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Redesigned Borough Website Expected by Late January

Fair Lawn is contracting with QScend Technologies to design, build and host a more engaging and, eventually, interactive borough website.

Borough officials expect a full makeover of Fair Lawn's drab temporary website to be finished by late January.

The temporary site, a colorless and informationally-barren shell of its former self, has been in place since September when the town's former web host unexpectedly closed up shop and took Fair Lawn's website and email system down with it.

In late October, council approved the borough manager's recommendation to move forward with constructing a new-and-improved website, contracting with e-government provider QScend Technologies for about $30,000 to design, build and host the borough's new site. Fair Lawn will pay about $4,000 annually for website maintenance and 24-hour support, but its steeper initial costs will be covered by found money from old bond ordinances.

When the new website is rolled out its functionality will mirror the old site, but its content is expected to be more relevant for residents.

“We’re going to really spend a lot of time with the department heads to make sure that...we are able to lead our residents to access the information that they want," borough manager Tom Metzler said. "I think that’s something that the old site was lacking. If you’re coming in for a building permit, I would like the website to be able to tell you what you should have with you before you come in.”

Once the new site has launched, town officials will begin discussing the purchase of additional modules that would allow users to do things like pay taxes, tickets and permit fees online.

"There's two objectives," Metzler said. "The first goal and objective is to get the site up in the new format with much more resident information by department. The next objective is then to have that interactivity that residents can get more information from home so that they don’t have to come here all the time."

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Tory December 04, 2012 at 04:28 PM
ok this explains something but honestly how can a town simply let their website go down? As for things the site needs? And easy place to find out about events. For instance right now you can't find any information out about holiday events. A town the size of fair lawn should have something decent for the holidays and if they don't a comprehensive list of what venues in the town are doing something. As someone who didn't grow up in Fair lawn or New Jersey and who does not directly belong to any church or temple, and whose kids are not yet in the public school I find it extremely unacceptable even prior to the website going down (the other one was bad too) that it is so difficult to find out information.
LENNY December 04, 2012 at 06:00 PM
FOUND MONEY! Like this would make a great skid on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. But do we laugh when we have to write that check for taxes or the hard cuts many people our makeing to keep their homes in these hard times. FOUND MONEY THANK YOU FOR THE JOKE.
Zak Koeske December 04, 2012 at 07:41 PM
@Tory - There's a holiday lighting/caroling/Santa visit planned for tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 4) at 7pm at the municipal building on Fair Lawn Avenue. As far as a more comprehensive list of holiday activities, this seasonal newsletter, which has some info on the various holiday events going on in town, is the best I know of: http://www.fairlawn.org/news/2012-FallNewsletter.pdf
Mary C December 04, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Are you kidding me, Found Money? If someone finds money doesnt someone have to lose it first? Who is responsible for misplacing or forgetting about $30,000? Isnt it somebodys job to keep track of that kind of stuff? With the amazing salaries us tax payers provide our borough employees shouldnt someone be doing a much better job keeping track of bonds? Can we please get an explantion from mr metzler how somone can forget about $30,000 and then happen to "find" it when they want to re-do the towns website? i really think us taxpayers deserve an explanation of how they can be so careless with our money and so careless keeping track of money!
Mary C December 04, 2012 at 08:54 PM
is it just me or does $30,00 dollars plus $4,000 annually seem like a lot of money for a website that will probably out dated in a few years? with all the free social websites is this reall neccessary. why not just make a facebook page. we have plenty of well paid secretaies, typists, assistants who should be able to update the page with FL current event on a daily basis.
Tory December 04, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Thanks Zak for a link to the PDF. My real hope though is that individuals who aren't from here feel as valued as those who have lived here a very long time. It often feels like that isn't the case but having a good website with info on it can help level the playing field some. I can look at a dozen other town websites and find really good info. Thanks again.
Zak Koeske December 04, 2012 at 11:20 PM
The company offers a free update/redesign of the site every five years for that reason.
Zak Koeske December 04, 2012 at 11:41 PM
@Mary C - Each year the borough approves a capital budget for which it borrows money. If the money borrowed to pay for a capital project (think repainting the water tower at over $1M) ends up being more than what the project ultimately costs, the borough will have money left over. That left over money can't be spent on just anything. It often must be spent on something similar to what it was originally bonded for. The borough holds onto that extra money so that when a new, and often unexpected expense arises (new website because old one broke), the manager will ask the CFO to see if there are any left over bond ordinances that can be used to pay for the unexpected expense rather than having to borrow money again. In this case, there was apparently some technology related bond money left over that could be put toward the website. This sort of thing happens all the time.
Tory December 05, 2012 at 12:04 AM
as for the cost you do need a good website check out Fort Lee's very nice, Westwood's is alright as well, but you can't do free, a facebook site isn't the same and you can't have some of the same interactivity with facebook as you can with a really good municipal website. They just need to make sure to have onside people who can help maintain it.
LENNY December 05, 2012 at 01:40 PM
why can we not look at the money not used before we jack up taxes by 4 per cent ? at budget time in hard times we have to look at everything. can only guess the total money that is still their in areas we the tax payers will never know but we trust the people we vote for to do the right thing. will someone on the council question ask how much is still found money and next year do the right thing. you might want to but money on that election year time to look good.
Jenne December 05, 2012 at 04:46 PM
A facebook page really wouldn't cut it-- as badly designed as the old site was, it had a LOT of information. Facebook is really not designed for storing information you want to get at regularly, but for quick communication. Whether it should cost $30,000? I don't know, but if the town hasn't been able to get back the data they had on the old website, it's going to be a significant investment just to get the information either through retrieving from archives, or reconstructing. Given that they are also having the site redesigned and apparently discussing with the departments what information could be put up there, it's not a penny ante job. $4000 annually for server space and maintenance is about $300 a month. So the question would be how much of the work of putting stuff on the site would be included in that.
Jenne December 05, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I used to read the community news for this stuff but suddenly stopped getting it. After fruitlessly calling numbers listed for it, I finally found one for the distribution center and hope that they will get us back on the distribution list. It's disturbing that the town relies on the Community news to distribute all kinds of information to the populace but there's no good way to report when the Record stops delivering this free paper.
Josh Stern December 05, 2012 at 05:06 PM
There are two residents who offered to do it for FREE. What a waste of money!
Zak Koeske December 05, 2012 at 05:36 PM
@Jenne The first year would be ~$30,000 total, which includes purchase of the software ($17,700), the design and the support/maintenance. Then subsequent years it's $3,500-$4,000 annually for support and maintenance. Other companies offered cheaper initial costs, but their support/maintenance was 3 to 4 times more expensive, so in the long run it was more cost effective to go with QScend, according to the manager.
BellairBerdan December 05, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Jenne, I have had the same problems. You need to be persistent and every week you don't receive it call the Circulation Dept.1-800-376-6222. After 3 weeks they began delivering again and even got followup calls to see if I did get it. Most of my neighbors do not get the paper tossed into their yards anymore. I sense it is done on purpose to test the waters to see if someone complains. If they have less papers to deliver their costs go down. Another option is to call all those insert advertisers, especially those that recently changed from direct mail.Let them know their advertising money is not reaching the customers they pay to reach..

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