East Bethel will revamp its website

The city of East Bethel is looking to upgrade the appearance and functionality of its website and it recently hired a company to do this.

The city’s website will have a better search engine and yes, the image of the young girl in a white dress running with a white sheet flowing behind her on an ocean beach will be scrapped so that visitors to the site will have a more accurate depiction of what East Bethel has to offer.

The East Bethel City Council Aug. 15 unanimously agreed with the recommendation of a seven-person website workgroup by hiring Civic Plus. The cost for this company to redesign the city’s website and host it for the first year is $17,781. The annual hosting fee for 2013 and 2014 will be $4,454 and fees in subsequent years would be subject to an annual 5 percent increase.

“It’s an economic development tool,” said Councilmember Heidi Moegerle, who was on the website workgroup that also included Councilmember Steve Voss, citizens Brian Mundle Jr., Tanner Balfany, Randy Plaisance, City Administrator Jack Davis and Deputy City Clerk Wendy Warren.

“That’s our face to the greater world,” Moegerle said. “That face should be a tool to attract businesses and residents to let them know what a great place this is and as the cliché goes, ‘to live, work and play.’”

Voss said the platform Civic Plus provides is far superior to what the city has now. GovOffice has been the city’s website host since 2002 and it most recently paid this company $2,340 annually. The annual hosting fee is only $900, but the city also pays $120 per month for the council meeting videos to be available on the website. The new website will still have videos, but the process to get them online will be done in-house, according to Davis.

A well-known phrase is “you get what you paid for.” The workgroup eliminated GovOffice from the finalist round because it felt this company offered a restricted template and it had limited search engine capabilities compared with Civic Plus and the other finalist Vision Internet.

Councilmember Bill Boyer called the existing search engine “abysmal.” He hears from a lot of people who say they have trouble finding information using the search engine, Boyer said.

“You can have all this information, but if you can’t really get to it, it doesn’t do any good to post it,” he said.

Compared with other Anoka County communities, East Bethel has an extensive archive of city council minutes available on its website. It currently goes back to 2006.

Columbus and Oak Grove are the only Anoka County communities that go back further. Oak Grove goes all the way back to 2001 and Columbus’ minutes goes back to 2004 when it was still a township. Fridley and St. Francis have minutes dating back to 2008. Nowthen goes back to 2009 and Coon Rapids and Spring Lake Park have 2010 council meeting minutes on their websites. All other cities only post minutes that are from 2011 or 2012.

East Bethel’s council meeting minutes are very extensive as well. They typically go over a dozen pages and can be over 20 pages if the meeting is long enough.

Warren said they will have more space on the server to handle the minutes, which take a lot of server space, as well as other items the city wants to upload.

According to Warren, the city has all these documents archived in its server at city hall that can be easily transferred to the new website.

Warren is in charge of loading content on the website, although other staff members such as accounting technician Jackie Campbell do help out when needed.

Civic Plus will do 50 pages of content development, but city staff will be responsible for doing the rest of the updates.

The city several months ago did have the website redesigned, but not this was a temporary design.

Warren said it got a free template from GovOffice and a contractor was hired to load some content.

“If we’re serious about moving this city forward, this is one of the changes that has to happen,” Voss said.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]