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DeKalb approves rush deal to redesign city website

DeKALB – The city of DeKalb will pay a Kansas-based web developer more than $50,000 to redesign the city website.

Aldermen on Monday approved a contract with CivicPlus to completely remake the website by June 11, the deadline set by the U.S. Department of Justice for the city to bring its website into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city agreed to the time line in a settlement it entered into with the Department of Justice on Feb. 3.

City Manager Anne Marie Gaura said the city had been preparing to solicit proposals for the website redesign, but staff decided it would be better to waive competitive bidding because of the city’s four-month window to complete the project.

“This Department of Justice agreement accelerated that time line,” Gaura said. “So the best-case scenario in our mind is to cut to the end line, knowing our website is deficient.”

The city had budgeted $20,000 this year for a website redesign, but also will have money that was budgeted for the city’s comprehensive plan, which it has yet to start, Gaura said.

Ward 6 Alderman Dave Baker took issue with an $11,000 rush charge CivicPlus included in order to have the website live by June 11, as well as an annual $6,800 charge starting next year for maintaining the site. Baker asked multiple times throughout the meeting for CivicPlus representative Bryan Hahlbeck to negotiate a price lower than the first-year cost of $56,000.

Hahlbeck agreed to reduce the rush fee by 50 percent, bringing the total amount for the first year of the city’s contract with CivicPlus to $50,570. A motion to approve a contract for that amount passed 5-3, with Ward 3 Alderman Kristen Lash, Ward 7 Alderman Monica O’Leary and Ward 1 Alderman David Jacobson voting against it.

Jacobson and O’Leary suggested the city take down its website until it could undergo the bidding process or find a cheaper, either in-house or local, temporary alternative, a suggestion that City Attorney Dean Frieders recommended against.

Lash suggested a bare-bones website with public documents and contact information, which city staff said would have to be up for at least six months if the city chose to solicit bids.

“The thing about websites is they’re not all or nothing,” Lash said. “You can build them in pieces. So I’m not sure why we have to allot six to 12 months before we see anything.”

Amid the lengthy discussion, Ward 4 Alderman Bob Snow said he thought aldermen had lost sight of the city website’s purpose by focusing only on the Department of Justice settlement and not the residents.

“I think the sooner we get a website up and running that the public wants and deserves,” Snow said, “the better off we are.”

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