The village of North Riverside will have a new website up and running by the end of 2020, according to Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti, after village trustees voted last month to award a contract for the design and development to CivicPlus, a Manhattan, Kansas-based technology company that specializes in developing websites for municipal clients.

Trustees on Sept. 21 voted 5-1, with Trustee Marybelle Mandel casting the lone vote against, to hire Civic Plus to overhaul the village’s website at a cost of just under $30,000. Civic Plus was the lowest of four proposals submitted to the village.

CivicPlus and two other firms made detailed presentations about their services and capabilities at the village board’s Administrative Committee meeting on Sept. 8, with committee members Terri Sarro, Fernando Flores and Joseph Mengoni unanimously agreeing to select CivicPlus. Committee members H. Bob Demopoulos and Deborah Czajka, who both voted to award the contract two weeks later, were absent from the meeting. 

Mandel and Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. also consented to select CivicPlus as the preferred vendor, according to a summary of the meeting submitted to the village board by its chairwoman, Sarro.

“We want the website to be easily maneuverable by the general public and give a clear picture of the community,” said Scarpiniti. “It will be extremely user-friendly and we want it to attract businesses by letting them know what North Riverside is all about.”

The go-live date for the new website is important, because the village is hoping that the website will qualify for substantial reimbursement for the expense through FEMA under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Anything hoping to qualify for such funding must have been paid for prior to Dec. 31, said Scarpiniti, who had to submit an application with information justifying CARES reimbursement by Oct. 5.

A website redesign was stricken from the village’s 2020-21 budget this summer due to financial constraints. But when Scarpiniti learned it likely would qualify for CARES Act reimbursement, she convinced the village board to move ahead.

“We feel confident this will qualify for CARES funding based on the requirement that it be used for COVID crisis communications,” Scarpiniti said.

A more robust website would allow greater flexibility in getting such information to residents quickly, she said. The new website would also allow residents more opportunity to conduct village business online and receive mobile alerts in the event of another COVID-related shutdown, such as the village experienced in the spring.

One of the reasons the village chose CivicPlus for the website redesign, apart from the price, was the company’s experience drafting justification letters for CARES reimbursement.

“We’ve been working with CivicPlus directly,” said Scarpiniti. “They’ve helped create justification letters for other communities, and CivicPlus has provided them to us, not just for the design but for add-on modules as well.”

The add-on modules are part of the company’s CivicEngage package, which includes options such as agenda management software to provide the public greater access to current and archived village board and commission meeting agendas and documents. It also allows the ability to livestream meeting video and provide them on demand afterward.

There’s also software that allows residents to submit complaints, problems or requests and then track the village’s response to them, creating a direct line of communication with village staff without routing such requests through elected officials.

Scarpiniti said that if the add-on modules are also approved for CARES reimbursement they will go live along with the new website later this year.