Town launches dynamic new website

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The Town of Vinton is excited to announce the launch of its new website which took place on August 29.

The Project Team was composed of Town Manager Barry Thompson, Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters. Executive Assistant/Town Clerk Susan Johnson, Planning and Zoning Coordinator/Webmaster Julie Tucei, along with Chad Sweeney and Brian Gladden from the Roanoke County Communications and Information Technology Department.

“The site is beautiful and informative with lots of pertinent content and is mobile-responsive for the on-the-go citizen,” said Sweeney.

The Project Kick-off meeting was held in January of 2019. Sweeney describes several phases in the project which took countless hours of work:

  • Design Development (several meetings were held to gather the requirements for the design; the design was proposed by the vendor, CivicPlus, and the design was reviewed and approved by the town)
  • Content Migration (the vendor migrated the content from the old site version to the newly designed site)
  • Content Management System (CMS) training (System Administrator and End User Training on use of the new site content update tools)
  • New Site Reveal (new site with content presented by CivicPlus. We had several minor design tweaks to have an aesthetically pleasing site.)
  • Content Review and Updates
  • Site Launch (Go-Live)

CivicPlus is a software Platform built for modern local governments.

The new website was presented to Vinton Town Council at the meeting on September 3 by Johnson and Tucei, who have been designated as website administrators. The website address remains www.vintonva.gov.

“Julie and Susan have been wonderful to work with during this project.,” said Sweeney. “They both brought system administrator expertise to the project along with an understanding of town needs. They also assisted with coordinating Town Content Authors in site content review and updates prior to site launch. The project was very successful because of their hard work and project task follow through. We could not have done the project without them.”

“My first experience as a website administrator was in 2011 when I began working for the town,” said Johnson. “I must say I had quite a learning curve working on the site at first, and I depended on Julie a lot to help me learn my role in helping to manage and maintain the previous website.

“Getting to be involved on the 2019 redesign project from its inception was time-consuming, but also very exciting and rewarding,” Johnson stated. “Working with Chad and Brian from Roanoke County and the design team at CivicPlus was a great experience, and the support that they offered during the process and will continue to offer us is second to none. The final design outcome and the ‘Wow’ factor from those who will use our new website was well-worth the time spent.”

“Wow” is the best word to describe the new website which has definitely been kicked up quite a few notches not just in appearance, but in user friendliness and comprehensiveness. Johnson told council that the upgraded website “will serve as a marketing tool for the town.”

Johnson said Tucei advocated for and designed the first website for the Town of Vinton which launched on April 1, 2003, hosted by Roanoke County. An article in The Vinton Messenger when the site was first launched said Tucei was often called upon to help with computer questions at work and received so many calls asking for the town’s website that when the time came to build the website, she was “eager to undertake the project.”

“I really didn’t know that much about designing websites,” said Tucei, “but the town paid for me to take a few classes on web design at the Roanoke Higher Education Center and at Virginia Western Community College.” Tucei coded the entire project– a phenomenal undertaking.

“The main thing we wanted was for the first site to be as easy to use as possible,” said Tucei. “We really tried to think of everything we could to make the site useful and easy to use for citizens.” That’s still the case with the new site.

In 2010, Vinton worked with CivicPlus, who had become the county’s website provider, on an upgrade. The goal then was for citizens to be able to find any information they were seeking “in four clicks, no more.” Tucei and then Assistant Town Manager Consuela Caudell worked on the website update.

“We tried to answer every question that we typically get from people,” said Caudell in a Roanoke Times article.

The 2003 website had around 40 pages with 30 links; the newly revised 2019 version has about 114 pages so far with dozens of links.

Johnson walked council through the website on September 3. She pointed out the “bold tones” and “crisp look” of the new homepage, which simply says “Welcome to Vinton: Are You In?” It features spectacular photographs of Vinton’s best-known landmarks— the Vinton War Memorial, the High Ground Monument, the LOVE sculpture, and the Vinton Farmers’ Market.

There is now a “mega menu” at the top, with buttons down the left side of the screen and across the bottom that offer users easy access to online bill-paying, answers to questions about refuse collection, the Town Code, Roanoke County GIS maps, job opportunities, facility rentals, and more.

The site has a “prominent, new easy-to-use calendar,” listing town meetings and town events.

Each town department has its own page and the option of adding a slideshow banner. There are “Vinton News” and “Vinton Spotlight” pages. The Vinton Spotlight page includes “Pets of the Week.” The website links to the town’s two Facebook pages.

The “refuse” button leads to a listing of every street in the town and its scheduled refuse pick-up day each week.

The “Services” heading leads to options for Animal Control, the Archive Center, Bids, Building Permits, GIS Maps and Apps, the library, paying bills online, public surplus auctions, public transit services, trash pick-up and recycling, and utilities.

Choose “Government” and you will find agendas and minutes for Town Council and other committees and boards, town history, the budget, employment opportunities, a holiday schedule, a staff directory, information on the Vinton History Museum, and more.

Citizens can “report a concern” and complain online about street lights that aren’t working, potholes, stormwater run-off, street sign issues, traffic signals, water quality, illicit discharge, illegal dumping, inoperable vehicles, work performed without permits, overgrown grass and weeds, zoning/code violations, unsafe structures, and more. You can subsequently track how your request for services is being handled.

You can, in fact, spend hours on the website, learning about the town and its services. The best idea is to set up an account on the website to receive notifications that will keep you up to date about what’s going on in Vinton.

Sweeney and Gladden have been working on updating websites for all the agencies that fall under the Roanoke County umbrella: RVTV, the Western Virginia Water Authority, RCACP, Parks and Rec, Explore Park, Economic Development, and others. Vinton is the final website to be completed and launched.

Representatives from each town department have also had a hand in developing the new website: Donna Collins from Human Resources, Jill Acker from Public Works, Brandon Gann from Finance, Chasity Barbour from Community Programs and Facilities, and Jessica Parker from the Vinton Police Department.

In working with CivicPlus, the town will now be able to upgrade the website every five years or so.

Johnson and Tucei say the launch has been successful, with only a few glitches to be worked out thus far. The site is and will remain a “work in progress” as new pages and links are added and old ones revised.