In an effort to increase transparency as part of a set of good governance reforms undertaken since nearly being disincorporated in 2011, the city of Vernon has redesigned its website to make information more accessible to the public and to improve its relationship with surrounding communities.
City Manager Mark Whitworth told city council members earlier this week that he had instructed the city’s IT department to construct a website that would be more user-friendly for anyone wanting information about the city.
“In Vernon its sometimes hard to think beyond the city’s 5.5 radius, but this is a website that is approachable to anyone across the globe,” Vernon spokesperson Fred MacFarlane said.
Jared Miller, one of the city’s IT programmers who helped build the new website, said they needed to improve efficiency to keep up with the increase in activity on the city’s website.
“The old website wasn’t built for the new Vernon and we needed one that was,” Miller said.
The city saved money by having Vernon staff build the new site rather than contracting out for those services, according to staff. The new website allows more customizing and connects to other city software, which allows each city department to manage its own information without relying on IT or a webmaster.
It also allows users to easily search and find links to important documents and information needed to conduct businesses in the industrial city. New pages include information about public meetings, including dates, contact information, member bios, agendas and minutes.
Miller said they are working to add a tracking portal and a way for the public to sign up for electronic emergency alerts and online bill payments.
The city clerk told the council he hopes they would eventually use the website to store documents electronically, which have been piling up in boxes for years.
President and CEO of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce Marisa Olguin told the council that she was excited to see the city “providing access and resources to the community and for other companies that want to move into the city.
“This is a complete overhaul of our city,” she said. “Now they are able to see the cost benefits and the efficiencies that are here.”
John Van De Kamp, Vernon’s reform monitor, said “enormous” progress has been made in the past six months on the recommendations made by him and Sen. Kevin De Leon in response to accusations of wrongdoing by former city officials.
“As an outsider, someone who wants to deal with the city and find out about it, its terrific,” he said, referring to the improved website.
He told city council members he was curious to hear what they though about the changes, but as is often the case, council members expressed no public opinion during the meeting.
Adding video to the website would be a tremendous asset for the city, said MacFarlane, explaining it could be used to convey messages to the public.
“Vernon, [with it] having been in the news a lot in the past two years, this portal is your window out to the world and everybody’s else’s window into it,” MacFarlane said.
The new website can be viewed at www.cityofvernon.org .