West Miami-Dade

Sweetwater upgrades to iPads for commission meetings

Sweetwater commissioners approved the purchase of iPads and new software to use in their meetings.
Sweetwater commissioners approved the purchase of iPads and new software to use in their meetings. Miami Herald Staff

The city of Sweetwater is upgrading this year with the purchase of new iPads and software for commission meetings.

City commissioners approved the purchase of nine iPads in December — one for each member of the city commission, the city clerk and the city attorney.

With these new gadgets, which were proposed by Commission President Orlando Lopez, the city is also implementing a new software that will make agendas and records of meetings and post them online.

The software, called Granicus, is a platform specifically made for municipalities to manage and store public meeting information, acting as a paperless agenda that can be updated instantly. The software also aides recording meeting minutes, votes or any other action on behalf of the commission during public meetings.

“This is one more step that we are taking to demonstrate that our administration is committed to more openness, transparency and professionalism and save [the city clerk] a lot of time,” said Mayor Jose M. Diaz.

This will be an improvement in accessibility and government transparency for the small municipality, which until now hasn’t kept records of previous meetings, agendas and related documents online.

Implementing the program, which includes training the city clerk, city attorney, commissioners and department heads, will take three to six months, according to Frank Ramos, Sweetwater IT Manager.

The iPads cost a total of $3,861 with monthly cellular service charge of $36.05. The software costs $19,490 upfront and $1,050 in monthly services.

City officials say the cost for the new electronics and software is decent tradeoff. The city would be saving the expense of about 80 hours a month paid to the city clerk’s office for assembling and printing the agenda, meeting minutes and public records related to the agenda, saving approximately $3,256 per month.

Although it will take some time, Sweetwater is joining the list of municipalities that have been swapping out printed agendas for tablets during meetings, including North Miami, Aventura, Miami Beach and Cutler Bay.

The tablets are city-issued and purchased from the city budget, not from the commissioners’ discretionary accounts.

Any elected official who leaves the city commission must give their iPad back to the city, which may happen before they even receive their new gadgets. In the upcoming May election, three commission seats are up for grabs.