Fairfield poised to launch 'more interactive' website
Published 10:27 am, Thursday, December 26, 2013
Residents hoping for a sneak peek at long-awaited upgrades to the town's website can check the other municipal websites in Fairfield County that served as models.
First Selectman Micheal Tetreau said the town's new website should be up and running by the end of February. The website's provider will be the same one used for town websites in Trumbull and Darien. Those municipal sites are run by QScend Technologies of Waterbury, which also runs websites for Bridgeport, Waterbury, Middletown and Bethel.
Fairfield's website -- www.fairfieldct.org -- is currently managed by the town, though the town is now using QContent, which is a feature of QScend, to manage online agendas and minutes of town boards and commissions and the town calendar, according to Kathleen Griffin, Tetreau's administrative assistant who is helping to launch the new website. QScend also now manages the Parks and Recreation Department's website, which is separate from the town site, Griffin said. "Parks and Rec, in and of itself, is just a website created by QScend for Parks and Rec," Griffin said. "That was done as a separate entity because they had so much functionality."
Websites for the Police and Fire departments also are separate from the town's website, though not managed by QScend, and Griffin said the goal is to eventually fold those websites into the town's overal website. The Police and Fire departments' websites are now accessible through links on the home page of the town website.
Tetreau said Fairfield's new website will have "a lot more information" and be easier to navigate. The new website also will be more interactive, Griffin said.
Tetreau said each town department will have a frequently-asked-questions section and a better description of what takes place in the department, which he said would save time for both residents and town employees. "We've been collecting that information over the last six months. There will be a lot more content on the new website," he said.
Griffin said the new website will be better organized and allow residents to submit "citizen service requests" for, among other things, tree inspections, pothole repairs and trash in the road. She said the town has installed QAlert, a citizen request management feature of QScend, but is only using it internally to test it. The new website also will allow residents to sign up to receive agendas for town boards and press releases from Sullivan-Independence Hall, Griffin said.
"The idea is to make it a much more productive tool for our residents and town employees, and a more user-friendly format throughout so it's easier to navigate," Tetreau said.
Griffin said the new website's address will likely remain the same, www.fairfieldct.org. But the home page will look much different, she said. "There will be a lot less things visible on the homepage. The homepage is going to be more of a generic page of the website and you'll go into separate sections," she said. "We're trying to simplify that home page because it's overwhelming."
The town in August 2012 requested residents' input on the current website and what features they would like to see added. Griffin said about a half-dozen residents responded and their requests included rotating photos; links to other governmental websites; a list of town goals and objectives that go beyond finances; a way for residents to obtain town forms, make service requests, apply for membership on boards and commissions and sign up to receive agendas of town boards and commissions via e-mail; better organization of information; a first selectman's blog, which since has been added; the ability to file ethics complaints online; and a way to navigate to the home page from any other page, which has since been added.
"It was not a large response," Griffin said of the number of residents who offered ideas. But she said the new website will be a work-in-progress and that she expects more residents will offer ideas once it's up and running. "We can add to it as we need to and as requests come in," she said.
Tetreau said his "case study" for the town needing a new website came a couple of years ago when he was on the website looking for guidelines for homeowners who live in the town's three historic districts. "I couldn't find them anywhere," he said. He said revamping the website has taken a while because it was a part-time effort and the cost to do it was spread over two fiscal years in the town budget.
The cost of having QScend update the town's new website is $11,550, plus an annual hosting charge of $1,200, Griffin said. She said those costs don't include prior work that QScend did related to the Parks and Recreation Department's website or the QContent feature used on the current website for minutes, agendas and the town calendar.
Tetreau said the town started its Facebook page as a way to get information out to residents before launching the new website. "We did Facebook because we didn't have a good-enough website. Facebook is available at no cost, so we chose that as a bridge," he said.
The town's Facebook page, which is "liked" by several thousand people, will continue after the new website is up because it's a valuable tool for town officials to communicate to residents, the first selectman said.