County unveils new website
Jan 29, 2013 (The Hawk Eye - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Des Moines County debuted its new website over the weekend, rolling out a streamlined and more colorful Web presence with a host of new interactive features built into the design.
Though it's only been online a few days, information technology director Gina Erickson is pleased with the website's performance.
"So far so good," she said. "Haven't heard any complaints, and hopefully the public gets in and starts messing with it."
Erickson said the need for a new website was apparent when her department lost its website administrator last year. Without anyone onboard to maintain the website's coding, Erickson knew it was time to develop something more flexible for community members and the employees of the county.
One of the most prominent new features available to visitors is the ability to create an account, which allows users to tailor the website with a customizable selection of data to display.
The Notify Me element, which appears as a megaphone icon on the homepage, can be set up to send notifications of select information to users via text message or email.
Members of the community also will be able to post ideas for county initiatives with the Community Voice feature, represented as a microphone icon. The online forum allows community members to provide input to county supervisors and play a more direct role in county government.
With a few clicks of a button, an ePayment option also simplifies the payment of property taxes and fines, and the Des Moines County Conservation page will soon roll out an online campsite reservation feature.
Department heads and county employees also will have access to a range of interactive new elements, including an opinion poll, which will allow them to receive feedback from the community about ideas for their departments.
An Emergency Post feature, currently only available to the sheriff and emergency management departments, will empower department heads to post timely countywide emergency notifications. Tornado warnings and other winter weather bulletins can now be uploaded online and will be indicated by red dots at the top of the homepage.
A yet-to-be-launched space on the agendas and minutes page will provide a place for department heads to post agenda items to the county auditor's office online.
"Then she can create the agenda with those online tools instead of in paper format," Erickson said.
Erickson added she may update the site to include a space to post videos and photographs, along with a media center where videos of supervisor meetings could be streamed live.
"There's a lot of features to this website that will be coming down the road, if the departments decide to use them," Erickson said.
The website and email addresses also will be pared down from the current "co.des-moines.ia.us" suffix to the more manageable "dmcounty.com." Though the new email addresses are active, messages sent to the old email addresses will find their way to the appropriate person, Erickson said.
Each department laid out its own webpage, complete with a tailored set of content.
"Very much a group effort. The departments, I am very pleased with how well and how much they've become involved with this. They're very excited about it," Erickson said.
The new website is designed, hosted and deployed by the Kansas-based company CivicPlus. In a three-phase project, CivicPlus created the new website for $35,060, a process that has been ongoing since last April.
The company also will provide annual maintenance for the site for $5,891 a year, and included in the package is a total redesign of the website every four years. Any new features and modules CivicPlus creates also will be available to the county without added cost.
The partnership with CivicPlus came after Erickson's office considered offers from several Web vendors, including Vision Internet, Municipal CMS and Revise. With the offers coming in at comparable prices, Erickson said CivicPlus won the project due to the number of modules it provides and the possibility the county could begin hosting the website itself again several years into the partnership. The website will be hosted by CivicPlus until the county decides to resume hosting duties.
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