Company customizing local sites

A Kansas-based technology company is offering affordable customized Web sites and e-government services to small cities and counties on a monthly subscription.

For the past year, CivicPlus (www.civicplus.com), a subsidiary of Networks Plus, a Manhattan, Kan., technology company, has been offering hosted Web site services to cities and counties and plans to roll out several e-government initiatives later this year.

"We give them the look and feel of local governments without the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Ward Morgan, chief executive officer of CivicPlus and co-founder of Networks Plus. "This isn't a build-your-own Web site system. We build it, and then they can manage it easily."

Currently 15 cities — ranging from the town of Gypsum, Colo., with a population of 3,654 to Cedar Park, Texas, nearly 10 times that size — are using the service, he said. Some basic modules include calendar items, space for news flashes and a site search. Pricing is based on population, so a city of 30,000 would pay about $300 per month.

Municipalities also can get options at additional cost, including being able to poll the community on issues, e-mail, job and bid postings, document management and notifications. Sites can support video and audio files as well, he said. Scalability, reliability and redundancy are also not a problem for the Web-hosting company.

The company, he said, is developing e-government modules, such as service request forms and tracking, utility payment systems, and permits and applications. The modules would have business logic software so officials and citizens are notified of developments regarding a service request, such as repairing a pothole.

In the past year or so, several municipal organizations and technology companies have partnered to bring affordable technology services to smaller municipalities. IBM Corp., the National League of Cities and National Association of Counties have partnered to offer a subscription-based and hosted Web development system, as did a separate initiative involving Avenet LLC, Microsoft Corp., the League of Minnesota Cities and the International City/County Management Association.

In those cases, users can build their own Web sites. Morgan said CivicPlus provides expert graphic designers and engineers to help municipalities get started. He said officials, who don't need any technical expertise, are then provided a log-in and password so they can easily update and manage their data via the Internet.

"There's no reason that a small local government can't provide the same services to citizens as New York does," Morgan said.

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