|By Michelle Symington|
AGAWAM The city launched a new interactive website that will allow residents to complete tasks online that were only possible by calling or visiting City Hall in the past.
Mayor Richard Cohen, who announced the launch of the new website last week, explained that the old site was "very antiquated and outdated."
"There was not anything on it and it was not up to date as far as information," he said.
He also said that he did not tell many people about the old website because he "did not want them to see it."
Cohen said that he looked into updating the website when he first became mayor.
However, he said, "It was not a priority along with some other things."
He explained that he had some funding set aside in 2003 to create a new website, but with the cuts in state aid, he was not able to follow through with it.
"Now, we're finally able to do it," he said. "It is something positive and long overdue."
He added that creating the new website was not expensive and he had funding set aside for it in the budget.
Cohen, along with other city officials, has been working on the new site for about four to six months.
He said that he interviewed different companies that create websites and found that Qscend Technologies was best suited for the city's needs.
He said that he met with representatives from Qscend and looked at what the site would be able to do and looked at different sites and banners to get some ideas.
In addition, Cohen sought input from the different city departments.
"It is just another attempt for me to bring the city into the 21st century," Cohen said.
He added that the website is part of the city's response to the new municipal area network that is currently being installed throughout the city.
"All town buildings will be fiber optically connected," he said adding that the phone systems will be improved and the computers in all municipal buildings will be "100 times faster."
The new website is interactive and offers residents a chance to communicate with each city department via email.
In addition, there is a section on the website where residents can register service requests or submit a complaint online, which would be sent to both the mayor and the department responsible for solving the problem.
Residents will also be able to download forms from the website that were previously available by visiting City Hall.
Other features of the new website include:
An updated calendar that will contain information about public meetings and local events.
Meeting minutes from the City Council, School Committee and other board meetings can be downloaded along with proposed plans.
Email notifications for a variety of events, issues, meeting minutes and agendas.
Soon, the Town Code will be searchable and residents will be able to make tax payments online.
Cohen said that the goal of the new website was to have it be something simple that would give a lot of information, while being user friendly.
He explained that each city department will have the responsibility for the information on their portion of the site.
"Each department has designated someone to maintain the data within their department," he said.
Cohen said that the new website gives the constituents and everyone else interested the chance to keep in touch with the city's government via email and they can let city officials know what is happening.
"It is as easy as sitting at your desk," Cohen said.
He also said that a city needs to have a good website because everything is computer based now.
"The internet is something [people of] all ages utilize," he said. "Now, everyone can look at [the web site] and say 'Wow, it seems like a nice place to visit' or 'Wow, what a nice website.' "
He added that an improved website may attract more business owners and visitors to the city.
"I am very pleased with the final outcome and I hope that many people will visit the site and be as happy with it as I am," Cohen said. "It makes our government available 24-hours a day."
The new website has the same address as the former site, which is www.agawam.ma.us.