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City Web site getting redesign

Worthington City Hall (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- The city of Worthington's Web site will soon have a different look and feel to it.

In keeping with the city's goal to improve its digital image -- one of several objectives approved as part of the city's 2009 Strategic Plan -- council members on Monday approved a $8,600 contract with Ideas Computers, Worthington, for an upgrade of the site.

According to the memorandum provided by city staff, "The focus of this effort will be to improve the overall design image of the Web page, enhance documents online, provide Web streaming of council meetings, increase the functionality of the site and develop an intranet component for human resources materials for city staff."

The Intranet component would feature downloadable employee documents, an employee calendar that can be used to track meetings, appointments and the general whereabouts of staff, a staff phone and e-mail directory and profile pages for staff members.

Mayor Alan Oberloh questioned the timing of such an expenditure, saying the Intranet component of the contract might be better delayed until the economy rallies.

"I think it's a valid point," responded Alderman Mike Kuhle. "We could rely too heavily on the Intranet part, but the communications part for the city is something that we need to do to move our communications forward."

"Initially I think I had somewhat the same reaction," said Alderman Lyle Ten Haken, who uses an Intranet component at his business. "But I found out I use it quite a bit; it's really been a time-saving tool."

City Administrator Craig Clark said it would allow the city to move to a more paperless system if so desired, allowing council members to access meeting agendas online, for example.

According to the project proposal from Ideas Computers, the content on the current site will be reorganized and may include the following features: a keyword search option, city event calendar, photo gallery, community classified section, weather and snowplow-related announcements, profiles and maps of all city parks and contact directory for city departments.

Pages featuring the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, Municipal Airport and Prairie View Golf Links will be enhanced; a visitors' section will feature community profile information, including history of and attractions in Worthington; and a multilingual and multicultural section would be added.

"You'll have the ability internally in your staff to be webmasters," explained Ben Ahlquist, the Web site department manager at Ideas. "You're not going to need to know any editing code; your own staff could very easily go in and add the community links, for example."

The Web site will be hosted from Ideas Computers for the first year, and after that the council may chose to host it internally or pay $22 a month for Ideas to continue hosting it, which comes along with more protection against data loss.

"We have tested disaster scenarios and our worst-case scenario is four to six hours to recovery. We have backups to prevent your Web site from being down for a week or a month or something along those lines," Ahlquist explained.

The Web page transition process will begin next week and should take roughly three months.

"Our site doesn't have the visual appearance we want it to," Ten Haken said. "I'm looking forward to seeing our site move to the next level because I think it is time for us to update."