Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cost of Technology- Part II

The Town of Longmeadow has now been without a useful website to share information with town residents for over 5 weeks. Although a "new" town calendar has been added to the homepage of , not much new information has been added to the website and it is still "Under Renovation".   Town residents can only guess what has been happening at the School Building Committee meetings since meeting minutes have not been posted since mid-March and they are not televised by LCTV.

Earlier in May a proposal was submitted to the town by a company called Virtual Town Hall (VTH) which provides website solutions.  VTH provides support and services for over 300 counties/ cities/ towns/ K-12 schools in 13 states.  This includes over 125 cities and towns in Massachusetts including Greenfield, South Hadley and Lenox.  If you take a look at these Mass town website examples, you find that they are very comprehensive and have many similar features.

VTH has proposed to deliver a turnkey solution for Longmeadow including a custom design and migration of information from the existing website. 

Below is a summary of the costs from this proposal.

One time design + development including training- $6500
Annual website hosting, maintenance and support- $3500
Total first year charge- $10,000
Subsequent years charge- $3500

The proposed development- implementation timeline is 10-12 weeks.

Sounds like a plan... but wait....

There is one important aspect to this proposal that needs to be seriously considered by the Select Board before they decide to embark on this route:

According to VTH's President, Millard Rose, a town the size of Longmeadow would typically have 10 "content managers" (which I assume means designated town employees) with responsibilities to provide updates for their portion of the website.  For example, the Town Clerk's office would have a designated employee that would post updates relating to elections, voter registration, etc. while someone in the DPW would post street closings, hydrant flushing notices, etc.  and so on...

Training for these "content managers" is included in the above pricing. Those employees who will be selected as "content managers" will be glad to hear that there is no need to learn HTML (or other webmaster skills) and that the Content Management System (CMS) is very easy to learn.

In other words, the $10,000 first year charges and the subsequent $3500 annual maintenance charge does not include website updates.

With all of the town employee reductions that have been made in the past couple of years, how will this increased workload be absorbed?

Mr. Barkett also wants to include website support for Storrs Library and community organizations as part of this new website direction.... at what cost?

Let's hope that one month from today our Select Board is not still forming a task force to study the situation or evaluating options and that there is an actual plan in place for a new Longmeadow website.... be it or