Mohave County government has joined what I call the Flat Screen Society.
But unlike the Flat Earth Society, the flat screen one is a force for progress because it takes up less space than the conventional, television set-style monitors.
I coined the term because county government is replacing personal computers with the standard monitors with flat-screen ones.
The county is leasing the new computers from Dell under an existing contract with the company, according to Morris Brite, the county's procurement manager.
The lease for 400 computers comes to $293,000.
according to Finance Director John Timko.
He said the county supervisors authorized $360,000.
Over the past few weeks, a crew from the Information Technology Department has been unpacking the computers from boxes and installing them in various county departments.
So far, the IT crew has installed new computers in various offices, including the county manager, clerk to the board, the public fiduciary, elections and purchasing, said Nathan McDaniel, network services manager for IT.
The installation should be completed by mid- to late March.
However, IT will not install computers in offices under the jurisdiction of Superior Court, McDaniel said.
The courts have installed about 15 flat-screen computers from Compaq, and more are on the way, said Kyle Rimel, court automation specialist.
He added the state Supreme Court is leasing the computers to the county courts.
Computers with flat screens enjoy many advantages over the conventional monitors, boosters such as McDaniel and Brite said.
"They take up a lot less desk space and they don't use as much power," McDaniel said.
He said they dissipate less heat, are supposedly easier on eyes and weigh less than the conventional monitors.
Ordinary employees also praised their new screens, but nobody whom I approached would speak for the record.
One employee mentioned that county employees are not allowed to download Web photos and software.
She was referring to third-party software such as home games, "anything that we don't have a license for," McDaniel said.
He explained the restrictions are designed to prevent viruses from damaging the computers.
The employees are required to sign a one-page "customer affirmation statement" that establishes 17 "no's." Failure to comply with the policy or misuse of the "department property," including computer programs, equipment, information or data, can lead in disciplinary action, prosecution or both, the policy states.
"It's pretty much standard computer-use policy," McDaniel said.
McDaniel said supervisors are responsible for enforcing the policy, not IT.
He added the county is also using Web URL filtering to prevent users from entering unauthorized sites, such as for gambling or pornography.
While going for a fitness walk in Centennial Park Friday evening, I heard a man yelling for help from the distance.
I cautiously approached from the parking lot, not knowing whether he was in distress or planning an ambush.
He was calling from inside a bathroom located near the ball fields, on the northwest side of the park.
A Park and Recreation Department employee apparently locked the bathroom about two hours earlier, not knowing the man was using the facility.
He even placed his bicycle inside the bathroom.
Besides yelling, the man had set fire to a plastic bag, apparently to draw attention to his plight.
I urged him to calm down, and called 911 on my cell phone.
"Is this an emergency?" the operator asked.
I explained that the man was agitated but did not appear to be in physical danger.
He thanked me by shaking his hands, through the grate.
A few minutes later, a park crew arrived, unlocked the door and set him free.
Meanwhile, a man approached me to find out what was going on.
John told me that he used to perform in a heavy metal band and was now living in his beat-up station wagon.
He uses a friend's house to take a shower.
After speaking to him, it dawned on me that I had heard him strum an acoustic guitar and sing while sitting in his vehicle.
He said he wants to launch a computer repair business.
"I'm not looking for handouts," John said.
I reported the bathroom incident Monday morning to Keith Adams, recreation superintendent for the city.
"I have been here 16 years and have never heard of that before," he said.
Ken Hedler is the county government and politics reporter for the Miner