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New city of Covington Web sites coming in June
Temporary city finance manager hired; liquor license ordinance amended
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The City of Covington should have a new Web site sometime in June. On Monday, the City Council unanimously voted to hire Atlanta-based ThoughtBridge to build a modern, interactive Web site for the city.

"I'm glad we're going to get into this century with our Web site," Mayor Kim Carter said Monday. "The current Web site is terrible; it's not user-friendly and not informative," she added Tuesday.

City Systems Information Manager Bobby Johnson said the ThoughtBridge Web site will be built with a Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, an increasingly common site building technology. This content management system will allow government employees to quickly add information to the public Web site and easily exchange information digitally amongst each other.

The system will have an improved public site with a new design, more information, easier navigation and a search tool. The site will also be interactive, allowing citizens to pay utility bills online and apply for available government jobs, Johnson said. City helpdesk officials are also collecting information from citizens to build a helpful frequently asked questions page. The Web site will be designed to save time and money for both the public and city officials, Johnson said.

There will also be an internal Web site for employees, with tools like a repository to store and share documents and calendars to schedule meetings and events. The site will hopefully improve communication, save time and effort as well as ink and paper.

ThoughtBridge actually had the highest estimated labor bid, $84,000, out of the three companies that were interviewed, but the company had the most experience building SharePoint Web sites and it answered all of the city's questions, Johnson said. It's also a Microsoft Gold Partner, which added to its credibility in dealing with Microsoft technology. The city will need to pay for the SharePoint software in addition to the labor.

Increasing the use of technology in government has been one of the mayor's priorities, and the Web site follows projects like the new phone and GPS systems.

"Especially with the economy like it is, we have to work smarter, not harder," Carter said. "Tech needs to be a big part of our plans."

Other city council business:
• Leigh Knight was hired as the temporary city finance director and began working Tuesday. She is a certified public accountant with experience in governmental auditing, City Manager Steve Horton said. Knight is being hired on as a temporary employee on short notice to help the city as it ends its fiscal year and prepares next year's budget. The city will determine at a later time whether to hire Knight full time, Horton said.

• The council approved the Chamber of Commerce's Covington Historical Cemetery Tour scheduled for Oct. 15. The tour is being organized by the chamber's tourism committee and will take people around the area's historical cemeteries. Oxford college students will play the roles of certain buried residents, providing historical facts. Before approving the tour, the council made sure the event would be respectful and that the chamber would get family members' signed permission to allow a student to play the role of an ancestor. The tour's proceeds will go to the Newton County History Center.

• Mayor Carter said the city will try to further save on paper costs next fiscal year by sending City Council agenda packets electronically, instead of having Administrative Assistant Audra Gutierrez print out and assemble paper versions. Horton said the city will look to save paper in other areas next year as well.

• The council passed an ordinance amendment to make it easier for businesses to get liquor licenses. Previously, businesses had to present a detailed, engineering drawing of their building to get a liquor license. Now, a sketch of the building layout or floor plan is sufficient.