New municipal website on the way to better serve Longmeadow residents
LONGMEADOW – The town’s municipal website will be reconstructed after it entered into an agreement with CivicPlus
for approximately $20,000, which will focus on improving the user-friendliness and appearance of the site as well as offering additional features.
“Right now we run a WordPress
system, which is really a content management system,” Town Manager Stephen Crane said. “There’s a basic design and then individual departments update the information on the website on their own, kind of a decentralized web master function.”
Crane said he was told during his interview for town manager prior to his appointment on Apr. 2, 2013, that “some people weren’t happy with the website. It was never really clear to me whether it was the content or the platform, meaning how the site was laid out.”
He add, “Our current website is actually a really good repository for information. mean, there’s an incredible amount of information on our website. I do acknowledge though that it is sometimes it is a challenge to find it. Information isn’t always where you would intuitively think it would be on a webpage.”
CivicPlus has demonstrated that it creates websites in “an intuitive user-friendly way” through a presentation to the town and through example – both Wilbraham
and East Longmeadow
’s municipal websites were completed by CivicPlus, he added.
“The other aspect to this project that makes Civic Plus appealing is that they have many different what they call modules that go beyond just the basic website,” Crane said. “And the town has the option to add modules as we see fit. We’re not buying more than we need at this time so we can continue to add more as we go.”
A module is essentially a website tool add-on Crane explained. These module add-ons could include better capacity for online bill paying and utilizing credit card payments.
For example, the town uses ACTIVE Net
software for its Parks and Recreation Department
to allow people to register for activities and make payments with their credit cards, he said.
“One of the things we’re going to look at as part of this process is the CivicPlus module that essentially does the same feature,” he added. “We want to look at what the CivicPlus module for that function is, how much it would cost, and how it would perform compared to ACTIVE Net and that’s something we can do as a part of this process.
“It’s not only getting a website that will always be current and up-to-date and look great but also improve and expand the quality of online service offerings for the town,” Crane continued.
Crane said the town’s new website would likely be completed in early July. Jim Moran
, a resident who previously operated as the town website’s volunteer webmaster, will also be providing input.
“Jim has a lot of photos of the town and I think he has some great historical photos,” Crane said. “We’ve asked him to provide some images for the website and offer any thoughts he may have to the town.”
Moran, who also operates LongmeadowBiz.com
, could not be reached by Reminder Publications
as of press time.
“We still don’t have a webmaster and right now we’re working with CivicPlus to kind of balance out how much webmaster function their going to do,” Crane said. “Content still gets generated by the departments but right now no one really looks at the overall website to make sure things are current – news items that are scrolling, like trash collection will be a day later, well once that week is over you want that item to drop off. We haven’t been as diligent as we should be because we don’t have a webmaster tracking that every day.”
CivicPlus would likely fill the role of webmaster, he added. “This relationship with CivicPlus will, we believe, address that issue anyway in addition to all the other benefits.”
The town also has a new free cell phone app service called “Your GOV
”, which allows citizens to report road problems.
“It’s a citizen complaint app but specifically tailored towards public works issues,” he added.
Crane said residents can register by visiting www.longmeadow.org/public-works/citizen-requests/
. The app includes a GPS display map of where any potential road problems might be occurring along with a list of what the issue might be. Residents can upload a photo and share details. The app is currently available for use.
“It goes right down into our work management system called Cartegraph and then DPW (Department of Public Works) staff will receive the request, turn it over to the supervisors, they’ll verify the request and generate a work order and then it’ll be added to the work orders that the department currently has,” he added.
Cartegraph is paid through an annual fee and has been utilized by the town for about a year, Crane said. In June or July of last year, the town switched over to computer-based Cartegraph work orders, which have been utilized for roughly six months.
“The system is new; our personnel is new,” he added. “We still deal with complaints via phone, email and other ways. We wanted make sure we were proficient in using the system before we mass-marketed the app because we did not want to be able to handle a large volume of requests.”