Iowa City Steps Up Web Strategy

After several years of taking part in a regional World Wide Web initiative, Iowa City, Iowa, this week will debut its own Web site.

The new site, www.iowa-city.org, initially will contain only a smattering of information on city councils, city departments and job opportunities, but a greater volume of information and new features will go online as the year progresses, said city Webmaster Kent Bliven.

Eventually, the city hopes to accept permit applications and payments for parking tickets and utility bills online and even to survey its citizens on issues.

Iowa City established a presence on the Web four years ago — earlier than many other towns — by contracting with a company called Jeonet to set up and maintain a site for itself, along with a number of other towns in the region.

But city officials see the Web site becoming an increasingly important channel for communicating with its citizens and businesses. As they started talking about potential applications, especially financial transactions, "we decided those need to be done in house," said finance director Kevin O'Malley.

By bringing the Web site in-house, the city also can tie the server to internal servers and information, making it much easier to post information as soon as it becomes available, Bliven said.

As the new Web site develops, the city believes it will reduce the amount of calls to city hall by providing frequently requested information. Such applications as online surveys and online complaints will give city residents a way to have a voice in government "instead of people coming down to a microphone at [city council] meetings every other Tuesday," said O'Malley.

The Web provides a way to make the city council meetings themselves more accessible, Bliven said. Bliven will begin posting agenda meetings online in the next several weeks and then expand to meeting minutes and, possibly by the end of the year, scanned archives of meeting minutes and other documents, he said.

Bliven developed the Web site using Microsoft Corp.'s FrontPage 98 software and runs it on a Windows NT server with a high-speed T-1 connection.

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