News

City's Web site found lacking

The city of Oak Harbor’s official Web site, oakharbor.org, comes under the category of “useless” or just plain “lame.”

City staff recently recommended doing something to change that, but it could cost up to $19,000 in unbudgeted funds. The city council will discuss a proposal to hire a company, Business Internet Services, to redesign the city’s Web site at the April 8 meeting.

In his proposal, Finance Director Doug Merriman wrote that the current Web site has “no benefit to the community or the city.” He pointed out that this doesn’t conform with the city’s mission statement, which states the city “is committed to delivering quality services to its citizens in the most effective manner.”

The city’s Web site currently lists the city council members and the mayor, the city hall address as well as quoting the mission statement. It also has a way for people to e-mail the city in order to have a “tourism and relocation packet” sent to them. The site used to have links to pages for city departments and the city council meeting agenda, which was usually outdated, but those have disappeared.

Oak Harbor’s Web site seems especially pitiful when compared to those of comparable-sized cities. The Anacortes and Mount Vernon sites, for example, are much more complete, with information about city departments, elected officials and meetings. Mount Vernon even has an abridged version of the city’s budget online.

Probably the best thing about Oak Harbor’s web site is the simplicity of the site address. (Check out www.cityofanacortes.org and www.ci.mount-vernon.wa.us)

Merriman proposed that the city’s site could have information about city services, such as permitting requirements and budget information; public safety messages; community involvement activities, including special events; meeting schedules; and even a way for folks to pay utility bills online.

City officials have already contacted Business Internet Services, a company that was highly recommended by a public information officer for Bellevue. The company proposed two different designs. The first proposal includes 15 pages for a total of $17,850, plus $1,500 for contingencies. The second proposal has eight pages and costs $13,600 with $1,500 for contingencies. City staff recommended more expensive option in order to fulfill the city’s mission statement.

The cost of the proposal is likely to raise eyebrows among the cost-conscious council members. Merriman suggested that the cost of the redesign could be shared by the general fund reserve and other funds.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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