Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00
Residents of Mineola are in for a surprise; a “WorldWide Web-sized” surprise.
The board of trustees authorized the contract of Virtual Town Hall Holding (VTHH) LLC. with the village to revamp the current website and hosting services for Mineola at the Aug. 10 work session. Village Clerk Joseph R. Scalero detailed the parameters of the contract, along with certain functions that are being discussed about the new website.
The village debuted its website seven years ago. The World Wide Web, not the Internet, recently celebrated its 20th birthday as a whole.
Scalero said he was instructed months ago to begin looking at the renovation of the village website. He stated that in developing a current website today, current web users have become accustomed to certain features concerning municipal usage.
The New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) highlighted VTHH for being one of the largest vendors for village websites throughout New York State. The contract includes a full-service package, including but not limited to, site visits by the client and off-site information back up.
Scalero said his research revealed that many villages and municipalities use sole practitioners, meaning one person. Mineola has limited support available as is, and wants the website to function like up-to-date websites.
The village will pay $4,995 for the first year initial setup, and $3,995 for subsequent years with full technical support. Currently, some highlights of the current village website include a full hands-on view of the Village Code, Mineola’s Master Plan, along with streaming news announcements.
In terms of new features, Scalero stated that there are far too many to list. However, two options being considered are online credit card payments and email notification subscriptions. Residents would have to subscribe to each email notification if they choose to.
“I’m not an IT expert, but one of the things is that websites, particularly municipal websites, have grown from being informational-based, to functional-based,” Scalero stated. “People come to the website to use certain features, not necessarily to find out about the village, or to look up a phone number. It’s nice to know what each department does, but they want more interactive functionality.”
Research has shown that municipal websites should function like most websites, which translates to one or two clicks to find a needed link. Scalero stated that some functions on the current website require seven or eight clicks. He likened the ambitions of the new website to current retail websites.
“If you go to a retail department site, you can find what you want in one or two clicks and without having to deal with waiting on a phone forever,” he said. “However, in government, there’s the human element. Village government in particular, being the closest to the people, is service-oriented.”
According to Scalero, it would be impossible to have someone to solve a village issue online without a person-to-person interaction. For example, applying for a building permit online is extensive and is handled by more than one department. Scalero said there are far too many nuances to handle sensitive material like that.
“That’s why we have trained personnel to handle these situations,” he said. “But you would be able to download material. This website will most likely have other features, like updateable calendars.”
VTHH told village officials the changeover could take about 12 weeks with uploading templates, depending on how quickly the village decides on the overall look of the site. However, Scalero would not put a timetable on a site launch.
“I think I speak for the board, I know when we were at the NYCOM conference, that it’s a strong feeling that our website needs some updating and some improvement and I think we were satisfied with the presentation that we viewed,” Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said. “I assume that we may be able to add features in the future, like email blasts and the like.”
“We need a more user-friendly website,” Mayor Scott Strauss said. “I’m looking forward to the end result.”
A presentation of the new website would most likely occur at a future board meeting. No date has been set.