C’ville Paying $70k for New Website

mom133d writes: “According to NBC 29, Charlottesville is paying a a California design company $70,000 to help create the new site. One can only hope its design is better than the current incarnation.”

California? Ouch. I was at last night’s Neon Guild meeting. There were at least a half dozen local website development shops represented there, each of whom could have done the job as well as any company in California. Assuming this is a total site overhaul and the quality of work is decent, then the price is reasonable. Whatever this new website is like, it’s bound to be less craptacular than the current site. If the new site validates, is ADA compliant, doesn’t have URLs of Death and — please, Lord — doesn’t have scrolling-freaking-text, I’ll feel pretty good about it. Bonus points will be awarded for RSS feeds, DIV-based layout, a ban on posting Word documents, and a user interface that doesn’t make my head hurt. Implementing trackbacks in any capacity will result in an automatic victory.

Some unsolicited advice to the city: Get together a beta group of uppity local geeks (*ahem*) to check out your contractor’s work before you declare the job to be done.

19 thoughts on “C’ville Paying $70k for New Website”

  1. This is the perfect opportunity to get the Cville crime data in a usable format, so that it could be used for crime/real estate “mash-ups” no?

  2. Absolutely. The primary purpose of a municipal website is to provide data to the citizens. Any upgrade ought to provide increased access to an increased quantity of data. So this would be the time for the city to provide CSV/XML/HTML/please God any format of crime data, among other things.

  3. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem that the City of Charlottesville, labors under the belief that “If it’s from out of state it must be better?” Instead of working with local talent, or promoting from within it sure seems like they prefer to go out of state, or at least far outside of the area.

  4. Going to California to find somebody to redesign their site is a monumental insult to all the local talent that is available. You can’t walk the freaking Downtown Mall without bumping into at least a dozen design/developers with truly mad chops.

    This isn’t as bad as the state Dept of Health awarding a contract to a Canadian firm to build their site. This is worse.

    This is MUCH worse. Every member of City Council knows people who live and/or work within freaking walking distance of City Hall. So much for their make-believe support of local business. It would have been nice to have a “Made in Virginia” icon on the Charlottesville, VIRGINIA web site, and it would be interesting to hear the City Council explain why they looked elsewhere for work that could easily have been done here.

    Then there’s the lost opportunity cost. By going out of state, they’ve forfeited, what, 10-15% in tax revenue? There’s income tax on the workers, tax on the business, tax on the air we breathe, etc. All gone into California’s coffers.

    Charlottesville City Government: Proudly Keeping Californians Employed Since 2005. Perhaps they were too busy reevaluating motor vehicles to notice.

  5. I don’t have a principled objection to the city doing business with an out-of-town group, per se, but I sense that the local technology community has been blind-sighted by this. A quick sampling from a discussion on the Neon Guild mailing list suggests that no one knew the city was looking to do business with a design firm.

    For all I know, the group in California has a template for city web sites that yields more value than a local firm could provide. If so, I compliment the city for choosing the best vendor. However, if the selection was made without giving local talent a chance — or even notice of the opportunity — this would seem patently wrong-headed.

  6. Certain City Councilors have been an embarassment to their party over the past year. This is one more example.

    I swear, if I was not moving out of the City I’d run next year. Between this and the massively unpopular amphitheater giveaway this Council has a lot to apologize for.

  7. the thing that has the DaMan burning is the fact like many have said here before, they didn’t look at the locals first. Local government is SUPPOSE to support local small business. So why in the world would you spend OUR tax dollars with someone in even in our state. How is that suppose to help our LOCAL economy? I know the local employment is up but golly try to keep every at least local.

    It burns me to see things outsource just because some guy in charge got geased. I am sure the guy who decided this will have a nice Disneyworld vacation this year thanks to the web designers.

    I would run too for city council but I live in Chalbemarle.

  8. I’d have to agree with Duane Gran in that if an out of state shop could provide the best service at the best price, that’s good business.

