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Paonia town meetings heading to the 'cloud'

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Paonia residents will soon be able to access town meeting agendas and other documents and data in "the cloud."

At the Aug. 28 board meeting, trustees approved the purchase of a cloud-based meeting and agenda management software system and related contract services from Municode. The system will allow the town clerk and staff to prepare and publish paperless agendas and meeting packets. Once the agenda and related documents are approved, it's posted to the Cloud for all to see.

The $2,200-per-year subscription cost of the software is expected to more than pay for itself in savings of staff time and copy paper. An estimated $8,000-$10,000 is spent annually on staff time to prepare packets, paper and ink, said Trustee Barry Pennell.

Town Administrator Ken Knight noted that packets for the Aug. 28 meeting alone required five reams -- 2,500 sheets -- of copy paper.

"Right now we do everything the old-fashioned way," said Town Clerk Corinne Ferguson. For each meeting the town holds, minutes are typed into a Word document, packets are prepared piecemeal, incoming information arrives in various formats, and everything is Xeroxed. "Basically we re-create that wheel every single meeting," said Ferguson.

Trustees considered proposals from two other companies, TownCloud, Inc., iCompass Technologies, Inc. and all three gave demonstrations to town staff. While all offered similar packages, Municode was recommended by staff because town already contracts its codification services with them, staff is familiar, and it can be incorporated into the current system, said Ferguson. It's also accessible via all web browsers on the town website through all web browsers and on all Macs, PCs, and all mobile devices.

Municode's package is "also the most financially beneficial to the town," said Ferguson.

Once the packet is ready, it's accessible by the board, the media and the public, said Knight.

If everything goes smoothly, packets will be accessible via the Cloud within 30-60 days, said Ferguson.

Trustees also approved an expense of $13,939.39 to contract with Fruita-based Phonz Plus to purchase sound system and recording equipment for the community/meeting room. The contract includes updating of meeting room sound system, and a video camera to record all public meetings. PhonzPlus was among several companies contacted for the system and the only one to provide a written quote, said Knight. The town approved up to $15,000 for the system in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

Initially, the plan is to post raw meeting video on a designated town youtube channel as early as the day after the meeting, said Knight. The system can also be used to record noticed public meetings and monthly Municipal Court proceedings. If enough bandwidth exists, meetings can be streamed live on youtube. Once time-stamped by Municode, each agenda item can be accessed with a click.

Trustees also voted to contract with Municode for $1,000 annually to time-stamp video recordings allowing instant access of individual agenda item recordings with a click of the item. The cost includes customer support and represents a discount, since the town is already contracts with Municode for its codification services, said Knight.

In addition to making it easier on staff, said trustee Sam Hart, it demonstrates the town's commitment to transparency. "Not everyone can get to meetings," said Hart. During the last election, she said, transparency was a big issue. If citizens can read the packets and see for themselves the entire process, that can help build trust. "I think it's worth it just for that," said Hart.

Trustees also approved up to $ to purchase iPads or tablets for board members who need one. The equipment will only be for town use, said Knight. Equipment will be the property of the town, should be inexpensive, and contain only the software required for meetings, said Knight.

Also approved were three contracts with Carbondale-based Village Green Painting, LLC., for painting of interior walls and ceilings in Town Hall, including the conference room, kitchen, restrooms and the Police Department, not to exceed a cost of $15,000.

The improvements are considered more than cosmetic. Employees were being exposed to mold and other toxins from aging equipment and venting from the crawl space linked directly into the administrator's office. Those issues have been addressed through upgrading of the cooling and heating systems and other measures and have made the building "much more livable," said Knight.

Painting is expected to begin in November. Replacement of carpet, which was installed on or before 1993, is expected to be on a future agenda.

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