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Website struggles hinder county municipalities

Staff writer

Maintaining an online presence is increasingly important, but trips to some of Marion County’s city websites show pages that are behind the times.

Goessel is among the municipalities feeling the struggle.

The city pays $132 per year for its website at Wix.com, but gathering content and finding time to post updates can be time-consuming, city clerk Jennifer Whitehead said.

“It ends up being that I have like 10 minutes here, let’s go in and look at what I need to update,” she said. “I try to do it weekly but usually it doesn’t work out that way.”

Site management is a necessity because the person who previously maintained the city page neglected to post full ordinances as required by law as the city tries to save money by publishing only ordinance summaries in print.

“For hosting the website, I think it’s worth it,” she said. “If I weren’t the only one in the office, we could easily change things and update more, like Threshing Days on the website.”

Rick Burcky, who formerly was a city refuse worker for Marion, has handled Marion’s site since 2006 and Peabody’s since 2007. He now designs and maintains websites full-time. Because web pages are so diverse in their offerings, each client pays according to the amount of time spent working on their respective site.

While paying for the service might be seen as an extra expense, keeping an updated online presence is a necessity, Burcky said.

“You just have to find the money because the Internet is where people go to find information now,” he said. “If it’s not there, they might call the city building. They might blow it off.”

To make sure the sites he maintains run smoothly, Burcky tries to analyze them from an outsider’s perspective.

“I always try to look at it from their point of view,” he said. “How complete is the information and is it everything they need?”

The websites often include links to external sources, so he uses a program once a month that automatically tests all links.

Some, but not all, links and information on the Marion and Peabody sites are functional or current.

Marion is the only city in the county with a search menu on its website but using it currently creates an error message, which Burcky is working to fix, he said.

While neither site retains ordinances more than 30 days old, both cities update ordinances on citycode.net.

Baker Brothers printing maintains Hillsboro’s site, but the city’s process is different from what others do. Baker Bros. doesn’t charge a set monthly or yearly price, instead, they update the site when needed and charge the city depending on how much work is done.

City administrator Larry Paine uses the Hillsboro site in a limited capacity, but he finds it convenient to have a few topic pages with several subcategories on each.

“I think the design is that there would be one page for one topic, rather than trying to flood a major topic page with a bunch of extra stuff,” he said.

While all the links and pages work, an area Hillsboro’s site isn’t up-to-date is the city council meeting minutes aren’t up to date, which only run through October.

Florence also pays to have someone maintain its site, but she lives in Wichita now and works a full-time job, leaving the site lost in the mix.

The city’s website was last updated August 2017, but sections like the Spring Fling page date back to 2008.

Having an up-to-date website is important, which might mean Florence needs to find someone who has more time to do the work, councilman Trayce Warner said.

“I think it is important for people who don’t live here,” she said. “It’s a way to find out a little bit about Florence.”

Last modified Jan. 16, 2019

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