Borough springs for $20,000 virtual facelift

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NAUGATUCK — As borough officials try to coax money out of a tepid investment market to fund remediation and development of the downtown district, they have decided to invest some of the borough’s own money into a virtual facelift.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses this month approved a request, made by borough Information Technology Director James Kallipolites, for just less than $20,000, which will finance a contract for new software and services to revamp Naugatuck’s official website, naugatuck-ct.gov.

The contract was awarded to Qscend technologies, a Waterbury IT firm specializing in web development. A new software package plus technical services and support will cost $19,900. Maintaining a yearly maintenance contract with Qscend, Kallipolites said, will cost about $3,000 annually.

Kallopolites, whose department will operate on a $162,000 budget in the fiscal year that began this month, said the borough’s website suffers from an outdated look and limited accessibility and navigability.

“We’re okay, but the site is still really early 2000s, we need to get into 2010 and going forward,” he said last week. “We need to have a better presence and easier accessibility.”

That presence, he thinks, may increase Naugatuck’s visibility to businesses looking for a new home.

Naugatuck's homepage (click to visit)

“It’s redesigning the face of Naugatuck,” he said. “This is our web presence, so it puts together a more professional storefront, if you want to think of that way. We are still trying to attract businesses and companies to come in and help build the tax base. The more things we can have on the site to make it more interactive, the better.”

Qscend Technologies also maintains a website for the Town of Southbury, which Kallipolites said is a good example of a well-designed and easy-to-use website.

He hopes the new format will not only make the borough more attractive to potential investors but also make life easier for residents. Southbury’s website, for example, has a calendar feature which posts each day’s meetings and events to the homepage, a clean and efficient menu system directing visitors to meeting minutes and agendas and information on business, commerce and community service, and a crisp graphical interface drawing the eye and demarcating the site’s organization.

Additionally, Kallopolides said, the new software would streamline borough departments’ implementation of web content. Currently, he said, 99 percent of the content posted to Naugatuck website goes through him. He must build each page individually, often by painstakingly writing raw web code called HTML—and he readily admits to “not [being] the greatest web designer in the world.”

With the new system, he said, “the individual departments, based on policies and security settings, are able to update their content more or less in real time. … You can actually work on your pages for the fall now, and start building what you want it to look like, and when it’s finished, we just need to set dates and times when it turns on and when it turns off.”

Southbury's homepage, which is maintained by QScend technologies (click to visit)

It all sounds pretty convenient, but some might wonder whether it’s worth the cool $20,000. The expense was budgeted as a capital improvement project, meaning the money will flow from a general fund balance tapped yearly to cover one-time expenses—not from this year’s taxpayer dollars. And the alternative to contracting with a company like Qscend, Kallopolites said, likely wouldn’t cost any less.

“You would need to purchase some rather expensive software—when I say rather expensive, I mean several thousands dollars to get the licenses,” he said. “You would also need to hire a programmer or an outside consultant to be able to go in and do it, who would probably, given the number of hours it would take to go in and redo it, cost about the same amount as what you’re paying for the software.”

And maintaining an annual service contract—in the range of $3,000 per year—would behoove the borough, he said, though it needn’t keep that contract if leaders deem it unnecessary.

If he encounters a technical problem, he said, “we have to take [the site] down and figure out how to fix it. Then you’re running around and somebody else might say, ‘Well, I wouldn’t have written it that way,’ well, yeah. Whatever. We still need it fixed. With this particularly route, I can go back to the company that’s maintaining it.”