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Garrett County government launches new website

Elaine Blaisdell Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Garrett County government has a new website that promises to be more user-friendly and provide better news updates. The new website is aimed at simplifying the process of performing tasks or finding information that site visitors care about, said Andrew Sauder, software developer for the county.

“The old website presented a problem for anyone who didn’t know the corporate or hierarchical structure of the county government itself,” said Sauder during his presentation to commissioners Tuesday. “The main navigational side bar contained a list of 29 organizations or departments. If you didn’t know a department was under another department you wouldn’t be able to find it. Our search results were almost as bad as our navigation.”

The new navigation meth-odology on the website was designed for the public, according to Sauder.

The website also has new communication methods so the public can access the information that matters to them and also increases government transparency by sharing more information with the public, said Sauder.

On the old website there was disparity between the news that would show up on the home page and the news that was on Facebook or Twitter, according to Sauder.

“Our goal was to merge the two to make the information get to you as easily as we could,” said Sauder.

The news feeds on the website have been upgraded; each department has a news page; real time and weekly news updates can be provided via email; and website users can also sign up for critical alerts, according to Sauder. The new website also has a customizable news dashboard, according to Sauder.

The updated news feed is located in the middle of the home page.

“Any news article that appears here will also appear on Facebook and Twitter. It’s automatically posted there,” said Sauder. “The home page will display the top six most-current news events or press releases.”

Before, all news postings and website updates had to go through the Information Technology Department, and now each department has control over its own Web content, according to Sauder.

“This created a lag time in getting news articles posted and it created an inefficiency in getting updates to the website out. We were going through multiple steps to get one thing accomplished,” said Sauder. “We are also implementing a mobile site because when was the last time you went somewhere in public and didn’t see a cell phone out.”

The new website has been in the works since early June and has been done in-house by Sauder to save the county money, according to Commissioner Gregan Crawford.

“About a year ago we had a presentation by a company that develops municipal websites and they wanted to do it for about $55,000 a year with a $3,000- to $4,000-a-year maintenance fee,” said Crawford. “That was kind of a large chunk to bite off. It is such a quantum leap forward.”

Also during the meeting the commission:

• Heard updates from the engineering and economic development departments.

• Proclaimed October Breast Cancer Month and I Can Swim Month.

• Sandy Bell, chair of Cindy’s Fund, was named as Garrett County’s Most Beautiful Person 2012. Bell started Cindy’s Fund in 2003 in honor of her sister who died from cancer.

The new website can be viewed at http://www.co.garrett.md.us.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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