The new Bethany Beach town Web site was the main topic of discussion for the town’s Communications Committee at its meeting on Friday, April 18.
Councilman and Communications Committee Chairman Tracy Mulligan stated that, although Web statistics have decreased from a high of 34,140 in January to about 18,000 in March, they expect things will pick up once summer starts. The top pages viewed from January were the home page, Activities and Photo Gallery. In both February and March the top pages viewed were the home page, Activities, and Employment. The most downloaded document for all three months was the bandstand schedule.
Town Clerk Lisa Kail, an associate member of the Communications Committee, reported that e-mails coming in have also decreased, which indicates people seem to be finding what they needed from the Web site.
Kail also reported that there hadn’t been much viewing of the available briefing material documents on the government page and they had received no public comments. The committee agreed more needed to be done to get the word out about all the different aspects of the site, and it was suggested and agreed that things like that could be updated on the home page under “News,” “so people know it’s there.”
Kail also reminded the committee that the town had contracted with General Code, a company that has worked with several other local municipalities, to update the town code book, and they had received notice that there were 65 pages of conflicting code. The committee discussed taking down the most recent code that is currently available online, from 2005, even though the new version of the code is not yet ready for display.
Asked his opinion as a business owner, committee member John Barrett said adamantly, “You don’t put out inaccurate information. It is unbelievable and hard to imagine. I hate to pick on the situation, but it’s inexcusable. Fix it.”
Since 2005, there have been many changes to the town code and, according to Mulligan, those changes are sent to General Code, which gathers the changes and then makes them once or twice a year to a digital document and also to the printed code books the town has for council and committee members, staff and community reference.
Committee member Rosemary Hardiman asked if the code should be deleted but the town Web site still provide additional links to the most pertinent information to people, such as applications and licenses.
“So, it’s fair to say we have a glaring communications weakness?” asked Mulligan. “It is a significant communications weakness that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.”
Mulligan then asked Town Manager Cliff Graviet to weigh in on the outdated town code and the thought they were “borrowing trouble” if the out-of-date code was left on the site until the new code was completed.
Graviet replied that the problem is not the vendor’s fault and noted that when Bethany Beach updated the code, the process went on longer than anyone expected. He explained that, with the project recommended by Charter and Ordinance to break the code into two separate volumes, they would work with General Code to review it for inconsistencies or repetition.
“Last Friday we received 76 pages of editorial content, and it will be sent to [Town Solicitor] Terry Jaywork, then to the department heads and then to court,” said Graviet. “Any future modifications will always be internal. The fault lies with us. We got the editorial comments. Terry knows we need them back. In 30 to 45 days, they’ll be back to us, and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”
When asked about the interim and the possibility of removing the outdated code from the Web site until the changes were made, Graviet said that the code is helpful where it is, online.
“I don’t think the differences are that great. It’s not fatally flawed — 90 percent is correct the way it is presented.” He mentioned that many of the conflicts or recommended changes would be easily eliminated or changed and were merely redundancies with state code and said that if they could just endure the next 30 to 90 days, it could be changed on the Web site.
In other news:
Director of Public Safety Capt. Ralph Mitchell asked the committee to look at a reference book that the town will be using for all seasonal workers. The 2003 book has been revised to include information that would be helpful for everyone from people who work in the change booth to seasonal police officers.
Mitchell said the seasonal workers will sit down in training to go over the book and also a list of the top frequently asked questions, and he asked the committee for help with that and to let him know of anything obvious that might be missing.
Committee member Margaret Young also asked if the shuttle schedule and the town of Bethany Beach informational brochure could be something the people at the change booths have on hand, too, as well as a phone book. Mitchell reminded the committee that the booth has to be able to be broken down quickly in case of storm, etc.
Young stressed that the attitude tourists take away from Bethany Beach has a lot to do with how people get treated when they need help, to which the committee agreed.
Committee member Monte Wisbrock asked if the book would include a lost and found or lost animal information and committee member Cullen Langford asked about Farmer’s Market information. Young also said there is a lot of confusion about parking permits and meters, and she asked if information about the new fishing permit law might be included. “The book’s expanding rapidly,” replied Mitchell with a laugh.
The committee also discussed making the reference available to anyone in uniform, as well as trolley drivers and business owners, as they are often the faces and voices of Bethany Beach.
The committee agreed they would do an end-of-summer review to the reference, as well to discuss new ideas and suggestions from the summer that will still be fresh at that point.
Barring anything that comes in front of the town council and needs their input, Mulligan said the committee would reconvene in September.