County adds to contract for new website

Cascade County Commissioners approved additional items to a contract for the county’s new website during their Sept. 8 meeting.

Commissioners added “modules which provide greater flexibility, customization and security” according to the staff report.

The initial cost for the additional modules is $17,273.47 and will be renewed annually for a cost of $9,713, according to the staff report.

County approves contract for new website

In February, commissioners approved a $34,092 contract with CivicPlus for a new website. The 12-month agreement will be renewed annually with a $7,429.50 annual fee, according to county documents.

County adding more documents online, exploring options for livestreaming

Sean Higginbotham, the county IT director, told The Electric in February that the transition to the new website will be an 8-10 month process and he hoped to have the new site live in October.

Higginbotham told The Electric Sept. 8 that there was a delay in the development schedule due to COVID-19 but “we made significant progress on this as our design and content migration to the new platform has been completed. We are now moving into the final development stages and I anticipate our launch will be in early October.”

The county’s website is currently maintained by Shortgrass Web Development, a local company.

Higginbotham said in February that he’s hoping to enhance online services, such as allowing for land development applications, job applications and other paperwork to be submitted online.

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Another priority is making the site more intuitive and easier to navigate.

“I want it to where people can get the information they need in three clicks,” he told The Electric.

The new website will also include an option for residents to sign up to receive notifications for meetings, or other information, Higginbotham said in February.

“I think it’s important that our citizens can engage us like that,” he said.

He’s also looking at options to use social media channels for county communications. There is currently a Cascade County account on Twitter that has been inactive for years.

The new platform will also give the county the capability to live stream meetings, but doing so will have additional costs and require commission approval, Higginbotham said.

The last livestreaming equipment option the county looked at was about $57,000, he said.

No action has been taken on livesteaming yet, but the county has been conducting commission, planning board and zoning board meetings by Zoom since the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Great Falls livestreams commission meetings and work sessions, as well as planning board meetings since that board also meets in the Commission Chambers.

The livestreaming was only available in the Commission Chambers until 2015 when the city added the equipment to the Gibson Room to stream work sessions. That new equipment and installation was $7,793.

The city previously used AVCaptureAll for audio/video streaming for $299 per month, according to the city clerk. The city now uses Novus Solutions for agenda management. The agenda software was $7,950, and their livestreaming fee is $4,000 per year, according to the city clerk.

The livestreaming system has some technical glitches last year, but has been restored.

City livestreaming nearly restored

The city first upgraded their website in 2011 to a system that allowed city departments to control and maintain their own webpages.

At that time, the city contracted with aHa Consulting Inc. for a new website and the project was close to $40,000.

In 2016, the city redesigned the website in the hopes of making it more user-friendly with a $9,500 fee to aHa Consulting and the annual hosting fee is $4,200, according to the city clerk’s office.