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Hall commissioners narrowly approve website redesign contract
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners has once again delayed a vote on entering a trust indenture with Bell’s Landing LLC.

A vote is now scheduled for June 12.

The trust indenture would make the county liable for operations and maintenance of the utility system at Bell’s Landing subdivision were the developer to one day default.

“This is an (Environmental Protection Division) mandate for these private systems to preferably have a government entity be the trustee,” Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden said in an email. “Another option is (for the developer) to post a bond.”

Commissioner Scott Gibbs said the sticking point on the agreement centered on ensuring tap fees are paid by residents of Bell’s Landing when and if county water/sewer service one day links up to the subdivision.

Joshua Silavent

What was expected to be a routine vote Thursday to approve a contract for redesigning the Hall County website turned into a spirited debate among the Board of Commissioners about the wise use of taxpayer dollars. 

In a 3-2 vote, the board awarded a $78,000 contract to Civic Plus of Manhattan, Kan., for the redesign. Commissioners Billy Powell and Jeff Stowe voted against it. 

Civic Plus has designed websites for about 1,600 governments, including Athens-Clarke County, Lowndes County and Glynn County in Georgia. 

In addition to the redesign, Civic Plus will provide technology upgrades and site maintenance at no added cost; will provide training to government employees on how to navigate the new site; will build a mobile app for the site; and will redesign it again in four years. 

Stowe, however, said a local vendor passed over for the contract could do all these things at a lower cost. 

Full Media, an Internet marketing company based in Gainesville, has designed websites for the city of Gainesville and other local governments, county officials said. 

“It’s not a fly-by-night one-person shop,” Stowe said. 

But in its proposal, Full Media did not include costs for developing a mobile app or providing ongoing maintenance. 

But Stowe said he reached out to company officials and was assured they could provide these things at a better cost than Civic Plus. 

“I think they can do a very similar job for less than half the cost,” Stowe said. 

But Commissioners Craig Lutz, Richard Mecum and Scott Gibbs were skeptical about these promises and expressed concern that cost overruns could occur. 

“I think it’s best to make the investment and be done with it than being nickel-and-dimed to death down the road,” Gibbs said. 

County officials said the redesign is aimed at making the website more user-friendly, as well as updating information and resource listings. 

The redesign will include features such as “mega-menu,” a one-click stop for access to departmental information, as well as advanced bill-paying options and sign-up features for sports leagues. 

County officials said they hoped to get the redesigned website up and running by early 2015 at the latest.