By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
If everything goes as planned, City of Atmore officials will unveil next week a new, more functional and more user-friendly website that will allow the public to air grievances, pay bills and perform other functions not previously available online.
The unveiling, scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, will mark the culmination of an eight-month process during which Chris Walker, hired last year as the city’s economic planner, and personnel from CivicPlus have trained together and worked together to come up with a site that will remain at the same online location as the city’s current site but will be more than noticeably different.
“It’s going to be totally different, a new website,” Walker said this week. “We were with Infomedia, and we found out we were their only municipal client. CivicPlus does nothing but websites for municipalities and other government entities. That was one advantage to moving to CivicPlus.
“The second advantage is cost reduction. There is a significant difference in what we were paying Infomedia and what we will be paying CivicPlus. Also, once we’re up and running we will have administrative control over the site and pay a monthly fee for the web hosting.”
Previously, if content was to be changed, it had to be done by emailing Infomedia and having the city’s case manager make the change.
The new website — which was designed after viewing the sites for cities like Akron, Ohio and Las Vegas — will include several new features as well as some that have already been available on the city site.
“City council agendas and meeting minutes will be posted on the new site,” Walker explained, noting that the agendas will normally be posted on Friday afternoon preceding a meeting, and the minutes by the end of the week after a meeting. “There will be an ‘alert banner’ across the top for when we have a boil water notice, an approaching storm and things like that. There will also be a section called ‘Report a Concern,’ where the public can report a pothole, a dead animal in the road or things like that, and a ‘flash screen’ where emergency or other information will pop up in the center of the site.”
Those who report an issue or a concern will be able to track that issue or concern to find out what department is handling it and how it is progressing.
Anyone who is visiting the site will be able to see the ‘flash screen’ info, but those who want to get email or text alerts can sign up to do so. The site location will remain welcometoatmore.com.
Walker said all city buildings and properties, including cemeteries, will be embedded in a map so that anyone clicking on a particular place will see exactly where it is located. There will also be links to all city departments and to West Escambia Utilities, including online payments.
There are many other features that will be announced after the new site is up and running.
And, Walker pointed out, the new site will be compliant with the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. For instance, the screen reader used by a person who is blind will be able to pick up the words that are used to make acronyms (such as USDA for United States Department of Agriculture).
Walker reiterated that the new site is designed for easier use by the public.
“Ideally, we would want the public to have access to a website that’s informative, that’s functional and that’s user-friendly,” he said. “And, if someone has a concern, it’s a mechanism for that person to contact the city without physically having to come down to city hall.”
Walker said he is chomping at the bit to get the new site up and running.
“We were supposed to go live in January,” he explained. “My training schedule had to be pushed back when I had COVID. Our goal now is for the old site to be gone, and the new one to be up, at 11 a.m. on March 28.”