By Robert Washburn
[singlepic id=8 w=320 h=240 float=left]Cobourg council is expected to launch its new user-friendly website sometime next week, Director of Corporate Services Ian Davey said Thursday.
The new $10,000 site will be more sophisticated in its presentation, but will make it easier for staff to upload information for the public, he said. This means residents can access current, relevant information at any time.
“It will be something new and fresh with a current look to it,” Davey said.
The process began about one year ago when the municipal website was hacked and had to be shut down. A temporary site was put in place. But, the town’s web service provider, The Managed Web Inc., of Toronto, came forward with a proposal to redesign the entire site.
The idea was to create a site that provides basic materials to the public such as agendas, minutes of meetings, tax information and some online services for submitting applications and forms. It would also make it easier to find information and events, from brush pick up to Canada Day celebrations. It will continue to link to the town’s tourism site, as well.
“When people have a question, it (the website) is the first place they will look,” he explained.
A committee of staff was formed to work with the provider. No one from the public was involved.
There will be interactive features, Davey added. People will be able to contact staff and to make comments. The town hopes to be able to do online surveys, too.
The upgrade was not tendered, but granted as a continuation of the current work being done, said Davey.
But, the website is only one aspect of a much larger overhaul.
The town also spent $20,000 upgrading to a new e-agenda system for council. This means each councillor is given a laptop where they can access agenda, reports and other relevant documents during a meeting.
So far, Mayor Gil Brocanier and Deputy Mayor Stan Frost have used the system. It is also hoped to be fully implemented shortly.
“There will be the obvious savings of operating costs,” Davey said.
The printing costs for agenda, reports and other documents are very large. Also, the town staff face logistic challenges of making sure councillors, the media and the public can get documents. The system means documents can be accessed or sent out more easily, he explained.
Town staff will also be able to network with the entire town’s computers, allowing them during a meeting to access important documents in the case of a query from a councillor or a member of the public.
No cost analysis was done to compare the new e-agenda system to the old manner of operating prior to its installation. But Frost, who is responsible for general government, has asked for a report. Currently, the costs in the municipal clerk’s department are being collected, Davey said.
The town has also wired the council chambers for wireless Internet access. However, it will be up to council as to whether or not the public will be given access, he said.
“The system is secure enough for public access, but it is a political decision,” he said.