County website is in for remake
BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
Lancaster County's website is about to get its first makeover in more than a dozen years.
"We've known for a very long time that we've needed to update," said Maggie Weidinger, the county's information technology director.
The company that created the current website is out of business, and the current site isn't mobile- or Mac-friendly, she said.
"There's no new update to it, no changes in technology. But it was a local firm, so we do have some contacts that have helped us for the most part limp along here the last few years," Weidinger said.
That should change within about six months after the county commissioners Wednesday approved a $104,277 contract with CivicPlus of Manhattan, Kan., to develop a new site.
"It sounds like we're going to be more efficient, more transparent and (have) an easier product to use. It's all in the public's best interest," said Commissioner Dennis Stuckey.
Commissioner Craig Lehman said he looked at other sites CivicPlus has made and was pleased.
"It's going to make our welcome mat a whole lot fresher and more inviting," he said.
CivicPlus emphasizes public transparency and communication with users, Weidinger said.
"So there are emergency alerts and pushing out to Facebook and Twitter and doing it in one package," she said. It also will feature a content-management system that's easier for staff to use.
The new site will allow staff to put job postings online, let people make and track suggestions, make online reservations -- for example, of park pavilions -- and make e-payments, Weidinger said.
Though county officials knew the site needed an overhaul, they held off in part because other counties, including Montgomery and Chester, were updating sites, Weidinger said. Both are using CivicPlus.
Weidinger said Chester County shared its scoring of the 14 vendors it was evaluating, and CivicPlus scored 97 out of 100.
CivicPlus had quoted Lancaster County $95,341 in 2011 and agreed to honor that price now. But that was before the explosion in popularity of mobile applications over the past couple of years, Weidinger said. So the county added a mobile app and some other features for $8,936.
The county also hosts websites for about half its 60 municipalities -- a number that has dropped from about 50 several years ago, in part because of the site limitations.
Linda Schreiner, the county's senior buyer, negotiated rates for municipalities to upgrade their sites. The basic price is $4,000, plus $800 for annual maintenance.
Schreiner negotiated the basic price down from $8,000, Weidinger said.
Weidinger estimated it costs about $20,000 a year to maintain the current site. The new site will cost about $12,600 yearly to maintain, a figure included in the first year of the contract.
In other business, the commissioners:
n Approved a two-year contract for about $2.68 million with Trinity Services Group of Florida to provide food services for the prison. Trinity was the lowest bidder, and the price represents an increase of about $16,000 over the present contract.
n Approved spending an additional $115,000 on the Siegrist Mill covered bridge project.
Most of the money is for design and construction of new bridge supports, called wing walls and abutments.
Part of the existing supports were built with stones that weren't mortared together, but no one realized that until excavation began, said Charlie Douts, director of the county's facilities management department. The bridge was built in 1885.
About $8,880 is to replace bridge timbers found to be in poor shape.
Even with the additional costs, the project is expected to come in below original estimates, Douts said. Federal and state emergency management agencies will reimburse the county.
The project is expected to be finished in July.
The bridge, which carries Siegrist Road over Chiques Creek on the Rapho-West Hempfield townships line, was washed away Sept. 8, 2011, when remnants of Tropical Storm Lee hit the county.
"It sounds like we're going to be more efficient, more transparent and (have) an easier product to use. It's all in the public's best interest."