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Friday, May 7, 2010

Charlotte Leaders Buy iPad "Toys" With Taxpayer Money In Recession

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Leaders Buying iPads For Staff, Claim To Look For Savings

Five Apple iPads are now in the hands of staffers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County government as officials examine whether the devices can help reduce printing costs.

At a cost of about $500 each, the recent purchase drew the ire of some county employees who contacted NewsChannel 36. The employees, who did not want to be named, question the spending on new technology at a time when Mecklenburg's government is slashing its budget and laying off workers.

The touchscreen tablets are being tested by Mecklenburg's budget director and staff in the county manager's office who will examine the practical use of sharing documents electronically, according to Danny Diehl, a county spokesperson.

Diehl said the cost of printing documents for one meeting of county commissioners can top $500.

Some taxpayers said they were concerned the county is purchasing a new device that has not yet been proven as a tool for business.

"The iPad is an absolutely wonderful thing but it’s just a toy for me and I don’t think I would be able to put it to any good practical use," said Charlotte resident Nelson May.

Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts said she has been viewing documents for meetings electronically for about a year, using a laptop computer while sitting at the dais.

"I can find my files much better electronically than I can find on paper," Roberts said, adding the push to run "paperless" meetings has been in the works for years and has the potential to save a substantial amount of money.

"It saves a lot of paper, so that’s saving our environment. And when you think about the ink that goes into that, the toner, the printer cartridge, the repair guy to fix the copier, it adds up."

Other county commissioners contacted by NewsChannel 36 said they were not aware of the iPad purchase and were hoping to learn more details of the potential savings.

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Sources: AP, WCNC, Google Maps

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