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Gold, Warenda to draft plan for website

Date: 7/9/2012

July 9, 2012

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW — Selectman Mark Gold will work with Information Technology (IT) Director Kevin Warenda and Purchasing Manager Chad Thompson in order to come up with a course of action for the town's website.

The Select Board unanimously agreed that the website has been in need of improvement ever since the town took over its operation from resident volunteer James Moran.

After serving as the town's webmaster for 13 years, he was relieved of his duties in July 2010 because some members of the Select Board at that time took exception to content on Moran's website,, which was linked to the town's website.

Moran, who identifies himself as a citizen journalist on his LinkedIn online resume, saw the action taken against him shortly after he published letters between the Massachusetts School Building Authority and the Longmeadow School Building Committee (SBC) regarding renovation versus replacement of the current high school and criticized the committee for a lack of transparency, going so far as to say he felt "deceived" by the SBC.

Since then, the town has established a new website, built through WordPress, and later had that website updated by three teen residents — Caroline Bialas, Efrat Armon and Robert Anderson — who took part in a contest to help design the new website.

However, concerns have been raised regarding the accessibility of information and the limited capabilities of the website.

"Going back two years, we had a fully functional website with information that was up to date and this board decided to get rid of that format," Select Board Chair Paul Santaniello said. "We threw the baby out with the bathwater is really what happened and since that point, I think we're struggling to find out how we manage this."

Selectman Marie Angelides said, "I think it's important that we use our website more than we do because it will allow our residents to put on concerns and complaints, maybe file tickets with the [Department of Public Works] or pay more bills."

Angelides told the Select Board that she believed the town should consider outsourcing website operations to a company such as CivicsPlus and indicated that it was her understanding that the IT Department had included money for such an expense when developing their fiscal year 2013 budget. She added that even with an outside contractor, a town official would have to oversee the site.

"I think even if we do go for a third party such as CivicsPlus, the town manager has to decide who is going to keep an eye on things and see that it's all coordinated," she said.

Selectman Mark Gold said he was not in favor of the kind of outsourcing that Angelides suggested as an option.

"I am personally opposed to hiring a company such as CivicsPlus or any other company like that only because I believe that's the most expensive approach you can take to it and not necessarily the best," he said. "It gives you something that looks really good, but it makes it, in my opinion and my experience, more difficult to make changes."

Gold suggested the town should find someone to fix the website, then use a paid intern or a part-time employee to oversee its operation.

"My concern is it sounds good, but are we really going to find an intern who is going to give us the hours that we need with the skillset that we need on top of it?" Angelides responded, adding that the town would most likely still have to appoint someone whose responsibility it is to oversee the intern.

Gold said he wished to see the board go out for an Request for Proposals (RFP) in order to see the costs associated with the creation of a website that's day-to-day operations would be turned over to the town.

The board agreed and Santaniello charged Gold with getting the information needed in order to form an RFP by Sept. 1 in order to be able to transfer any necessary money at a fall Special Town Meeting.

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