Local News

Sebring looks at upgrading web site

SEBRING - At some future point, visitors to the city of Sebring's web site may be able to click on a link and watch video of a City Council meeting. They may also be able to apply for a permit and pay a fee.

The City Council decided Tuesday to have City Administrator Scott Noethlich put together a presentation on how the web site can be upgraded.

But whether that will happen remains uncertain.

Councilman Andrew Fells favors upgrading the site, saying the city is at least 10 years behind, while younger people make more use of technology.

"If we want to stay connected to a generation relying more and more on technology, we need to work to provide that," Fells said.

But Councilman John Clark said he's unconvinced of the need, saying that Sebring has a larger than average population of senior citizens, many of whom are not interested in using computers to get information.

If the city upgrades the web site, Clark questions whether it will be like "putting a fancy paint job on a car that's going to sit in the garage and never be used."

Councilman John Griffin said he would like to see the web site upgraded into the 21st century, but is concerned about the cost.

"I don't see any problem looking into it," Griffin said.

City Administrator Scott Noethlich said residents at this point should not have any expectations the web site will change. The city is just beginning to look at it, he said.

Noethlich said that besides providing videos of council meetings - audio is currently available - there's a potential for people to be able to fill out applications, make requests for street repairs, send in pictures of potholes and sign up for news alerts from the city. It may also allow the city to increase use of social media, he said.

Although Clark said he's unconvinced people will use these features, he said, if the upgrade saves the city money that could convince him to support it at some level.

Noethlich said the city could potentially save money since some upgrades would reduce staff time involved in some areas. He said the city also may be able to develop an agenda and completely disseminate it without using paper, which would save money.

Saving money is also a point Fells made in supporting the upgrade.

"In my opinion the city is behind," he said.

He rejected the argument for not upgrading because of the age of residents. As time passes, Fells said, more and more people use computers and smart phones.

"It's not a question of whether people are going to use it," he said. "It's a question of when people will use it."

"This is their government and we need to make it more accessible," he said.

Clark said he would like to find out whether adding features to city and county web sites elsewhere made a difference in use.

He also said the city could benefit from delaying an upgrade.

"The longer the time you defer something like this, it's going to be cheaper, Clark said.

The council also approved promoting Sebring Assistant Utilities Director Bob Boggus to director to replace Director Marty Roepstorff, who is retiring.


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