgia. "Our main agenda is in a Word document, and every item is hot-linked to another page with all the supporting data and paperwork that just comes up right at your finger tips. It's one document with 20 to 40 links off of it. Our secretary either scans it, or the document starts out as a computer-generated document."
The school board's start-up costs to hold the electronic meetings was nearly $21,300. Dent said the county's cost will be considerably less since the county's information technology department already had laptop computers that commissioners could use for the meetings.
If all goes well, Dent said she hopes to extend the electronic-meeting format to more county government meetings.
"We'd like to see this work on the committee-meeting level as well," Dent said. "There's a lot of people involved - administrative coordinators and directors, et cetera - but I have high hopes for this process."
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