The City of Alexandria has banned the use of the legal-sized paper by all employees and city departments, making it the first city in America to do so, according to the city records administrator.

The move will save city taxpayers between $5,000 and $9,000 yearly in lower paper, mailing and filing costs resulting from using 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheets, said Robert K. Friedman, the records administrtor responsible for the break with tradition.

The shift and the savings are nothing to sneeze at as far as Friedman is concerned. As the Washington area chairman of a national drive by the Assocation of Records Managers and Administrtors to eliminate use of legal-sized paper, he has been pressing for just such a city ban for some time.

Last fall, he finally persuaded Alexandria City Manager Douglas Harman to support the plan. By September, it was city policy.

Twenty-two states have gone to a similar standard, including the nation's federal court system, which opted for the smaller-sized paper Jan. 1. Friedman said: "It's not cost-effective" to do otherwise."

According to Friedman, oversized paper is a relic from the Middle Ages, when the accepted size of cut papchment for writing was similar to today's 8 1/2-by-14-inch legal sheet. Tthe continued use of such a standard, he said, is "just tradition."

There is one exception to the ban, however. The City Council's twice-monthly docket will continue to be printed on legal-sized pages. Some council members resisted the proposed change because "some old habits are hard to kill," Friedman said.

Council member Donald Casey, one of those who opposed the shift, said standard-sized paper would make the docket thicker and would require more -- not less -- storage space and additional filing cabinets.

Casey, a lawyer, said of Friedmans campaign: "I hate to see a person all hung up on a cause."

That's not the way Friedman sees it, however. "I'm interested in shooting elephants, not gnats," he said. As for the argument that all that extra white space is needed for city business, he replied: "If lawyers have less paper to write on, maybe they'd write less."