While a recent decision by Antis Township to lay out $3,219 for five iPads for its supervisors may have raised a few eyebrows among residents, if the purchases save the taxpayers money down the road, it will have been money well-spent.
It is also a step in the right direction when it comes to transparency of government. As more information becomes readily available to the five elected residents who make up the board of supervisors, it should follow that more information will be available to their constituents.
Because the supervisors have the often cumbersome and lengthy documents at their fingertips, they'll be better informed and in turn be able to knowledgeably communicate with the other residents about township policies and business.
It should also mean constituents themselves will have firsthand access to the same materials once the township implements further improvements to its website.
As Township Manager Lucas Martsolf pointed out, while a first step, the hand-held computer tablets are a first step in a plan to get "as much information as possible" to the public. In the past, for a member of the public to get a municipality's meeting notes, budgets or other important documents meant spending time driving to an office, filling out forms and waiting for days. It also meant paying money for copy fees associated with such requests.
This is still the case for most municipalities in the area, and it doesn't exactly foster engaged and informed citizenry.
As more and more information moves online, it's refreshing that a municipality sees the practical advantages of technologies such as iPads and the Internet to connect with its residents, and not just because it's the latest fad or because some salesman is looking for a big commission.
Hopefully, the township will follow through with its plans to make more information readily available to the public electronically. The bottom line is always important when it comes to public expenditures, but when those purchases help clear the way for more transparent government, it's money well-spent.