November 28, 2012 10:31:36 AM
Computer savvy citizens of Starkville have a little extra reason to rejoice in the season.
The city will launch its new, improved government website Friday, Dec. 14.
Ask anyone that has been forced to use the current site before -- city departments and board of aldermen agendas are veiled in a wash of PDFs and sub-pages, and the search-ability is difficult.
Starkville's current website may need an aesthetic facelift as well, but it needs a functional makeover even more. And beginning Dec. 14, that is exactly what visitors to cityofstarkville.org will find.
Joel Clements, information and technology manager for the city, said CivicPlus was hired this summer after a request for proposals to assist the city was sent out earlier this year. CivicPlus, based out of Manhattan, Kan., specializes in municipal websites.
"We worked with them this summer to figure out the design and layout and then the navigational structure," Clements said. "It will be a full-feature e-government portal."
Clements said CivicPlus's proposal was chosen because of several different interactive modules the company offered that Clements and other city officials did not see elsewhere.
A citizen comment request tracker will allow Starkville residents to sign in, ask questions or submit a complaint and it automatically gets routed to the individual department it needs to go to. The system tracks and records where in the process a request or comment is, keeping the citizen user up to date.
"For instance if someone reports a pothole, they can take a picture of it, upload it and then the appropriate person will respond, all while it provides feedback through the whole process," Clements said. "And it's not just for potholes. It's literally for any inquiry you may want to report."
In addition to the comment tracker, Starkville residents can sign up for myriad different alerts, from weather to new ballot postings to new calendar entries on the website.
But what is likely to be the most convenient of the new features is an e-payment portal. The Starkville Electric Department already gives customers the option of paying bills online, and now the city will be bringing that capability to the courts. Tickets and citations received in the city will be able to be paid quickly and efficiently online, at any time.
Though it will not be available on the site's release date, Clements said CivicPlus and his team are also working on allowing citizens to purchase business licenses online as well.
Clements said Starkville officials looked at several other progressive municipalities around the country in order to get an idea of what features would be the most beneficial. He thinks they have found a very strong foundation on which to continue the growth of the site.
"We are really trying to cross our T's and dot our I's, but it's an organic thing. Information will always be fresh and dynamic and we welcome any suggestions or comments from the users," Clements said. "Everyone will be involved in its operation and success, and since every department owns its own content, it was important to get the right employees to buy in."