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Websites reflect better on towns

Posted 3/22/21

It's the year 2021 and in today's interconnected world, a company or organization often makes its first impression with its digital presence. This is just as true for municipalities. Even for local …

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Websites reflect better on towns

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It's the year 2021 and in today's interconnected world, a company or organization often makes its first impression with its digital presence. This is just as true for municipalities. Even for local residents who need information about building permits, public meetings or office hours, having a well designed website can immediately set a town or village apart as accessible, transparent and forward thinking.

Some municipalities do this better than others, but it's encouraging to see a greater emphasis placed on public relations in the digital realm.

For instance, if you visit the Town of Thompson's website to access agendas and minutes for planning board meetings, not only can you see what's up for discussion, but you can click on agenda items which are linked to pages containing documents, correspondence, site plan maps and architectural renderings. It wasn't so long ago that reporters and ordinary citizens had to reach out personally to obtain this information either by email or traveling to town hall for physical copies. Now anyone can access these materials from their living room and be able to offer informed public comment at upcoming meetings.

It's a great idea, not only for planning boards, but for all boards to make agendas more interactive. The Town of Liberty does well by including all kinds of correspondence and documents in their online agenda packets. This allows anyone who is interested to go beyond just reading resolutions to having a better understanding of what's going on in their community.

As previously reported, The Town of Bethel recently redesigned their website to add direct messaging and the ability to upload documents and photos. The website is mobile-friendly, reflecting the reality that more people are accessing these sites from their smartphones than from desktop computers. Bethel says they'd like to add more features, including the ability to purchase landfill coupons and dog licenses online.

It's a lesson we've learned very well from the COVID-19 pandemic - don't force people to visit an office and stand in line for something they could easily do online.

Other parts of Sullivan County are looking toward a more digital future as well. At a recent meeting of the Village of Monticello, board members agreed to send out a request for proposal to redesign their website.

While a significant financial investment, visually impressive and informative websites are more likely to attract visitors, investors and homebuyers to any town or village.

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