Saturday, April 11, 2009

The New

Some time last November, the City launched a "soft" opening of its new Web site, On February 10, the Web site was formally presented to the City Council. I reproduce here remarks made on that date by Rachel Parrish of ThinkBox Design Marketing, the firm which created the Web site.

American Fork is a city dedicated to providing friendly quality service, big city opportunities and small town goodness. Reflective of the depth of American Fork quality, in November the city unveiled the re-designed American Fork city Web site. The Web site has been designed by ThinkBox Design Marketing with consultation from the city and an executive committee of city officials, department heads and administration. This dynamic Web site was designed to communicate effectively with the target audience of current and prospective businesses, residents, developers, and visitors.

The Web site is fully functional and user friendly. It provides online functions that reduce the amount of time city staff spend on mundane tasks such as making phone calls, transcribing information, processing forms, updating the site, and so on. The Web site provides a variety of online services to current and prospective residents, businesses, and visitors. The site utilizes extensive content management tools and a database related architecture to provide a consistent user-friendly interface. All this takes place through a secure environment.

The branding of the Web site was based on the American Fork logo design and layout of the Economic Development press kit. The design of the Web site will allow visitors to easily and quickly navigate the site to find desired information. Top and side navigation bars have been utilized, including a list of quick links for the most frequently asked topics. Due to the varied thought processes of visitors to the site, there are numerous ways to find a particular page or piece of information. For example, one can find the Library from the For Residents link, a quick link, or through departments. Careful planning has strategically placed similar information in numerous areas of the site. Information on the numerous facets of life in American Fork can now be found in one place. Questions ranging from housing permits, recycling, and a search for an American Fork ancestor can all be answered.

The core of the American Fork City Web site is built with ASP.NET technology and a combination of Java script, Ajax and flash. The content management system is driven by a MSSQL database with 244 tables with a size of 0.5 GB and growing. The file system contains 817 Folders and 7209 Files for a total of 1.6 GB and growing.

The website now includes:

  • Home Page

  • An About the City page which includes the history and the benefits of living and doing business in American Fork

  • Contact Us with easy access to a map and department information

  • An interactive Calendar of Events including color-coded events from all departments. This calendar can be updated in real time by department heads and is an excellent avenue for informing residents of upcoming events.

  • Department News/Minutes and Agendas. Each department is able to update their own web pages through the Content Management System.

  • Numerous Business Visitors can find answers to questions on Building Permits, Economic Development, Planning, and American Fork Chamber of Commerce opportunities.

  • Residents can find information on Fitness and Recreation, the Arts Council, Yard Sales and fun events within the city for the whole family.

  • Visitors to American Fork can find highlights of the Points of Interest within the city and includes photos of historic areas and scenic parks.

  • The site includes a search feature allowing visitors to enter a topic and receive a list of related links on the site.

  • The site allows for a variety of forms to be available which can be filled out and submitted online. Potential forms include: utility services sign up, business license renewal, records request, fence permit, building permit, etc.

  • The site continues to offer online utility bill payments and account information.

  • Parks can now be reserved from the Web site.

  • A visitor to the Web site can sign up for the city newsletter. This enables visitors to be informed of city announcements and events.

  • A Weather link has been added to the site showing the current temperature and link to the extended forecast for American Fork City.
Since its launch the site has received over 86,482 visitors. Currently the site receives around 12,000 visitors a month, up to 2,800 visitors a day, 50% of which are new visitors every month. Visitors ranging from as far away as Germany and Russia have visited the site.

My thanks to Rachel and her colleagues at ThinkBox for their artful and arduous work.

Personally, I'm willing to concede that the site lacks the glitz and functionality of, say, or, but it also lacks their generous budgets, funded as it is on a local taxpayer's shoestring. On the whole, therefore, I'm pleased to recommend the new Web site to you. It is the latest in the City's efforts to improve communication with residents -- a goal which has been a personal focus for me during my term of service.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thought for the Day


Excerpted from a letter dated March 18, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

The American Library Association held a Membership Town Hall Meeting on January 24, 2009 during its Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Colorado. The purpose of the meeting was to articulate and discuss important issues the ALA membership wanted to share with your new Administration.

A thread expressed by many was the need to clearly establish the fundamentally good work done by libraries in assisting the public. Over and over again, comments reinforced the need to be sure that your administration has a solid understanding of the role which libraries, as essential institutions of life-long learning, play in serving and assisting virtually every segment of the population.

Libraries are perfectly positioned to disseminate information relevant to the issues and challenges that face us as a nation, the same key issues which your Administration is seeking to address. Libraries disseminate healthcare and government information. They offer literacy programs, assistance for non-English speakers, as well as access to computers, the Internet and the wealth of library resources. Libraries serve and support all diverse populations.

Public libraries are an obvious resource to support early childhood education programs and to support and augment all areas of school curricula. They work in partnership with government and business, offering Internet support for online employment applications, filing for unemployment benefits, supplying tax forms and providing assistance to those seeking government assistance. Libraries serve as a primary conduit for information for the public, and have the ability to support any national initiative.

