Updates on Town Website improve greatly

Most Cape Town Websites Excel at Posting Agendas

Webmasters are awake where meeting agendas are concerned

By Walter Brooks

Seventh in our series of "Eyes on the Cape" reports, see the rest below.

The other day one of our readers had business pending before a town board and used her town’s municipal website to make certain she was on the agenda. 

She was indeed listed and shared with us her belief that the “agenda” section of a municipal website may be much more important to citizens than the minutes or video of those meetings.

 It makes sense.  If you’re waiting for a septic permit, zoning variance, conservation decision or have other business with your town boards, the availability of the agenda for a particular board’s meeting can be a valuable tool.  With this in mind our Eyes on the Cape team turned their spyglass once again to the Cape’s municipal websites.

Our Findings

Chart of all Cape Town sites updated 4/17/12.
See a larger version at the bottomof this report.

We found that most town hall websites are current in their agenda postings.  Barnstable, Bourne, Chatham, Falmouth, Harwich, Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet and Yarmouth all have current agendas posted for their Board of Selectmen, Board of Health, Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board.

On Brewster’s website we could not find any agenda postings.  In Sandwich we found only the Board of Selectmen’s agendas and in Dennis we found agendas for everyone except the Board of Selectmen.  Mashpee’s Board of Health does not appear to have agendas posted on the town website.

Eastham’s Zoning and Planning Boards’ last posted agendas were from November 2011.  In Mashpee the Planning Board’s last agenda was dated December 7, 2011.

In Orleans – the “Wake up Your Webmaster” town hall that prompted our study of all Cape Cod municipal websites – well, they won the prize again!  Orleans has the most out-of-date agenda posting of any town on the Cape – with March 3, 2011 the most recent posted agenda for their Board of Health.  Orleans’ most recent ZBA agenda was December 31, 2011.

As always, some of the municipal websites are notoriously difficult to navigate.  If any of the town hall staff can provide a link to the missing agendas we will be happy to update this story.

What’s the Problem?

What do YOU go to your
Town's website for?

Vote here and tell us.
Most municipal websites on the Cape use a content management system which makes it easy for staff to update meeting minutes, post agendas, publish video links and update other parts of the site.  In order to “manage content” the content itself must exist.  If a town board hasn’t submitted the proper material to the web staff, they cannot update the website.  However, if the content has been provided on time it’s usually a matter of scanning some pages into a PDF and then using the content management system to publish the document on the website.

Overall, most Cape municipal webmasters appear to do better in posting agendas than they do with meeting minutes.  Posting an agenda is no more difficult than posting a PDF of minutes so there’s little reason why both cannot be up-to-date all the time.

Town officials will be the first to remind us that town hall is the official receptacle for board minutes and the official posting place for meeting notices.  While this is true, readers of Cape Cod Today already know that a municipal website serves as a town government’s “public face”.  In 2012, most citizens don’t drive to Town Hall when they need something – their first instinct is to check the town’s website.

Cape Cod’s taxpayers deserve a consistently up-to-date municipal website in every town.

See the "Eyes on theCape" reports so far below:

CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.