Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Oconee County Citizen Committee Pushes Forward With Examination of County Web Activities

Inquiries of Sheriff, BOE, Watkinsville

The Citizen Advisory Committee on the Oconee County Web site decided at its meeting tonight to push ahead with efforts to document investments by county government entities in web operations.

County Commissioner Margaret Hale, a member of the Committee, agreed to ask County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault to help her catalogue the amount of time spent by staff in the county’s various departments with the existing county web operation.

She also said she would ask County Finance Director Jeff Benko to identify any information technology expenditures in departmental budgets.

And Hale said she would ask Sheriff Scott Berry to talk with her about the web activities of his office.

Committee member Kate McDaniel agreed to talk with representatives of the county school system to get an understanding of how the schools are using the web to communicate to school constituencies.

Tony Glenn will examine how Watkinsville manages its web site, and Dan McDaniel will investigate how other cities and counties in the state are using the web.

Dan Matthews will talk with representatives of the County Parks and Recreation Department to better understand their decision to create a stand-alone web site linked to the county’s main page.

Sarah Bell and I will try to learn how the offices of the probate judge, tax commissioner and clerk of courts manage their web operations.

This was the second meeting of the self-appointed citizen advisory committee, and all seven members attended the hour-long session at the county library in Watkinsville.

Since the gathering of the group in October, subcommittees have had several meetings to gain an understanding of how the county web site operates.

The county currently leases space for the web site at a cost of $240 per year and has one person devoting about a third of her time to its maintenance, according to Theriault, who met with Bell and me on Nov. 5.

Theriault estimated that the county is spending between $10,000 and $12,000 at present on this visible part of its web operation.

Departments contribute to the web site, however, and he said no one had ever documented how much staff time is being committed to web activities.

The county is restricted in what it can do with the site at present because of the tight budget, Theriault said.

Bell and I summarized our meeting with Theriault at the start of the meeting tonight.

We were followed by committee member Dan Matthews, who reported on information he gained on the Parks and Recreation Department and on the Planning Department. Matthews said both departments reported investing considerable staff time in the web.

Dan McDaniel and Kate McDaniel said they were told by the county’s Information Technology Director Paula Nedza that the county would need between $20,000 and $45,000 for a more robust web site.

Glenn reported that Bogart and Bishop do not have a presence on the web, and that North High Shoals has a small site. Watkinsville, the largest city in the county, has a more sophisticated operation, he said.

I assembled the Committee last summer after discovering that the county had no policy for deciding what goes on to the web site. The other six members of the Committee responded to my call for others in the county interested in the web and its potential for the government in the county.

The Committee tonight decided to meet again next month to continue its discussion. The date set for that meeting is March 22.


Xardox said...

Somehow lack of funds and budget constraints keeps getting blamed for a less than robust web site. It is not the bells and whistles that citizens desire. It is information, which dissemination could easily be simply part of officials' jobs.
Reading this makes your effort seem Quixotian, noble as it is.

Anonymous said...

Sure, North High Shoals has a small site, but we have minutes, agendas, recordings, updated monthly. $121 for 3 years, volunteer web site maintenance (me). It's a small town, so this suits us.

Lee Becker said...

Steve, Thanks for the elaboration. This is helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the website Steve!

Anonymous said...

The Oconee County Civic Center needs a website and it should include a calendar.