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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

City Manager Upgrading City Web Presence - Wkng Towards More Transparency & Participation

LAKE CITY, FL – Monday night, December 17, little noticed on the City Council agenda was a $22,000 item which will bring Lake City web design and agenda preparation into the 21st century. City Manager Helfenberger is also working to make the City more transparent.

According to information provided by Municode, who were awarded the contract to upgrade the City website and agenda presence, the new Lake City website will be mobile friendly and ADA compliant.

As an example of their work in Florida, Municode provided the Naples, Florida website, which is the only Florida website they provided in their information to the City.

At the present time, it is not clear how the new City website will function in a rural community which is not noted for high speed internet connections.

Once again, the City Council approved a contract, which is subject to change at the whim of the City Attorney and City Manager. The contract does not have to come back to the City Council for final approval and the resolution approving the contract gives Mayor Witt the usual zero latitude to reject any changes and mandates that he sign the contract.

A look through the City's enabling resolution, the Municode proposal, and the contract includes a timeline and a statement explaining that the project can take between 3 to 6 months. When the public can expect to see the new website or the new agenda presentation online is a guess.

The City Manager May Speed the Process Along

City Manager Helfenberger inherited a bad situation when it comes to agenda preparation. While former City Manager Wendell Johnson said he could prepare agendas from 1 to 2 weeks in advance of Council meetings, he never did and the City Council never saw it as a problem to receive agendas and supporting documentation at 5 pm or later on the Friday before the Monday Council meetings.

On Monday, around lunchtime, your reporter spoke with Mr. Helfenberger about the issues regarding the City practice of providing 12th hour agendas.

Mr. Helfenberger said the process needs to be revamped, "We shouldn't be receiving final stuff on Friday from the City Attorney or anyone else. We need to have that in hand earlier."

Your reporter mentioned that the agenda item information sheets giving the City Manager's recommendations have been lacking lately.

Mr. Helfenberger said he is looking forward to the new City web design. "That stuff is automatically put in the agendas on the web with the new software we will be getting," he said.

Obviously frustrated with the process, Mr. Helfenberger said he would be announcing at the meeting that the closeout time to provide agenda material to his office would changing from Friday before the meeting to 8 days before the meeting.

That did not happen.

After the meeting, your reporter asked Mr. Helfenberger if he had changed his mind.

Mr. Helfenberger said he decided not to announce the change at the meeting, but instead was going institute the new agenda close out policy by order. "I am going to send a memorandum to the department heads informing them of the new 8 day policy."

Epilogue

City Manager Helfenberger is trying to blaze a new trail of transparency in Lake City.

With Mayor Witt, who encourages the public to weigh in and a City Clerk who believes public records access is a right, City Manager Helfenberger is on the road to establishing a new level of accountability in Lake City government.

On Monday, he told your reporter he was not in favor of back-room deals. He explained it this way, "I am not a back-room kind of guy. I want the whole word to know what is going on and if it is controversial, I want them to know more than once."

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