2017-10-19 / Around Town

City Approves New Website Design

By James Merolla

The Newport City Council unanimously approved a new, user-friendly city website to be launched next year.

At its Oct. 11 meeting, the board voted 7-0 to hire Fuseideas, a Massachusetts/ California/Maine-based company to design and develop the new site, which Finance Director Laura Sitrin said would take about eight months to launch. It is expected to cost $260,000 and be ready by early summer 2018.

“We are looking to build one consolidated website that is responsive and intuitive for users, and easy to update and maintain for staff,” Sitrin told Newport This Week. “We also hope to develop a database-driven application that allows users to access information [such as GIS] that they find useful or relevant.

“We are hoping the site can be developed in a manner more reflective of what users are looking for, rather than the traditional departmental format.”

Councilor Susan Taylor called it a “very exciting development.”

Sitrin told the council that a consultant helped develop, “specifications,” and that there were up to 11 companies who responded to bid, most of which held “the various qualifications of the things we were looking for,” but varied widely in price and look.

She said the city interviewed several companies. All of the potential vendors rated well technically, but some were too costly, she said. “Two rated well pricewise, but [were offering] what we would consider ‘cookie cutter,’ including our current vendor,” Sitrin said. “We were looking for something more expansive and the city chose Fuseideas. We were really excited about their work.”

The city’s current vendor is Vision Internet, a California-based web development firm that specializes in working with local government agencies; the current website launched in February 2014. It features a distinctly nautical theme, with links, portals and online bill payments that, at the time, boasted superior technological underpinnings that officials hoped would improve the relationship between residents and City Hall.

But times changed, said City Manager Joe Nicholson. “It’s about quality, not quantity, and flexibility and the ability to work with us. This is called ‘the website of the future’ for the city. We weren’t looking for that cookie-cutter approach.”

From a visual and operational standpoint, Nicholson said the company’s site demonstrations showed how quickly the visuals can change, should it be needed.

“The company is perfect for what we’re looking for,” said Councilor John Florez, who served on the search committee. “We saw an extremely sophisticated application.

And it will really enhance the communications aspect to our community. Among developers, the big trend is now outsourcing. The quality is definitely compromised [in that scenario], and that’s not the case here.” In other matters

. The city approved a sales permit for Posh and Polished Male, a male consignment store near Wellington Avenue owned by Sandra Gaines. Gaines had opened the store before being issued a license. The council had delayed the license approval from a Sept. 27 meeting in order to gather more information.

Gaines, a Middletown resident and owner of Vintage to Vogue and Vintage to Vogue Too, was one of three local store owners who recently turned themselves in to Newport Police after an investigation found that seven local shops had sold hundreds of high-end counterfeit goods totaling more than $700,000.

. Mayor Harry Winthrop urged residents to volunteer to fill a number of openings on city boards and commissions. “Please go to our website to see the openings and please make a contribution to our community,” Winthrop said.

. The city praised the 2nd annual Broadway Street Fair’s planners and vendors for a successful Oct. 7 all-day event, saying it was better than the first year, and will be an ongoing treat for the city.

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