Government Web sites to get makeover

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS -- The Web sites for local governments will get a major overhaul this fall.

The changes will allow government employees to update the sites more quickly and easily, and eventually, they will allow citizens to pay bills and handle government business online.

The changes will affect the Web sites for Moffat County, the city of Craig and the city of Steamboat Springs.

Kent Morrison, information systems manager for the city of Steamboat Springs, gave a presentation to the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council on Wednesday about new Web site administration software.

The new software is part of a YVEDC program called North--west Colorado Open E-gov.

The program is paid for mostly with funds from the beanpole grant, which brought high-speed Internet access into Northwest Colorado a few years ago.

Morrison said the software could be ready to go as early as Oct. 1.

The software, Morrison said, will allow employees to update and redesign the sites after just a few hours of training. Employees will not have to rely on Web-design specialists to make changes to Web sites.

Morrison said the Web administration software isn't less complex than other programs, just less laborious.

"It's complex in an extremely manageable and hierarchical way," he said.

The hard part will be figuring out how to structure the new sites, he said.

The new Web sites also will be equipped with features for blind people.

Any pictures will have to include written desriptions and the dates on which they were taken. This will allow programs that read Web content out loud for blind users to describe the pictures.

Morrison said the new software also will make it easier for local governments to post meeting agendas and minutes online.

By next year, Morrison said he would like to see government Web sites capable of handling almost any city or county business.

"We know that people are busy," Morrison said after his presentation. "We want to provide services on the Web site just like they could get at City Hall."

That would include paying utility bills and registering a pet, he said.

Craig City Councilman Tom Gilchrist attended Wednesday's meeting.

He said afterward that he would like to see City Council meeting agendas posted online with links to any documents related to agenda items.

Posting agendas and minutes would vastly improve communication between the City Council and citizens, he said.

But Gilchrist said he would really like the Web sites to be capable of accepting bill payments, because citizens, especially younger ones, are increasingly tech-savvy.

"We're moving Craig into that arena," he said.

For more information about the new software, visit www.openegov.net.

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