The Gainesville City Council meeting was a night of recognition as council members released a new
Mayor Ruth Bruner cut the "electronic" ribbon by clicking through slides featured on a large projection screen.
The city received more than a dozen bids on the project before choosing FullMedia of Gainesville.
"The last time we created a new website was 2000, so this was long overdue," said Catiel Felts, director of communication and tourism. "We were very pleased to be able to hire a local company who knew Gainesville and its citizens."
The new site features a "website within a website" for visitors, which includes the city's parks and recreation site and tourism site DowntownGainesville.com.
Viewers can also watch TV 18 government meetings online, track daily deals at restaurants in the city and plan day trips from Gainesville.
"We really felt like we had three main goals. We wanted to make the site visually compelling, create a functional site for users touching base with the city and provide a good content management system," said Kris Nordholz, chief executive officer for FullMedia.
"Your staff now has control over 98 percent of the content, photos and video, so those without a huge amount of technical ability can keep it updated."
Nordholz hopes Gainesville residents will take advantage of the interactivity by paying bills online, filling out surveys, registering for events and e-mailing city officials.
"We really wanted to make it intuitive for people who use the site to accomplish a goal," he said. "This should really save paperwork and faxes for the city staff as well."
The home page features links to city events and contacts.
Members from each city department worked on individual pages.
"Who better to put out this information than the people who take the phone calls each day? I've worked with 15 city staffers on this website, so it's really been a citywide effort," Felts said. "I don't think words can convey how excited I am."
The city is also developing social media tools to keep in touch with community members, including a new Facebook page.
"This has really snowballed and become a website we couldn't envision at the beginning," Felts said. "I told FullMedia that I liked the city's blue and green logo colors, and they took it and ran with it. I think we can compete with the best government websites out there."
Council members tried out the website earlier in the day and marveled over the easy user interface.
"I spent an hour going through it, and it was fun," council member Myrtle Figueras said. "I love the video tour of Gainesville and the 2010 year in review."
In other business, council members agreed to move forward with a new 16-lot Lake Lanier subdivision coming to northern Hall County.
The lots will feature single-family residences and a community boat dock off Ramsey Road, which is near Kubota Manufacturing.
"Why a subdivision in this day and time? It's about micro markets. Today, on both sides of Lake Lanier, there is a five-month supply of homes under $500,000. That market is super strong," said Frank Norton Jr. of The Norton Agency, who represented Jordan and Jordan Properties during the Nov. 9 planning and appeals board meeting and Tuesday night's public hearing.
"This project, as it is designed, will meet that micro market. People are searching for quality vacation homes in our community, and it's some of the best tax base we could hope to have as a community."