By Justin Jones, Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 —
A mobile app could be coming to the city of Albemarle which would be available for smartphone and tablet devices.
Assistant City Manager Michael Ferris updated city council on the progress for developing a mobile app that would bring a user friendly and portable means of access to city residents.
Councilman Dexter Townsend had inquired about receiving an update, as both he and Ferris had seen mobile app displays at various city conferences.
During this same timeframe, Ferris said he had been working with Information Technology Director Owen Squires, looking for ways to make the city’s website more interactive.
“Just like anything else, websites develop and the expectations become greater and greater and the services that people look for is not just information on a website but more interactive services that people expect from the website,” Ferris said.
“As Owen (Squires) and I were looking at ways of handling the website, we came across some companies that offer website development and a whole range of improved services over what we’re currently able to provide on our website.”
Ferris said one company stood out as an option for the city to look at as a developer in those improved services, CivicPlus.
“They provide a whole range of services and features as part of one whole website solution,” Ferris said.
“Their services would provide a mobile app that is Apple and Android based.”
Other services included that would be of interest to Albemarle were citizen request management services, online video streaming of city council meetings, survey features and online form submissions.
Ferris said he recently spoke to city employees at a management team meeting, with multiple departments showing interest in some of the features that could be useful to their departments.
Although Ferris said he was not seeking for council to move forward with any vote, Councilman Ronnie Michael asked that council consider looking local first.
“I think we should make a RFP (request for proposal) and make sure we have no local companies that want to be involved in this. I don’t just want to choose something and not give someone local the opportunity to give us a quote on it,” Michael said.
Councilwoman Martha Sue Hall requested Ferris compile an information kit that explained the current services used and what a more comprehensive service could provide.
Ferris said while the cost would be about $12,000 annually, it would eliminate some of their current cost in the same department for the website and would also benefit the city’s IT department which has a small staff as it looks to improve the website and accessibility to the public.
“This is a more comprehensive approach than getting separate programs ... It brings it all under one vendor and makes our website more interactive, user-friendly and provides some of the services that people that go to a website are looking for now adays,” Ferris said.
City council members planned to look further into the mobile app possibility at their budget retreat Saturday.