Come budget time, Holyoke City Council will be considering adding a budget item for a City of Holyoke website.
Police Officer Joe Marcum presented an option for a city website at the council meeting Tuesday, July 21.
“It’s really easy. It’s very intuitive. And the best part is they do it all for you,” said Marcum about a web design company called CivicPlus.
With some previous experience in web design, Marcum has been researching companies and other Colorado municipal websites. And so far, CivicPlus, an expert in government websites, is the most robust, comprehensive and easy system he’s found.
After looking into costs with CivicPlus, Marcum proposed a budget of $10,000 for the first year and $2,500 for every year after.
“CivicPlus is giving us a great deal for the simple fact we are a small community,” he said, noting it will be most cost-effective to include all the desired website features from the beginning instead of adding them on later.
One of the most important reasons for developing a City of Holyoke website is to have a .gov listing for both the website and emails.
The police department said they have had difficulties in the past because their email addresses are not .gov. Emails that end in .gov are recognized by other organizations that require certification of government credentials and will result in a more immediate response time.
Other website features that would be beneficial to the community include the posting of current news, city codes/ordinances and emergency contacts; sending mass emails to employees or the public; receiving resident ideas or anonymous complaints; listing job announcements; advertising local places to eat, shop and stay; and paying utility bills and fines online.
One concern that Marcum is looking into is the compatibility of the online bill-pay system to the city’s current computer software. He emphasized how easy it is to accept payment online, noting the money simply goes straight into the determined account and then a printout is received, listing who has paid so they can be crossed off the list.
By serving over 1,800 municipalities, CivicPlus already has fine-tuned features that work for local governments and could be customized for Holyoke. They would also offer support for security issues or any other problems with the website.
Marcum proposed to the council that the cost for the website could be offset by charging a $2.99 service fee per month to residents who want the convenience of paying their utility bill online. Another option is to add a small fee to all of the bills each month.
Additional funds could come from charging businesses for a listing on the places to eat, shop and stay pages.
Marcum said administrators can be added as needed to monitor various areas of the website. He added that he has time and would be willing to act as the overall website administrator, hopefully with some compensation from the city.
Complaints lead to review of solicitor code
City Attorney Al Wall and a committee will be reviewing Chapter 5.16 of the Holyoke Municipal Code — Solicitors and Itinerant Merchants — and will bring back recommendations to the council.
Officer Mark Werts described an incident that “caused turmoil” and formal complaints when a vanload of people was let out all over town to go door to door. Residents complained that the people were being very pushy.
Werts said he was lied to that they were a religious group talking about God, adding that he discovered two out-of-state warrants.
The police department sought clarification on the municipal code from Wall, and he said it could be updated to something the department is comfortable using. They want to be able to deal with incidences like this but don’t want to stop the exceptions that are allowed for religious groups and nonprofits going door to door, like the Girl Scouts.
City Superintendent Mark Brown reported the airport taxiway project is moving forward. A pre-bid meeting for bidders to examine the site is scheduled for July 30 at 10 a.m. at Holyoke Municipal Airport, and bids will be received Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. at City Hall.
Brown said the seal coat program this month went really well, and the street crew received delivery of a new loader July 21. A power outage occurred July 17 because of a blown fuse.
Police Chief Doug Bergstrom reported they have been having major issues with the code enforcement car.
In other business July 21, the council:
—approved Ordinance No. 1-2015 authorizing the sale of real property to John Sagehorn following a public hearing at Tuesday’s meeting. The property is the west 145 feet of lots 7, 8, 9 and 10, block 7, Heginbotham Trust Addition to the City of Holyoke.
—approved a special events permit for the Pedal The Plains event Friday, Sept. 18, at Homesteaders Park with a beer garden by Pheasants Forever. The police department was OK with plans for the event.
—approved writing a letter of support for Rural Philanthropy Days to be hosted in Holyoke June 16, 2016.
—approved a request to have the swimming pool open from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, for the Pedal The Plains event.
—appointed Luke Goldenstein to serve on the Board of Variance Adjustment through June 2016.
—approved a travel request for City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson to attend a presentation on unemployment insurance July 21 in Sterling with mileage of $57.50.
—approved a travel request for Joe Marcum and Mark Werts to attend the I-9000 EBAT intoxilyzer training in Fort Collins Aug. 6, including free registration, hotel at $196, meals at $114 and use of a city vehicle.
—held a 42-minute executive session following Tuesday’s meeting to receive legal advice.
Holyoke Enterprise July 30, 2015