After reading through the agenda for the most recent Apple Valley City Council meeting, I noticed a line item under the Consent Agenda which referenced acceptance and final payment for:
4. L. 2. Livefront for Website Overhaul Project Phase 1 – $3,500.00.
Oh wow, seriously? Apple Valley is finally going to move out of the dark ages of the Internet and possibly bring their website into 2010? Skeptical as I was, I e-mailed the City Clerk and asked to receive, “any and all information regarding the Website Overhaul Project.” I received that documentation, which coincidentally you can all now view for yourselves (contract documents, design report).
While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, prior to receiving the paper work from the city I did some quick mental calculations and figured $10,000 ($3,500 * 2 + some) would be a pretty reasonable price to do a nice website redesign for the city. Unfortunately, after receiving the documentation I realized the city had set aside $77,600 for this project… Now this isn’t to say that I don’t agree that the City of Apple Valley needs a new website. On the contrary, I have been asking why they don’t push agenda background information packets to the web like other cities do and I am always met with comments similar to, “maybe in the future.” If adding a content management system to Apple Valley’s website is what will make that happen, I am fine with spending a few thousand to do it. What I am not fine with is spending nearly $80,000 to make it happen.
The company Apple Valley has contracted with noted that they have redesigned at least two other municipal websites including Faribault and Northfield. As of today only the City of Faribault has provided me with the documentation I requested (page 11 and 12) a week ago about their own website upgrades but if/when I receive the information from Northfield I will post them for you to see below. Please note the similarities in the sites created. This is basically a drop in research and design deal and one I just can’t fathom actually costs the contracted company as much as they state especially that it is simply for the analysis and design and doesn’t include hosting fees, etc.
According to Faribault’s documentation, which was done in 2007, they were charged only $50,500 for similar services rendered. In three years I have a hard time believing that the price would really go up $27,000. I seriously have to wonder what other research the City of Apple Valley did as part of this process. Did they ask this company why another city paid 1/3 less only three years ago? I certainly hope so…
So I have to ask: do you think spending nearly $78,000 on a website is a wise investment at this point in time for the City of Apple Valley even if they do desperately need to bring their website into 2010? With the proliferation of free and very capable, easy to use content management systems (like WordPress which has been used here for over two years) do you wonder if that option should have been considered first and foremost especially when budgets are so tight and expected to only get tighter? Whatever you have to say about Apple Valley’s decision to use $77,600 to redesign their website go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.