CT Do Better! Many Town Websites Outdated, Ineffective

Logging onto your town or city's website can make it easier to get in touch with local leaders, find a polling place, or pay your taxes. NBC Connecticut Investigates found some municipal websites in the state are in need of improvement.

Leslie Hammond of Hartford said she runs into trouble just about every time she visits her hometown's website, Hartford.gov.

"The frustrating thing is you just stop looking because you figure it's not up to date," she said.

A few clicks into the city's website and you will find video clips for "recent" city council meetings. Under the "recent shows" tab, the most recent footage available is from 2016.

Hammond also noted that in the "visitors" section of Hartford.gov, updates about Hartford's golf courses have not been updated in some time.

"It says the course will reopen in May of 2016," said Hammond. "That's pretty typical."

NBC Connecticut Investigates also found outdated and incomplete election information just days before the November 6 midterm election.

The examples may seem small to some, but Hammond sees a bigger problem.

"Transparency, to me, means an up to date webpage," she said.

"Last year, we explored options for overhauling our website, but it wasn't financially feasible at that point. It is something we hope to do in the future," said Thea Montanez, interim chief operating officer for the City of Hartford. "In the meantime, we do our best with an unwieldy website to keep the content up to date, though there's certainly room for improvement there, too," Montanez added.

But change is coming to Connecticut's cyberspace. Cities and towns around the state are realizing they need to go in a digital direction and are redesigning their often-outdated municipal websites in order to make them easier to navigate, more responsive, and more attractive.

"This is the world that we live in," said Hamden Mayor Curt Leng.

He said that a redesign is coming to Hamden.com soon. Leng said the current website can be complicated.

"It gets cluttered," said Leng. "And the more cluttered it gets, the more confusing it is."

The mayor wants residents to be able to conduct most - if not all - of their town business online; from pulling permits to registering kids for camp to creating easy-to-find information about meetings and town events.

"It's convenience for residents and it allows us to do our jobs better," Mayor Leng said.

West Hartford was recently recognized by the California-based Center for Digital Government for the town website's "mobile-first design, improved transparency and integration with social media." The center said the goal of any municipal site should be to make government more accessible and responsive to citizens.

More improvements are on the way to WestHartfordCT.gov in 2019. 

"More online payments, more e-government, more forums, electronic signature and workflow," said Jared Morin, West Hartford's Director of Technology.

Hammond, meanwhile, believes Hartford's digital city hall, like others in Connecticut, needs an overhaul.

"There have been some changes, but for the most part it's still not up to date," said Hammond. "I think it's critical."

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