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3/18/2014
Technology Chair Bob Weiner teams up with County Administration to make county gov't more transparent via county website

“Even though some of the information was already on the old site, it was hard to get to the documents,” said Councilman Bob Weiner, chairman of the council’s technology subcommittee.

The new site is “intuitive” and will help users get the information they need, even if they aren’t experts in how the government is organized, Weiner said. And not all the information was on the old site. More than 300,000 documents from the county’s Land Use Department will be on the new site.

NCCo set to launch expanded, user-friendly website

By Adam Taylor  The News Journal 3/18/14

New Castle County will launch a new website this week that promises to be more user-friendly with significantly more information than what is available on the government’s current site.

Residents have long complained that the current website is difficult to navigate, Councilman John Cartier said. County Chief Administrative Officer David Grimaldi said it almost seems as if it was designed for county employees or government insiders to use, not the average taxpayer.

“It was organized by department, but a lot of people with questions about sewer services wouldn’t know to go to the Special Services Department to get an answer,” Grimaldi said. “The new site is designed with a focus on answering simple questions that people have.”

Instead of listing departments, the new website has a “How do I …” icon that allows users to ask how to pay a ticket, check on their tax status, review property records, report misconduct to police and more.

One of the most important new features is the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping system, which is essentially a Google Maps for New Castle County. The maps were designed specifically for the county, however, because county officials didn’t want a provider to be able to charge for using the system, or placing advertisements on it, said Patrick Suzi of the county’s Information Services Department.

The new website allows a person to click on a property and get a variety of data. Information about the property’s development history, political jurisdictions, emergency services providers and dozens of other topics can be accessed via links after clicking on an address.

“Even though some of the information was already on the old site, it was hard to get to the documents,” said Councilman Bob Weiner, chairman of the council’s technology subcommittee.

The new site is “intuitive” and will help users get the information they need, even if they aren’t experts in how the government is organized, Weiner said. And not all the information was on the old site. More than 300,000 documents from the county’s Land Use Department will be on the new site.

The new documents include mapping of the county’s current and proposed sewer lines and every variance approved by the county’s Board of Adjustment since 1954, when local zoning laws were enacted.

The GIS system will provide lists of the nearest train stations, bus routes, hospitals, veterans’ centers and other places. That information can be organized in dozens of ways, including the boundaries of a council district or within the area served by a civic association.

The site will be expanded as time goes on, according to Daniel Scherquist, one of County Executive Tom Gordon’s assistants. “The limits of this are bound by nothing,” Scherquist said.

Developers will be able to search entire blocks to see where there are pockets of vacant homes, which could lead to potential economic development opportunities, Grimaldi said.

Or, someone applying for a liquor license will be able to get all the addresses of the people in the immediate area they are required to notify.

The website will also have an application that will allow people to create their own phone apps for information on the site.

Users can also sign up for email and text updates on topics that interest them, including building projects near their homes, police and fire news, or new appointments to county boards and commissions.

“We’re trying to create something that, when a plan is submitted, everyone will see it. When comments are made about it, everyone will see it,” Grimaldi said.

Contact Adam Taylor at (302) 324-2787 or ataylor@delawareonline.com.

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