FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — After years of assembling all-paper packets for Board of Commissioners agenda meetings, Forsyth County is going digital.
The move from paper to pixel is expected to save money and will give residents a chance to follow the action at commission meetings like they never have before.
Beginning late this year, the county will post all board regular meeting and work session agenda documents on its website alongside the video of the meeting and the meeting minutes.
Right now, and for at least the past 10 years, county staff has had to print out hundreds of pages of background materials for agenda items, then bind them into booklets for each commissioner and top level staff. These items include site plans, applications, ordinances, resolutions and other documentation provided for each agenda item.
There are normally 10-15 of these packets created for each regular meeting, county Chief Information Officer Brandon Kenney said. Making these packets available digitally will allow residents to access more information, he said, and it will reduce waste and time assembling the packets.
The procurement was made earlier this year, but the county doesn’t expect to set a project timeline and goals until later this month, Kenney said.
Neighboring counties and many nearby cities have had agenda documents available online for years. Gwinnett County began its system about 10 years ago. Online agendas and documents are also available in Dawson, Fulton and Hall counties.
“We need to be looking at more efficient ways to do things and to provide information more timely to our citizens,” Kenney said.
The move to online will also help the county save time and money at the administrative level and streamline the process of getting items on the agenda, he said. Currently, the county pays a third party company to print the packets for each meeting, which amounts to more than a thousand pages for each meeting.
County Commissioner Todd Levent said he started pushing for the change two years ago while he was commission chairman. The IT staff was busy at the time rebuilding the county’s website, Levent said, but now has the ability to implement the new system.
“It’s so I don’t have staff making these big, fat books and wasting so much paper,” he said. “It just didn’t make a lot of sense.”
Communications Director Karen Shields said the county recycles the packets once they are no longer needed. The digital system will save money by reducing the amount of time it takes to put the packet together and reducing printing and binding costs, Shields said.
“It’ll put the same information at everyone’s fingertips,” she said.
Chester Kramarski, a frequent visitor to commission meetings, said he was unaware that these materials were not already available to residents. Currently, he said, his friends might send him the agenda or schedule beforehand, but he doesn’t often go online for meeting agendas or videos.
With this new resource, Kramarski said it’s possible he will use it for additional information on items he’s interested in.