By NATHAN GREGORY
The city of Starkville will soon launch its revamped website, which local officials say will offer more interactivity between city residents and their government and provide more information to non-residents seeking information about the city.
The existing http://www.cityofstarkville.org  address will remain, but on Dec. 14 browsers will see an overhauled site complete with new features including forums for residents to report concerns to city department heads and alerts which will inform subscribers of city events, notices and weather watches and warnings.
City Information Technology Manager Joel Clements said the site will have a citizen request tracker where residents will be able to report issues ranging from potholes in roads to power outages.
“The … citizen request tracker I think will be something people use quite a bit. If you go to the link to report a concern, there are several different categories from animal control, building and planning basically every department we have in the city that has a form you can go fill out and create a request. I can see that there has been a request submitted and I can go in as the employee and check that out. I can see that it was submitted at this address, what the priority is and if it was automatically assigned to me,” Clements said. “You can actually go in and dig a little deeper and it will map the request for you. We can generate work orders from this as well. If it was a street department request they would get a map of where the pothole is exactly or if there’s a broken water line the public services department would get a map. The employee can follow the request and also the person that submitted the request can follow the lifespan of that entire request. They can see that the request was created and if I respond to it as an employee it will record my response.”
Residents will also be able to access the citizen request tracker on their smartphones through apps.
Another feature the site will offer is an e-payment portal which beginning next year will allow people to pay for tickets or citations over the web. Postings for job openings in the city will also be on the renovated site where people can apply online or download a form to fill out and turn in personally.
The front page has a customizable dashboard where people who sign up can personalize the site to feature updates on their categories of interest.
All of the archives of board of aldermen minutes and agendas that exist on the current website will roll over to the new one and be easier to find, Clements said, and there are plans to upload more archived material next year for residents to reference.
“We have volumes of paper documents in our storage space — everything from city clerk documents to court and police documents. We’re currently exploring options to get all that digitized and once we have all those archives available digitally we will present those on the site for folks to be able to search,” he said. “That’s going to be a large undertaking but it’s a feature we plan on rolling out in the future.”
Clements said the city’s IT department began working on the site overhaul earlier this year when the board granted a contract offer to Kansas based CivicPlus, a website builder strictly for city and county municipalities.
“They’ve done a great deal of (websites) and they’re all very good,” Clements said. “CivicPlus, we felt, gave us the functionality we were looking for and that’s who we chose. They turned the site over to us after designing it and getting the modules up and running a couple of months ago and from that point forward the city of Starkville staff has been actually putting the content on the site and making sure everything is correct and all the modules function properly.”
He said the city has been long overdue for a more user-friendly Internet portal.
“It was very difficult and user un-friendly to find information on the old site. If I were looking for everything related to the sidewalk ordinance, this site has an excellent search feature … that lists every document that mentions the word ‘sidewalk,’” he said. “It’s very easy to find things in general. You can drill down immediately exactly what you’re looking for so you’re there in one or two clicks rather than having to search … through the old site’s navigation structure. People want transparent government and are used to interacting via websites. We feel this brings us into the modern age in that respect.”
Mayor Parker Wiseman said the website stands to be a powerful tool for Starkville residents as it relates to how they are able to interact with city government.
“It is a very interactive website that allows for citizen requests to be made both directly through the website and through social media channels on the website,” Wiseman said. “They can then be seamlessly turned into work orders to ensure that requests made are processed. The major goal with this website is to make the city more accessible and accountable to the public.”