Warden breaks tie vote to axe own proposal for laptops

by David Meyer
GUELPH – Warden John Green broke a tie vote here last week and axed about $75,000 off the 2008 budget that was pegged for new laptops and high speed internet for councillors.
That budget cut reduced the county tax increase to below four per cent for the first time in several years. The move came prior to the council taking its final vote on the proposed 2008 budget.
Councillor Lou Maieron ask­ed council for consideration of the final cut, and pointed out that it was reasonably small. He said there was $60,000 in the budget for laptop computers for councillors, and $15,000 to pay for high speed internet.
Maieron said he calculated the cost per councillor was $4,650, and he wondered if that is a good expenditure. He said he had a flyer with him, with the offer of state-of-the art lap­tops for about $1,000 each.
“It seems excessive to me,” Maieron said of the costs. “We can do without it.” Further, he said, it costs about $5 per ream of paper, and he estimated he used about ten reams last year. He moved that the money be re­moved from the budget.
Councillor Chris White seconded Maieron’s motion, and said, “We kind of went through this at our [Guelph-Eramosa] council. I see no need to rush into this. We probably don’t need to do this this year.”
Councillor Lynda White supported councillors using laptops. She said she gets her county information from her computer at work, and, “I have found it much better than get­ting paper through the fax machine.”
Each councillor is given a fax machine and is supplied with paper to print agenda packages for committees and council. The agendas are also available on the county website.
Councillor Brad Whit­combe, who admitted having little knowledge about computers, said he would be willing to try to use them. He told Green, “You’ve had quite a bit of sport with me and my computer skills, but I’m willing to try.”
Councillor Jean Innes asked how much is being budgeted for training.
Council then had a tied vote, and Green said, “I have a right to cause or break a tie. I will vote.”
He then stated if there is a tie, he does not believe a proposal should proceed, with half of council opposed.
He added, “If you are willing to live in the dark ages, so can I.”
Later in the meeting, though, he chided councillors for asking questions when the answers are included in their agendas and information pack­ages.
He waived this month’s agenda (small at only 114 pages), and said, “You play right into my hands. You’re getting this pile of paper, and you’re not reading it. I rest my case.”