AUBURN — Councilors Tuesday liked the idea of buying iPads for their use some day — but not enough to buy them right away.

“I love new gadgets, but now is not the time,” Councilor Belinda Gerry said. “We don’t know what the state is going to give us and we don’t know what our property taxes are going to look like. So any motion to spend this money, I can’t support.”

Councilors voted down a measure to spend money gained from the sale of unused city property to purchase at least four iPads for councilor use. But most agreed they liked the idea of replacing paper with technology.

Councilors even got to test an iPad Tuesday, using one purchased by the Auburn Police Department. It might be the perfect tool, according to Councilor Mike Farrell, even for the reluctant computer user.

“Councilor (Dan) Herrick used this one on Friday for 25 minutes and he didn’t have any trouble,” Farrell said. “He navigated just fine and I never had to help him.” For his part, Herrick said he could see a benefit even as he describes himself as computer illiterate.

“If the public knows these are available to councilors and they’re watching the meetings, they could e-mail right in,” Herrick said. “So, I think it would help keep the communication open between the public and council.”

Farrell said the city has printed 11,700 pieces of paper for council business at their regular meetings since the current fiscal year began in July 2010.

“They could all be on here,” Farrell said. “That includes all 46 pages in your packets tonight, and its much easier to access on this. Plus, we wouldn’t have to pay the staff time to stand over a copier and collate all of those books.”

According to the plan, the city would purchase at least four of the tablet computers for $767 each. That would include the iPad with built in 3G networking, a case and a protection plan. The city would also pay a monthly fee for 3G networking, another $25 per month.

All councilors welcomed the idea, if not the iPad. Councilor Bob Hayes said he favored investigating purchasing laptop computers. Gerry said she was interested in small netbook computers for council use.

But Farrell said he was sold on the iPad.

“A laptop is still a computer and you need to enter in some type of a command,” he said. “This is very user-friendly. You cannot screw it up.”

Councilors also turned down a plan to make a new city website at www.auburnmaine.org. That website redesign would have cost up to $30,000 from that same property sales account.

But councilors said it was too soon and wanted to discuss it more.

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