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Lewis legislators to get laptops for access to financials, agendas

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LOWVILLE — A handful of Lewis County legislators will be getting county-owned laptop computers to gain access to more financial information and use during meetings.

County lawmakers on Tuesday, by identical 8-1 votes, approved both the purchase of laptops for any lawmakers interested and the setup of a wireless Internet access point in the legislative chambers. Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, opposed both motions, suggesting it was unnecessary spending and noting his suggestion earlier in the year to buy new chairs for legislators would have been less costly.

“It’s a useful tool,” countered Legislator Jerry H. King, R-West Leyden.

Legislators last month passed a motion to allow any interested lawmakers read-only access to the county’s Integrated Financial Management system, providing them with information on up-to-date departmental spending and the ability to print out financial reports intended to help with budget development.

Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, said it later was determined that the best way to grant such access would be through county-owned computers.

Thomas Mallette from the county Information Technology Department said that allowing access through personal computers could pose a greater risk of both having unauthorized people see county financials and picking up computer viruses. IT officials also would not be able legally to fix legislators’ home computers, he said.

Costs are projected at nearly $700 per computer, and about $100 for the wireless connection. “This is kind of a pilot program,” Mr. Tabolt said, noting he doesn’t plan to use it himself.

However, the three members of the legislative Ways and Means Committee — Mr. King and Legislators Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham, and Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville — all expressed interest, as did Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, a longtime proponent of more paper-free meetings.

With no county manager, the Ways and Mean Committee is overseeing budget development this year.

Legislator William J. Burke, R-West Lowville, expressed concern that the move could lead to “a lot of micromanaging” but ultimately chose to support both motions.

Along with financial information access both at home and at the County Office Building, the laptops would be used to view resolutions during meetings so participating legislators wouldn’t need paper copies of the agenda packets, which generally include 30 to 40 pages or more.

Those attending meetings also could use the Wi-Fi system to follow resolutions on their personal wireless devices, Mr. Tabolt said.

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