    Is it confirmed that they did not seek local bids? Dominion Digital or Category 4? My guess is they were looking for a full service firm.

    Does anyone know what the city process would be for this? A public RFP? If local businesses were not considered, who can we write letters to to voice our concern?

  9. It’s not council… BUT THEY’LL HAVE TO APPROVE OF THE SPENDING and that is where it should be stopped. It’s normally City Manager Gary O’Connell’s job to make such presentations to council for approval.

  10. I’m pretty sure this Website upgrade was included in the City’s contract for development & implementation of its new CityLink system. In other words, it wouldn’t have been put out for an independent bid.

    Speaking of CityLink, I’ve heard John Pfaltz and Jim Moore and some other folks deliver pretty harsh (and, frankly, fairly compelling) critiques of the system (overpriced, out of scale with a City our size, etc.). I’m not a techie, so I’m curious to know what some of the ‘uppity local geeks’ on this site might have to say about the whole CityLink deal?

  11. Charlottesville outsourcing Web design to California? Wouldn’t it be better for Charlottesville to keep the money circulating right here? I want to know whose decision this was.

  12. This had all the makings of this year’s rented christmas tree screwup.
    I don’t blame city council but it should be easy to find out who awarded this contract.

  13. I’d bet that the city just chose a firm that specializes in these kind of sites. As the Creative Director of a California design firm (and a new C’Ville resident), I can attest to the fact that we’ve lost plenty of gigs to “specialists”. After all, their sales pitch is fine tuned to the market they are focused on. It’s very difficult to beat a practiced routine like that.

  14. Hi Folks – David is correct – The web design was part of the EA contract for CityLink. As to the details – Phase III of the contract included a redesign of the web page to create an interactive portal for enhanced customer access to information and services. A change order was issued to EA consultants to provide for a sub-contract with a design firm with extensive experience in both municipal web page design and in using web portals to accomplish creation of an interactive page (BTW – this change order did not involve additional cost the the City). Vision Internet was hired by EA based on their wide experience with the design of local government pages and a proven record of work with integrated technology. They are responsible for working with EA to integrate CityLink and the SAP system into our new web site. Vision Internet is paid by EA through their contract with the city and EA is contractually responsible for the web portal. Vision Internet’s references included Lynchburg, VA; Telluride, CO; Citrus Heights, CA; Evansville, IN; Birmingham, MI; Evanston, IL; Columbia County, GA and others. Web pages designed by Vision Internet for Telluride, Evansville and Citrus Heights have won national and international recognitions.

    In retrospect, perhaps EA could have been more strongly encouraged to work with local subs whenever possible – and for all I know they were – as Waldo pointed out, Council doesnt micromanage work down to this level and since EA’s subcontracting the website work out involved no additional cost, we were not involved in the approval process. Council does put a priority on working with local firms and local firms were invited to bid on the original CityLink project. I would agree that in the past we’ve relied too much on out of State consultants – particularly for architectural work – but I dont think you’ll see too much of that going forward.

  15. If you look at their website, it is a huge by any standards. Not sure that there is any firm in the city that could handle over 1,000 pages of content anyway. Guess it may be possible by outsourcing. I have found that the city and the council is sensitive to doing work with local firms. I’m not sure that I agree that everything must be handled by C’ville folks. Their current site is a testimony to why it shouldn’t be that way, it was designed locally.

  16. Not sure that there is any firm in the city that could handle over 1,000 pages of content anyway.

    Sure there are. I can think of a half dozen off the top of my head.

    Kevin, thanks a lot for your comments. I’m relieved to know that the city didn’t award this contract, but that it was subcontracted out. Obviously, I’d like to see that sort of work stay within the city, but I can appreciate that this was not a deliberate action on the part of the city.

  17. Awarding public money to locals is often a degenerate process. For one, the locality rarely gets ‘best of breed’ solutions. For two, nepotism becomes the paradigm.

    Of course, keeping money local is also a good thing. The solution is to make the selection process ojective based on an objective weighted evaluation system.

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