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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims

Commission takes next step on digital path

MOUND CITY – On Tuesday, Jan. 17, he Linn County Commissioners followed up on a discussion they a week earlier about purchasing cellphones and computer devices for the commissioners.

Information Technology Director Chris Martin brought information and prices to the commission today regarding cellphones and tablets. Martin told the commissioners that the cellphones would be a no-cost device because they were for government business.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said that he did not need one and could use his own phone. The commission voted to buy two cellphones, one for commissioners Danny McCullough and one for Jason Hightower.

At last week’s meeting, Hightower had suggested this saying that he used his cell phone for his personal business and county issued cell phones would keep county and his personal business separate.

Martin explained how the commissioners and other committees could use SharePoint as an online repository for meeting information that they are provided from the county and that different files could be set up. He said that the information could be restricted, only being available to people who are supposed to have access to it. He said the county already uses SharePoint and there would be not additional cost to add this.

He said that it is easy to access from cell phones but might be harder to read due to the small screen. He recommended that the commissioners look at purchasing Dell Chromebooks rather than laptops to view the information.

He told the commissioners how using SharePoint could ease the paper burdens on the county, including the time involved with printing and putting together the information.

He told the commissioners that he had reached out to the county’s suppliers for prices and he presented the commissioners with different prices for the laptop-type devices.

They were the basic Dell 14-inch Chromebook Enterprise grade, which had a five-year warranty and was 4G. The price for this model was slightly more than $360 each. He told them that if they went with the higher priced model, which was around $600, they would be able to do video conferencing better. The Chromebooks did not require additional licensing.

Another option was a Windows laptop which would run about $800 to $1,000. They would require licensing of about $4 per computer .

The last option presented was a laptop from Microsoft’s Surface line which runs about $1,200 to $1,600 and needs a case to carry it. The warranty for these are a little more expensive.

County Counselor Gary Thompson brought up that the commissioners would have to be careful because it would not be legal for the commissioners to communicate with each other through the SharePoint system.

Martin said that the county’s SharePoint would be set up so that there was no communication.

“We need to be cost conscious always, but we need it to do whatever it is we need it to do,” said Hightower as the commission was deciding which Chromebook to purchase.

Thompson said that they probably wanted to make sure they could do video conferences because there was a period of time that you needed that. And that could come again.

Martin said a lot of boards are still using those platforms when they don’t have to meet in person. It’s not just something that’s gone away, there are still plenty of Zoom meetings.

Lamb also said that commissioners need to be careful what notes they take because if it happens in an open meeting, it is public record and it is discoverable. Lamb said that the county had run into a legal situation where a commissioners notes had been used against the county’s case .

The commissioners moved to purchase the Dell $600 Chromebooks, including one for Thompson, and to develop a system they could use through SharePoint.

Later in the meeting, Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson explained that purchasing laptops for the planning commission members would save the county money in printing costs from his department also.

Wilson said that the cost of the postage most months that is sent to planning board members is around $6 to $8 per month for each packet. If the county purchased the $360 models for the nine planning board members, even with the $8 monthly service, the county would be saving the cost of printing.

Wilson told the commissioners that his department’s printing sometimes ran up to $300 to $400 per month.

Commissioners discussed where the money would come from in Planning and Zoning for the laptops and the strategics of members being responsible for the devices.

Wilson said there was enough money in his budget to cover the approximate $3,600 cost for the Chromebooks. The commissioners approved the purchase of nine laptops for the planning board.

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