After some long and confusing discussion and negotiating at its February 9th the City Council approved the hiring of a web developer to redesign the city’s website at a cost of $50,000. Originally the motion resulted in a failed vote of 4-3 or a 4-4, since the mayor votes as well. Either way it was a failed motion and Council should have moved on to the next item on the agenda. This didn’t seem right, so I did some research.
Apparently the City Council was finally convinced that this was the right thing to do because of a deadline set by the U.S. Department of Justice for the city through a Settlement Agreement to bring the website into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Well, of course the city should be in compliance…no argument there.
It’s the rush and the cost factor that was bothersome.
Following is what I have discovered by reviewing the Settlement Agreement:
1. The city needs to change its application procedures and certain practices requiring applicants to disclose disabilities.
2. The city was notified that it was being investigated on July 13, 2013.
3. The agreement was signed by the city attorney…there are two dates on the document…January 12, 2015 and February 3, 2015.
4. The agreement includes several items which the city should attend to involving ADA related issues.
Now for some questions, comments, and suggestions:
1. Why is there a rush to meet a deadline if the city was aware of this back in 2013?
2. Is it proper for the city attorney to sign an agreement without Council approval?
3. The city’s Commission on Disabilities should be called upon to assist with making the needed adjustments guided by a designated staff person. In fact, has their input been solicited? This is not just about the website, but a matter of improving our procedures and practices involving ADA issues.
4. The website can be brought up to the proper standards with but a few adjustments costing much less than $50,000 and later, a bit at a time, improvements can be made.
5. Why do I get the feeling that some of our top level staff people are pushing CivicPlus to be selected as the web developer? Certainly there is enough talent in DeKalb given the fact that we have a major university and dozens of talented people who could help develop our website.
Oddly enough, I was able to conduct much of my research using the allegedly awful, terrible city website. Is anyone else upset enough about this to demand that the Council reconsiders their decision? Does anyone else feel that there is something wrong here?
Editor’s Note: Bessie Chronopoulos served as Mayor of the City of DeKalb from 1997-2001.