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Aspen, county overhaul website

ASPEN ” Local government should become more accessible this year after a $140,000 overhaul of the city of Aspen and Pitkin County website is complete.

The two governments are in contract negotiations with Artemis Solutions Group, an e-consulting firm based in East Lansing, Mich., to redesign http://www.aspenpitkin.com, with the goal of making it more user friendly.

The contract is expected to go before elected officials to be approved by the end of the month. While the new website won’t be launched for six months, City Council meetings will be webcast by the fall.

Public meetings will be streamed through GrassRoots TV and can be watched via the Internet in real time. The meetings also will be archived so viewers can watch prior land use hearings or other matters concerning the public.

The service will initially cost $12,670 along with a monthly fee of $664 paid to San Francisco-based Granicus Inc., which specializes in streaming government meetings around the country. As part of the contract, the city of Aspen will have unlimited storage to archive video.

“It’s part of us being more transparent,” said Sally Spaulding, City Hall’s community relations officer.

Artemis, which is expected to design the new website, won out over nearly two dozen companies, which came in with bids ranging from $10,000 to $900,000.

“They had the depth we were looking for,” said Ruth Kinney, network application specialist at City Hall.

The funding allocation for the website occurs every five years, with the cost being split evenly between the two governments. Kinney plans to ask elected leaders to make the funding more frequent so the website doesn’t get stagnant, like it is now. Changes that will be made to the site include an e-commerce function that will allow people to apply, pay and receive building permits for simple projects. If it works, the program will be applied to other areas of city government and users of the website would go to one place to pay parking tickets, utility bills and other city fees.

“We want to provide a smooth interface,” Kinney said.

Some of the changes being made are based on feedback from surveys of citizens and city employees. A preliminary plan is to include a mapping interface where people can type in an address and available city services ” like utility companies and voting precincts ” in that area will pop up.

A content management system will allow city employees from various departments to update the website when time-sensitive information needs to get to the public. Social networking also will be a new function, which will include city newsletters, e-notification of public meetings, and social media elements like blogs from public administrators and message boards.

The home page likely will be changed so that services for visitors and residents are separated. Currently, a user must go directly to a government department to get information, and non-residents likely aren’t familiar with the local structure to find what they need easily, city officials said.

Certain pages of the new website also will be compatible with hand-held devices so they can be viewed on small screens.

csack@aspentimes.com


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