Some citizens still concerned over $50K cost of DeKalb website redesign

By Kristin Maglabe

Correction: In a March 30 article, “Some citizens still concerned over $50K cost of DeKalb website redesign,” the Northern Star reported the Department of Justice told DeKalb the city’s website did not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act’s standards in 2013. Actually, the city only received information requiring its job application process in 2013, said management analyst Lauren Stott. DeKalb found out about the website issues in December 2014, Stott said.

City Attorney Dean Frieders was quoted as saying, “I think, perhaps, the language of the minutes is being hurtful in that regard …” when he actually said “I think, perhaps, the language of the minutes is being inartful in that regard.”

The city will move forward with its contacts with web design company CivicPlus despite complaints about the $50,570 revamp cost.

In 2013, DeKalb was told the city’s website did not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act’s standards and the Department of Justice set a compliance deadline for June 11. The council voted to sign a contract with CivicPlus, which has made sites for neighboring towns, at a Feb. 9 meeting and voted to approve a payment not exceeding $50,570 to CivicPlus to redesign the city’s website. Originally, the city set aside $20,000 to redesign the website, but the project is about $30,000 over budget because of the CivicPlus contract.

Bessie Chronopoulos, DeKalb resident and former mayor, expressed concerns over the price of the website and questioned the validity of council’s vote for the contract at Monday’s City Council meeting. Chronopoulos said she went through parts of the recording of the Feb. 9 meeting while reviewing the meeting minutes and found the city staff and the city attorney may have made a mistake.

DeKalb resident Dewayne Brown said he spoke with relatives who work in Web design and they said a city website should not cost more than $10,000.

“I see this [the contract amount with CivicPlus] was awarded with no competitive bidding, and I don’t understand that,” Brown said. “And five times or six times the amount it should be. Anybody that buys a service or a product and pays six times the amount, you wouldn’t do that with your own money. Why are they going to do that with taxpayer’s money?”

DeKalb management analyst Lauren Stott said the contract with CivicPlus has been signed by the Web design company and DeKalb Mayor John Rey, so the website redesign will move forward with CivicPlus.

“So at this point, the website developer CivicPlus, they are working on building the site internally,” Stott said. “So, they have been asking us questions on how we want it to look, what types of features should be included, and meanwhile, city staff is also compiling information that needs to be added. So, what we want is the stuff that’s on our current site, we want to expand on that and make it even more valuable, and so we’re working on putting a list together of information we want to expand on.”

Stott said residents’ comments on what they want to see on the website have been heard and are being taken into consideration.

Chronopoulous cited a point in the Feb. 9 minutes where “the mayor called for a roll call vote on the original, underlying, unamended motion to approve the contract with CivicPlus, in an amount not to exceed $56,189 in year one.” The motion was defeated by a 4-4 vote.

“When the original vote was taken, after a lot of back and forth and this and that and the other, it was defeated. At that point in time, at that point in time the original motion was defeated. The council should have moved on to the next item on the agenda; it did not,” Chronopoulos said.

Chronopoulos said the final motion that was passed was to amend the resolution, and not to enact the resolution. The fact the council voted to amend the resolution, but did not change anything, was inappropriate, Chronopoulos said.

The final motion on the meeting minutes said, “Alderman [Dave] Baker motioned to amend the Resolution by approving an amount not to exceed $50,570 for CivicPlus to complete the city’s website by the June 11 deadline, seconded by Alderman [Bob] Snow.” The motion was passed with 5-3 vote, but no further action was made. Rey declared the motion passed.

The approval of the meeting minutes for Feb. 9 was pulled for separate action in response to Chronopoulos’ comments by 3rd ward Alderperson Kristen Lash.

“I think, perhaps, the language of the minutes is being hurtful in that regard,” said City Attorney Dean Frieders. “The motion that was made by Alderman Baker, that ultimately was a successful motion, was a motion to approve the resolution.”

Frieders said the motion was to approve the resolution and not to amend it. The minutes will be reviewed and will appear again at the next City Council meeting on April 13.