The internet celebrated its birthday recently, turning 20 years old after being brought into existence in 1991. The Village of Mineola has had a website that has been around for almost half that time – 7 years – and is in the words of village officials, badly in need of an update.
“It has gotten to a point where developing or redeveloping the current website would not only be cost-prohibitive, but almost a waste because there are too many features that we need to add, too many functions,” Village Clerk Joe Scalero said at the August 10 meeting of the .
The Village of Mineola has already contracted with an outside firm to move its code book to an online searchable format, but the main webpage and site are also in need of an overhaul to allow residents and visitors to find information quicker. Scalero described the move as one from an “informational” site to “functional” one.
“People will come to a (municipal) website to be able to use certain features, not necessarily just to find out about the village or to look up a phone number,” he said. “They want more interactive functionality” such as obtaining a birth certificate or building permit.
“It would be impossible... for someone to apply for a building permit online and expect an automated response,” Scalero said. “There are just far too many nuances... and that’s why we have trained personnel doing that.”
Website visitors would however be able to download the appropriate forms and come to village hall in one visit. The website also has the potential to accept credit card payments, allow for calendar updates without having to go to an outside vendor to update the information and offer e-mail subscription services.
“A resident would have the option of putting in their e-mail address and saying ‘notify me when the garbage collection schedule changes on holidays, snow removal, etc.’,” Scalero said.
The board approved a contract with contract with Virtual Town Hall Holding, which has been highlighted at NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) and is one of the largest vendors in New York state for municipalities’ websites.
The village is currently looking at a “full service” package which includes five-day-a-week support, off-site hosting, full backup recovery and on-site visits.
“It’s completely customizable to our needs and how we want it to look,” Scalero said. “What we’re getting here can do everything. It doesn’t mean we have to go with all the bells and whistles, but they’re built into it so we’re not paying extra.”
The website is also designed so that an employee of the village can use it with minimal training.
In selecting the vendor Scalero said that he first inspected a number of municipal websites “close to what we were looking for,” obtained the names of a required number of vendors and then narrowing that list to 13.
“I found that most of the villages use sole practitioners - one person, usually somebody local – they may do a fantastic job but you’re locked into one person and when that person leaves you’re in a position whereas now we’ll have support available,” he said.
The cost for the package would be $4,995 for the first year, which includes an initial setup fee and $3,995 for each successive year.
The company has worked with General Code, the firm responsible for converting the village code book to a digital online format. “They’ll be easily able to incorporate that into this website,” Scalero said.
The entire process of producing the website is estimated to take about 12 weeks, depending on how quickly the village can make decisions on design aspects and features it would like to incorporate into the website.
Scalero said he would like to do a “pre-roll out” and demonstrate some of the features at a future board meeting.