Benton Township trustees test out new software, tablets

Trustee Carolyn Fowler, left, thumbs through her new tablet with the help of Jessica Fette on Friday during a Benton Township workshop. (Tony Wittkowski | HP staff)

Trustee Carolyn Fowler, left, thumbs through her new tablet with the help of Jessica Fette on Friday during a Benton Township workshop. (Tony Wittkowski | HP staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Trustee Carolyn Fowler looked down at her tablet in deep concentration.

Fowler and the rest of the Benton Township Board spent Friday afternoon at a workshop learning how to use new software that came with the iPads for future meetings.

After a 15-minute training webinar, trustees were let loose on the iPads that would allow them get board packets and township information during regular meetings.

“It’ll take some getting used to, but I like it,” Fowler said during the workshop.

Trustees went over how to access the program and its capabilities, which included swiping through documents and making annotations.

In a September board meeting, trustees agreed to buy four software applications worth a combined $42,000 that would be geared toward streamlining township operations.

Among the software purchases was a program called Board Effect, which will be used to create agenda and board packet information electronically.

On Friday, Superintendent Kelli Nelson helped the board learn the ins and outs of Board Effect in an effort to have them using it by the end of October. The application known as Board Effect is specifically geared toward trustees. It essentially replaces the paper board packets trustees receive prior to meetings.

“Clerk Phillips will send you all the packet when it’s ready,” Nelson said. “You should receive and email telling you it’s ready. A lot of the documents we have are in an electronic format, which makes this easier.”

The Board Effect software would cost $3,000 a year, which is about $125 per board meeting.

Nelson told trustees the iPads would be used only for township meetings, whether that be before or during. Without access to WiFi, Nelson said the tablets would use cellular data.

Other tasks

Various department heads gave trustees a brief overview for ongoing operations.

Police Chief Vince Fetke gave trustees an idea of this year’s number of arrests and calls.

Building Inspector Chris Fuchs told trustees that construction in the township is at an all-time high with Whirlpool Corp., Lake Michigan College and hotel projects ongoing through 2016.

Fuchs also addressed the recent news that The Orchards Mall was partially behind on its fire alarm and suppression system. However, Fuchs said the Benton Township has since been deemed safe.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 8, 2016)

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