Town Has Been Living In The Stone Age, But Some Admit There Is A Comfort That Comes With Those All-Too-Familiar Sounds

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — From smartphones to high-speed internet, nowadays it seems like technology runs most of our lives.

But on Long Island, one town is lagging behind.

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported Monday, typewriters are still running the show.

The Town of Hempstead still uses typewriters to do all of its clerical work, but Supervisor Laura Gillen says that’s about to change. (Photo: CBS2)

The clicks and clacks of a typewriter bring comfort to Marie Mordente.

“I took it in school, so from there on I moved on and I have used a typewriter constantly. I would be lost without it,” Mordente said.

She works as a clerk for the Town of Hempstead, typing up important documents like birth and death certificates five days a week. She and other clerks then mail them out and store copies away in file folders.

“It’s something that people feel are passé, but I will miss it,” Mordente said.

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There are 72 typewriters inside the Town Hall, doing paperwork for the more than 760,000 residents. But Supervisor Laura Gillen, who was elected last November, is working on changing that.

“I was shocked to arrive and find nothing is digitized,” Gillen said.

She said there is a vault in the basement that stores historical records, but all other contracts, leases and essential forms are stored in a closet.

“It’s really quite frightening, the thought that all these records could be destroyed if there was a fire,” Gillen said.

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So the town is working on getting things online and getting rid of the typewriters.

“It’s going to be a quite heavy lift going from paper to digital. A lot of people think it’s a snap of a finger,” chief technology officer Ari McKenzie said.

New software for human resources, payroll and finances, alone, will cost $9 million over 10 years. Residents said it’s about time the investment is made.

“I don’t even know what it is. I only know a little bit about it through school,” 15-year-old Christopher Porata said.

“Kind of crazy at this stage of the game, mostly computers, typewriters, no, not for legal documents,” xxxxx added.

But at least these typewriters come with a backspace.

The only reason Hempstead officials still use the typewriters is because they match all the town’s legal forms. Officials hope to start getting documents online by December, but there’s still no word on when they would get rid of the typewriters altogether.