Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 13 January 2012 00:00
Web-goers are just one mouse click away from finding everything they want or need to know about the Incorporated Village of Garden City. Thanks to the joint efforts of Village Clerk Brian Ridgway and Recreational Department employee Tom McGerty, the village’s upgraded website www.gardencity ny.net is officially ready to go live on Friday, Jan. 13.
On Monday, Jan. 9, Ridgway and McGerty, who has a background in computers, gave members of the press an exclusive preview of the site and talked about the project that has been a year in the making.
The village’s original website was launched more than a decade ago when Ridgway first started working for the village. “One of the first assignments I was given was to get Garden City a website,” Ridgway explained. “Back then, 12 years ago, Garden City was one of the first municipalities that actually had a working website not just in Nassau and Suffolk counties but in all of New York State,” he added.
In spring of 2011, Ridgway said it became evident that an upgrade of the site was needed. He and McGerty began the extensive process of creating a new site and created specific goals for its new incarnation.
“Tom and I sat down and brainstormed a bit and thought ‘what is a new site going to look like?’ We thought to ourselves ‘what are some of the current things we want to keep and what are some new features that we are going to add?’ And then we have to make sure the site is on a platform where it’s going to last not just three or four years but it should last 10 years,” Ridgway explained.
“We did a lot of research and looking at a lot of websites, what looks good, what looks bad and what did we want? We wanted it to be our own,” McGerty concurred.
Ridgway and McGerty were focused on making sure the village and its offerings were as accessible as possible to residents, businesses and visitors alike.
“We wanted to make sure we kept a partnership between the business community of Garden City, obviously the residents of Garden City and visitors to Garden City, whether it’s for business reasons, shopping, sports, etc.,” Ridgway added.
As the website’s main administrators, Ridgway wanted the new version to offer accountability and access in real time to allow for ongoing changes as needed. “The more updated our site is, the more credibility we get with the community at large,” he said.
Once the village staff developed a clear concept, it was necessary find the right vendor to be the backend site support. They searched for a company that offered technical support and access to make updates. After researching and contacting over 12 vendors from across the country, GOVoffice, in Minneapolis, MA, was chosen to design the site. “Tom and I had taken pretty much all of our ideas, comments from the community, notes that we have taken over the past year or so to develop the new site, and as far as we are concerned, the new site is up and ready.”
The Garden City Village Board of Trustees gave the green light to move forward with the project at the Sept. 15 meeting at a cost of $11,890. Last Thursday, Ridgway said that he and McGerty pitched the site to the Garden City Village Public Information Committee to demonstrate how it is used and answer any questions or concerns. The Committee’s Chairperson Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh and members John DeMaro and Deputy Mayor Nicholas Episcopia offered comments and suggestions. Ridgway said one of their concerns was making sure the site could be adapted to smart phones, which he assured that it can do.
The purpose of the village website is to provide information about the village’s operations, services and community. Visitors who click on the homepage will find a customized font size tab that allows them to read the copy and weather updates easier than ever before.
“The idea for the homepage was to be as simple as possible, get to what you want to get to and navigate swiftly through the homepage,” Ridgway stated.
Residents who want to know who their trustee is or what property owners’ association they are from can find all the information at their fingertips. Interested in learning a bit of village history? Just click on the PDF of the original Community Agreement document or peruse old editions of Village Facts to get up to date on village issues.
Also showcased on the homepage is the Village Notifications & Alerts message box to disseminate information such as road closings or water main breaks. Links to Swift 911 allow residents to register their phone number to receive important information and announcements.
The village government calendar makes it easier than ever to become involved in local government. Whether you want to attend a capital plan budget session or check when the next blood drive is, it’s easy to find.
Contractors and architects can readily learn more about the Planning Commission or Zoning Board of Appeals. Meeting dates, agendas and the village code are also posted, as well as a list of current village issues, local laws, village code, public notices and village budget information.
In the next two months, residents can use the new online bill pay feature to pay their water bills and village taxes. Also on hand is a bevy of contacts within each village department, including DPW, fire, police, among others. Phone numbers and email addresses as well as a google map link make communication easy. “It’s clean, simple, informative and professional,” McGerty said.
Visitors to Garden City can find out what the village has to offer by reading the Community Guide, which provides direct links to the Garden City Chamber of Commerce; Garden City Historical Society; Garden City Hotel; Clubs and Organizations; lists of restaurants and shopping; LIRR; and Houses of Worship; and a list of publications such as Garden City Life.
One of the most aesthetic pleasing parts of the site is the rotating photo gallery of seasonal shots of the village, including unique pictures of each individual department. “It gives you a nice flavor of the village...When you look at a picture, it tells you so much about Garden City, the flowers, the gazebo, shopping downtown,” Ridgway said.
“I’m very pleased with the site. I think it’s one that has been crafted in such a way that it will be good for those three groups: the residents, the businesses and the visitors of Garden City.”