The increased usage libraries are experiencing testifies to their value. That recent increase, well established through statistics, has resulted in dramatic increases in circulation, in-library materials usage, and attendance at programs by individuals of all ages. Urban libraries should hold a prominent spot on the urban agenda.

Dramatically increased library usage points to the need for increased library funding. A one-time infusion of dollars flowing into libraries would provide badly-needed additional resources at a time when libraries are seeing a tremendous increase in usage. . . .

A core value of the profession, “equal access for all,” provided another strong thread for discussion. The need for an educated public was stressed, with libraries playing a central role in providing equal access to information to all persons, while remembering the poor, the disabled and the undocumented. Adequate access must also include metadata and cataloging, preservation and the availability of trained librarians, skilled in finding the information that is most relevant and useful. In rural areas without broadband, access is of vital concern. . . .

Government must understand that access is more than simply putting information on a website. In thousands of communities across the country, librarians play an essential role in providing access to e-government and in empowering all.

Jim Rettig

For more information about the ALA's federal lobbying efforts,
follow this link to the ALA's legislative action page.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Pam Hunsaker Drive

On March 24 the City Council adopted this resolution:

Whereas, the Hunsaker family has distinguished themselves in the community of American Fork, and

Whereas, the late Pamela D. Hunsaker was employed by American Fork City for 34 years and devoted much time volunteering with numerous City committees and organizations, and

Whereas, American Fork City desires to acknowledge the contribution made by Pamela D. Hunsaker and her family to American Fork City, which City she dearly loved, during the 34 years she was employed.

Now, therefore, the City Council of American Fork resolves to add the designation of Pam Hunsaker Drive to 630 East from 300 North to 400 North and orders that signs be acquired to so present.
Council members actually fought for the privilege of making and seconding the motion.

I add my voice to those who have honored Pam for her long years of service to the City, including 24 years as City treasurer and benefits administrator. We truly mourn the passing of her lively spirit, her peaceable support, and her contagious laugh.

Pamela Durrant Hunsaker

Water Rates

This last Tuesday evening, March 31, the Pressurized Irrigation team held an open house at Legacy Elementary. Residents who came to this thorough presentation found displays, handouts, demonstrations, and live bodies to answer their every question. How do I connect to the system? How much will my rates increase? What is the latest construction schedule? And of course, that perennial favorite, What the devil is the City Council thinking?

Given the quality of the information available, I was disappointed not to see more people there. By my informal count, the ratio of attendance was only 2:1, or two members of the public for every member of the team.

Noting this, you will perhaps understand the frustration I feel when folks who have just absorbed the shock of the increase come to me and say, "You never told us." A classic example came to my inbox last night:

Last year, you in city government, talked about the new irrigation system as if it would save money for the average AF resident. Actually, according to your newly posted examples, it will cost most people about 300% of their prior year cost. I feel you have been deceptive in your communication and practices. We need new and honest leadership.
In point of fact, we did tell you. I quote from the voter information pamphlet which was mailed to every home in October of 2006, and which was included as an insert to both the Daily Herald and the American Fork Citizen (may it rest in peace) in the weeks prior to the November 2006 election:

What will this bond cost me, the rate payer?
If the secondary system is approved, households will become subject to two separate rate schedules. In addition to the $5 assessment for CUP water, utility bills will show separate charges for culinary water and for secondary water.

Culinary water will be billed at $13.85 for the first 6,000 gallons of water used each month. (6,000 gallons was chosen because it is the figure for average monthly household indoor use.) Usage above this volume will incur additional charges based on a sliding scale of $2 per 1,000 for the next 2,000 gallons; $2.50 per 1,000 for the next 2,000 gallons after that, and so on.

Secondary rates will be charged year-round according to lot size. Lots up to 9,000 square feet will be charged the base fee of $14 per month. Rates increase at $17.50 per 10,000 square feet thereafter.

Connection to the secondary system is not mandatory, and connection fees will not be charged during the construction period.

Does this mean my monthly rates will go up?
Most homes will see a significant increase in their monthly water bill.
For the majority of American Fork homes, which sit on quarter-acre lots, the estimated monthly bill, under the current proposal, would be:

CUP water $5.00
Culinary water $13.85
Secondary water $17.31

This is in contrast to the present average household water bill of $21. (This average is derived from annual consumption which includes both indoor and outdoor usage, and is calculated at $10 for the first 8,000 gallons and 75 cents per thousand gallons thereafter.)

When will the new rates take effect?
Rates will take effect at different times in different sections of the City, as the system is installed. Individual users will not be charged secondary rates until the system is available for connection. The additional charge for CUP water will take effect in February 2007 regardless of whether the bond passes or not.

This is what we told the voters, who approved the bond by a 54-45 vote. This is what we have been telling the residents ever since, at hearings, in the newspaper, through special mailers, and at the project Web site. And this is what I'm telling you now.

So call the rates expensive and I'm with you. Call me deceptive and we part company.

For a more detailed discussion of rates, please see the article "Culinary and Pressurized Irrigation Costs" at the project Web site by following this link.