BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Hits and misses

Vernon took one step forward with improving website and one step back with the mundane attempt to welcome visitors

Getting your message across is increasingly complex. Gone are the days of an advertisement or press release.

Now, governments, businesses and non-profit agencies have to continue with traditional forms of communications while also navigating the Internet in all of its forms — websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a multitude of other social media outlets.

Some are slow to the mark while others have tackled the challenge head-on.

Case in point is the City of Vernon, which has overhauled its cumbersome and less than inspiring website.

Perhaps the most significant change is the simplified search process.

“The idea is to have two to three-click navigation to find the information you are looking for,” said Tanya Laing Gahr, communications officer and the mastermind behind the web update.

For those looking for specific details on businesses licenses or building permits, the information is easily accessible, while transparency is covered off by bid results and annual contracts issued by the city.

If you want to know how your money is being spent or what infrastructure projects are moving ahead, just click the mouse.

And while many residents cling to the perception that governments treat them like mushrooms, attempts are being made to improve conditions. Specifically, Vernon residents can subscribe to e-mail alerts on upcoming events, meetings, job postings and bid opportunities.

Lodging a complaint with city hall has also never been easier.

An online form provides residents with the opportunity to notify city hall about issues ranging from garbage collection and parks maintenance to road surfaces, unsightly properties and sidewalks.

While some will question the $100,000 or so spent on the website redesign, technical expertise doesn’t come cheap and if it means improved awareness among residents about their community, then the cost was worthwhile.

But others will rightfully question the city’s recent attempts to develop entrance signs at Vernon’s borders.

Staff’s concept included a main front with a white background, the name Vernon and the city’s logo. The backside was proposed to contain images of local scenery and activities.

Even top-level administrative endorsements didn’t guarantee a political rubber stamp.

“I find it very bland,” said Coun. Catherine Lord. “It seems odd to have art on the back of what to do in our city when they (visitors) are leaving the city.”

The lack of text on the sign, such as Welcome to Vernon, was also blasted.

“We have a logo statement, Activate life, which could be appropriate there,” said Coun. Scott Anderson.

The bottom line is the designs were uninspired and while signs can represent everything, they did little to capture the energy of the community.

Staff and their consultant have been sent back to the drawing board, and while it’s not known if the original design work was part of the estimated $55,000 project cost, it’s obvious more cash will be needed.

In the end, the City of Vernon took one step forward with improving the website as a way of communicating with its citizens, and one step back with the mundane attempt to welcome visitors.

 

 

 

 

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