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Frederick To Offer More User-Friendly Website

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By PATTI S. BORDA

The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The City of Frederick plans to launch a more user-friendly website Nov. 10 that will tell taxpayers where their money goes and “sets the record straight,” according to city staff.

A few clicks of a mouse will take online visitors to pages that answer frequently asked questions and virtually open government doors for a peek inside every department, said Matt Bowman, information technology manager.

This week, he took aldermen on a virtual tour of the site, which he said will increase government openness. The budget page, Transparent Frederick, traces funding and spending by department, right down to vendors that were paid for supplies.

CivicPlus, which specializes in government websites, completed the redesign, Bowman said. Last year’s budget included the redesign, which cost $29,000, he said.

Clicking on budget line items will link to subfunds.

“You’ll be able to drill down through our budget structure,” Bowman said.

“That’s like super-transparent. That’s awesome,” said Alderwoman Kelly Russell.

The Transparent Frederick page used the Texas Transparency website as a model, Bowman said.

The feature will not show every penny, but will generally show where the money is, where it comes from and where it is spent. The What’s Wrong With This Picture feature on the Ask the City page allows the public to upload photos of things that need to be fixed, such as potholes.

Also on the Ask the City page, “Set the Record Straight” will provide information to correct inaccurate and incomplete media reports. Bowman said the idea is borrowed from the Santa Fe, N.M., site that Josh Russin, Mayor Randy McClement’s executive assistant, saw.

The city will link to an article, highlight the incorrect portion and post the city’s correction, Bowman said.

The city’s public information officer will post the corrections, Russin said. “We try to just focus on the facts.”

Online forms will be simple for people to fill out if they want to report potholes, code violations or ask a question. People will be able to sign up for departmental alerts about topics of interest.

Calendars will show citywide meetings and events, and link to details about the agenda.

Departmental calendars will show their meetings and related events. Links from calendars will take visitors to agendas and backup documents.

The home page has a slide show of city photographs, many of them donated by local photographer Bill Adkins.

“It looks really beautiful,” Russell said.

She noted a flaw that Bowman said will be corrected. The site referred to Frederick, but should say “The City of Frederick,” as the city charter states.

Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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