Town of Black Mountain to launch new website
Staying informed about matters of local government will soon be more convenient for residents of Black Mountain.
On Monday, Feb. 25, the town will launch its new website, which is intended to make information regarding services available in three clicks or less.
Town clerk Angela Reece started working on the project in late 2017.
“The driving reason behind the new website is that citizens have had a difficult time finding information in the past,” Reece said. “The old website was basically lists of information, and that was all it was capable of supporting.”
Many users have found it difficult to find what they were searching for on the current site, Reece continued.
"We were receiving a lot of phone calls and requests for records for things that should already be accessible to citizens at all times," she said. "By making things more easily accessible it eases the burden on citizens and makes local government more transparent."
The page, which was created by web development company CivicPlus and cost the town just under $30,000, according to Reece, was designed with efficiency in mind.
"It's more efficient for the citizens and the town," she said. "For example, with our current trash schedule, if we have a change in that we prefer not to use our Code Red Emergency Alert System to alert citizens of that. This new site has a feature where a small window drops down from each page you visit and it forces you to acknowledge it."
Users can create an account on the site, which is also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"They have the ability to sign up for an RSS feed that will deliver information straight to your inbox," Reece said. "That system will deliver things like emergency alerts or agendas for aldermen or planning board meetings. I've seen our Sunshine List grow from about seven participants to over 30 in my time here and that's people seeking that type of information."
A "source of frustration" among users in the past, according to Reece, who also serves as Black Mountain's public information officer, was the need to search several places for information.
"You should be able to find anything on this website within three clicks," she said. "There will be no more hunting for things."
The page will also feature mobile and tablet friendly versions and offers a secure connection. Reece featured pictures from a community photo contest on various pages of the site.
"When the dust settles I'd like to have another photo contest and feature some of those on the site," she said.
Departments will have distinct landing pages with information related to their services.
"Animal control is a good example," Reece said. "Everybody thinks that is through our department, but we contract that service through the county. That can be confusing, so the police department page will provide more information related to animal control."
The planning department's page will also feature a wide variety of new features, she continued.
Page administrators for the town each attended three days of training to learn how to properly manage the site.
While researching websites for municipalities throughout the country, Reece discovered the page used by Transylvania County, which was designed by CivicPlus. Funding for a revamped website was approved eight months ago.
"I've spent hundreds of hours working on this project," Reece said. "To get to the point where we were ready for content migration we had to check everything on the old website and make sure it was ready to be moved over."
The next phase of the project is to create a new page for the town's recreation and parks department, according to Reece.
"I'm excited to see this website launch," she said. "Town staff has done a lot of work to get this ready and it is going to help members of the community stay plugged into what's going on with their local government."