Bethany mayor seeks feedback on project

Bethany Beach Mayor Jack Walsh is looking for some feedback on one of the biggest projects his Communication Committee worked on this year: the informational brochure and magnets distributed throughout the community.

The committee featured useful telephone numbers, event information and municipal information in the two-fold project and had a large supply of brochures printed for distribution through real estate offices, town hall and other venues, all in an effort to help residents and renters during their time in the town.

Now, with the summer season over, Walsh wants to know whether the project should be continued into 2006, whether the effort and expense that went into the project this year was worthwhile. But he hasn’t heard much feedback yet.

So, he placed a request at the Oct. 18 meeting of the committee that anyone in the community who had feedback on the project get in touch with him and help provide some guidance for its future.

Other projects the committee has turned its attention to in recent months have been completed, including a revamp for the town’s Web site that included the creation of a site map, an update of the index page and an update of the online photo gallery to include new and changing items, such as the new boardwalk clock and landscape plantings.

Additional town documents and a more complete “frequently-asked questions” (FAQ) section were also added to the site.

Not as well received by the committee members — particularly Vice Mayor Carol Olmstead — was a new group photo of the town council, which was deemed too dark to allow viewers to make out individual council members. The photo was scheduled to be retaken prior to this Friday’s council meeting, with individual council portraits also to be taken at that time.

While Town Manager Cliff Graviet had at one point suggested a professional photographer do the job, committee members agreed that Geri Walsh would serve well enough as the photographer. (The mayor’s wife has taken a significant number of the photos displayed online and committee members praised her ability with a camera.)

Committee members continue to reject the idea of a mini-biography for council members on the Web site, citing concerns that resumes of committee work could appear lopsided between individuals. Instead, they agreed to simply list the term during which the council member has served, along with any special title, such as treasurer or mayor.

One area of the site not recently changed is the main or splash page. Graviet had suggested it might need an update to a more modern or official look, but committee members expressed a fondness for the friendly, welcoming nature of the existing look. Town Clerk Lisa Kail said the town received few complaints and many compliments on the site.

Olmstead admitted it was difficult to decide to change the page without an alternative idea to consider. Walsh said he would check with the town’s Web consultant and see if there were some ideas that would keep the warmth of the existing page while perhaps making it look more governmental.

Future plans for the site also include the addition of an area for the revamped town museum. Items in the collection, as well as the renovated museum space could star on the page.

Olmstead handed off duties as a liaison for town volunteers to committee member Faith Denault. Olmstead is leaving the committee as part of a rule change limiting the number of council members serving on a given committee. (Walsh and Tony McClenny remain on the committee.)

The volunteer effort is a renewed one, taking up where a previous “skills inventory” of townsfolk had left off and seeking generalized help for a variety of town projects that require extra hands, as well as an occasional expert.

Volunteers are likely to be called in to help decorate town hall for the holidays, for instance, while Walsh and McClenny noted the usefulness of the skills inventory in selecting potential committee members or in cases when the town would require a knowledgeable opinion about a given issue.

The most recent call for volunteers had drawn a response from about 10 people, Olmstead noted, with more still being sought. Denault will now spearhead the effort from the committee, including an update of that skills inventory.

Moving forward for other future action, Walsh asked committee members whether they believed more timely information on the town’s beach reconstruction efforts was needed. That could include the status of gaining easements from property owners, though Kail reported that effort being largely successful, with more than half of the 42 needed easements already in place.

Walsh said he would meet with former council member Bob Parsons, who has acted as the town’s point-man on beach replenishment issues, and see whether more frequent updates were possible.

The mayor also requested that Kail add a series of informational links to the town Web site for significant local projects, such as the Indian River Inlet Bridge project and Route 26 renovations.

Committee members supported the idea of an open house for the newly renovated town hall but suggested such an event be pushed back until the spring, since a holiday party is already scheduled for December in the town hall.

Finally, Walsh brought up the issue of the town’s computer database, noting past problems obtaining data for specific types of searches through the proprietary software set up for the town. He asked whether committee members felt there was a way to use the database more efficiently.

McClenny noted that he disliked the closed system provided to the town, since it does not allow them to create their own searches but instead requires a programmer from the provider to do so on a case-by-case basis. However, he said, the company had provided the needed changes in the past – it was just a question of how quickly it could be done.

Walsh said he would ask the company what types of searches other municipalities were using, in an effort to anticipate future needs.