Lack of website a concern for Fredonia

A village that is home to a college would seem to be a candidate to be up-to-date with current technology. Not so with Fredonia, which has been without a website for more than nine months since the previous one crashed.

Development of the village website was a topic of discussion during the Fredonia Village Board workshop Tuesday.

“I’m constantly getting complaints about not having a website setup. People are looking to contact different people. They’re looking to pay bills. There’s a number of reasons to have a website,” Mayor Stephen Keefe stated. “It’s going to be a $1,500 setup fee if we go with the lowest bidder. There will be a maintenance fee … something like $300. We will do work inhouse to maintain it.

“Do I have three votes? Give me a thumbs up if you’ll vote in favor of it.”

Trustee Susan Mackay said she was in favor of the website, but wanted to know if that was a resolution to consider.

“I’m not even saying a resolution right now. I want to know by the next board meeting if we’ll have a resolution,” Keefe replied, adding they could go with one of the current proposals or find a different one. “A professional website that’s interactive that does the job.”

Mackay said she has talked to some website developers, including one asking for $4,000.

“When we’re talking $1,600 and $1,500, I just want to prepare and see if we can get some of what they’re talking about, and I think we can, in our $1,600 or $1,500 proposal,” she added.

Trustee Joseph Cerrie talked about getting a list of what the website should contain.

“It’s silly not having one. It impacts our transparency. People don’t see our agendas, they don’t see our minutes,” Mackay continued. “People are coming in to read the minutes in village hall, and they have a right to. They should be able to see that stuff, it’s public information.”

“It’s not that they’re being denied, they can come in here and see it,” Trustee Janel Subjack stated.

“I’m still back with, it wasn’t allocated. We’ve been hit with so many unexpected expenses this year. I’d like to see all these proposals as opposed to being rushed into something,” she added.

“We’re not being rushed into this, it’s been six months,” Keefe replied.

Subjack indicated she wouldn’t support the website at this time and Keefe said it didn’t matter, the votes weren’t there.

Cerrie said he would like to see a website but Keefe was missing the point.

“The conversation as far as the trustees was you were going to put a list together of everything that was going to be on the website and develop the website for us and we all can agree on what is going to be on there,” Cerrie explained. “At this point, that has not been done yet and I think that’s not fair to us.”

Subjack and Cerrie wanted the money budgeted before they agreed to pursuing the website.

During the regular meeting the board came under fire for the way a recent hiring occurred. James Lynden, a village resident and member of the Planning Board, had a prepared statement. He said village residents deserve and expect a transparent and accountable public body.

“At an earlier date a quorum of the board of trustees admittedly convened by telephone and voted to hire a part-time building inspector. Later, on Oct. 21, 2013 at an open special board meeting a resolution was passed to hire said building inspector who was already on the job. How does this happen?” Lynden asked. “When consideration by the board of trustees to fill the position of full-time building inspector is done, will more than one interview be held? Will background checks be done? Will references be required? Will the excessive pay scale be addressed before any hiring is done and will a resolution be presented in an open meeting before the employee starts work?”

Lynden said his statement was in response to past board meetings he has attended and a review of the minutes and the meeting video, which didn’t match.

“The exact words were by phone and it does not reflect that in the minutes. It says there was polling done and the state recognizes that as a vote,” he added.

Keefe accepted a packet from Lynden and said he would make copies for the board.

Resident Vicki Kaiser told the board they are working hard but things could be better.

“We are getting so comfortable in our little village that we get a little sloppy sometimes about things like the Open Meetings Law and there have been some pretty clear violations recently,” she stated. “So my concern coming to you as a citizen is to encourage you to review that and to make sure you are in compliance, that’s part of your charge as a trustee.”

She added there are workshops and other ways to conform to the state’s Open Meetings Law.

After the meeting Keefe was asked about the delay in getting the website running again.

“I think the holdup is financial. I want a very professional website, something that’s going to be interactive … so the people can be connected to all the departments,” he replied.

With the village budget year beginning in June, Keefe was asked why there was no money budgeted for the 2013-2014 cycle.

“I really can’t answer that question because I’ve been talking about a website from the very beginning when it first crashed,” he replied. “I said we need to get a functional website up and running. I look at it as a tourism tool.”

Keefe said at this point he will need three votes to get the site up and running.

Send comments on this story to gsnyder@observertoday.com