For people who can’t make Fenwick Island’s monthly town council meeting this Friday, March 28, at 3:30 p.m., life just got a whole lot easier.
The meetings are now available on the town’s Web site, at www.fenwickisland.org, as a downloadable mp3 file.
It was one of the first things Town Manager Tony Carson wanted to do when he started in the job last spring.
“It was something we had at my job as a county administrator in Ohio, and its main purpose is to allow another opportunity to see what’s going on,” explained Carson. “It’s one thing to look over minutes, but to be able to hear the meetings and hear the questions asked, allows people to say, ‘Oh, I understand why they made those decisions.’”
Carson went to on to explain that because Fenwick Island, like most of the area’s coastal towns, does not have a large year-round population, being able to listen in on the meetings makes people feel like they can still keep in touch when they are not physically there. And it adds an extra resource for council members, as well, should they need to miss a meeting.
Town Secretary Donna Schwartz operates a device that clearly records the meetings, and then she uploads them to the site for public use. The technology allows their site to be a resource tool for all people interested in the town and is a long cry from what they use to have, thanks in part to Schwartz’s dedication to the site.
“When I started in 2000, they had the basic three-page site, and it has evolved through the years as the Web has evolved,” said Schwartz.
In addition to the audio files that are now available, the site offers everything from information about parking tickets to recycling to a message board — something that has been “awfully quiet,” according to Schwartz. She said the town remains undecided about renewing their two-year trial of the feature. But the message board has allowed at least one noted town resident to check in from afar: Fenwick Island police officer Jason Bergman checked in from his National Guard deployment in Iraq in September 2007 to thank the townsfolk for their generosity in keeping him and his fellow soldiers supplied with phone cards to call home.
Schwartz plans a total refresh of the Web site sometime in April to keep the site interesting and evolving, and she said she would like to eventually have bios of the council members uploaded. The revamped site will have everything condensed on the home page, so scrolling on the introductory page won’t be necessary.
“We’re always trying to be innovative,” said Carson. “And it’s constantly updated. We want to have as much on the Web and as many outlets of information for the people as possible. Where I used to work we had a population of 200,000 and 10 people might show up to meetings. Here you might have 10 or 15 percent of your population show up. We have very active citizens, and an informed and active citizenship can only make your town better.”