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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 07, 2010

Twelve Norco Municipalities Have No Web Page

"Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!"

That's how the town crier announced himself, handbell in hand, as he made public announcements. In Northampton County, our very own liberty bell's iron tongue sang out on July 8, 1776, to announce the Declaration of Independence. It also tolled to announce court sessions, fires and important news. Now we have the Internet, and can connect to our local government at will. Is it worth it? Does the Internet really make local government more transparent and accountable? Does it have forms online that might spare you an unnecessary trip to the government center?

In 2007, I rated the LV's municipal web pages in both Northampton and Lehigh County. Little Emmaus, the only municipality webcasting at the time, came out on top. It's time for an update, starting with Northampton County municipalities.

Believe it or not, I've tried to keep this objective. Here's how it works. Any local government with a website gets a point. Additional points are awarded for meeting agendas, minutes, online newsletters, calendars, ordinances, email contacts for elected officials, online payments and municipal webcasts. If the site has other items designed to inform its citizens or make government more transparent, one additional point is awarded. The maximum is ten.

At the end of the post, I've included the data showing how points are determined for each municipality. If I've got something wrong, please let me know. I'm not proud. That's why I blog.

Here's the Northampton County breakdown.

9 points: Bethlehem Township and Easton City tie for the county's best municipal web pages. These folks get it. Their sites promote public use and access. They actually include email contacts for elected officials, something very rare. Even Mayor Panto's email and phone number are plainly listed. Most municipalities try to guard access to their elected officials, a mistake. In contrast, Panto has never hesitated to say what he thinks, even in the wild blogosphere.

8 points: Bethlehem, Forks Township, Lower Nazareth Township, Northampton County & Palmer Township. Northampton County has made strides over the last three years, including access to property records, sheriff's sales and webcasts. But its biggest service to taxpayers is that you can now pay your tax bills on line. Palmer has that feature, too.

7 points: Lower Saucon, Hanover and Williams Townships.- These are excellent web pages, designed to make government more transparent. and convenient to residents. In addition to extensive access to minutes, residence can review ordinances or download township forms from the convenience of their homes, sparing themselves and the environment the fuel consumed by a trip to the local government center.

6 points: Nazareth, Wilson & Wind Gap Boroughs. - It's amazing to see such tiny boroughs demonstrate such a commitment to keeping the public informed. It reflects the pride of the people who live in these communities.

5 points: Allen, East Allen and Upper Mount Bethel Townships. - All the basics are there. One innovation in Upper Mount Bethel Township is an online complaint form.

4 points: Hellertown, Pen Argyl, Plainfield and Washington. - Although these web pages lack many fairly simple features, they succeed in informing the community.

1 to 3 points: Bath, Bushkill Township, Freemansburg Borough, Lower Mount Bethel Township, North Catasauqua, Tatamy, Upper Nazareth and West Easton. - These municipalities are simply going through the motions and have no desire to inform or be accountable to the communities they serve. The most disgusting, Lower Mount Bethel, tells you that if you want to see the zoning ordinance, come in and give them $25. Gee, thanks.

0 to 1 points: Bangor Borough, Chapman Borough, East Bangor Borough, Glendon Borough, Lehigh Township, Moore Township, Northampton Borough, Portland Borough, Roseto Borough, Stockertown Borough, Tatamy Borough and Walnutport Borough. This dirty dozen is either ungodly small or leaders have demonstrated problems with citizen access. If they can't provide this basic service to constituents, they should merge with municipalities that try.


Here's the data I compiled to arrive at these results. If my math is wrong, sue me. I'm a blogger, not Albert Einstein.

Northampton County: Score - 8.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes, but only most recent meeting.
Ordinances? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? Yes.
Online payments? Yes. (Associated fee).
Municipal webcasts? Yes.
Additional features? Yes. You can view sheriff sale properties and check out recent deeds and mortgages.

Allen Township: Score - 5.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? Yes, for most recent meeting.
Ordinances? Online codebook.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes, on home page.
Calendar? Yes.
Online payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? No.

Bangor Borough: No web page. Score - 0.

Bath Borough: Score - 2.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Ordinances? No.
Email contacts? Some are listed.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? No.
Online payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? None.

Bethlehem City: Score - 8.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes.
Ordinances? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Online calendar? Yes.
Online payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? There is a virtual video tour as well as a link to the library.

Bethlehem Township: Score - 9.
Minutes? Yes (since 2000)!
Agendas? Yes. Only current meeting.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online payments? No.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Bethlehem Township actually has two web pages - one for government and the other for recreation, and its home page contains a section for "fast breaking" news.

Bushkill Township: Score - 1.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Ordinances? No,
Online payments? No.
Online newsletter? Not updated since 2007.
Calendar? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? None. This webpage has actually fropped a point since it was last evaluated.

Chapman Borough: No web page. Score - 0.

East Allen Township: Score - 5.
Minutes? Yes
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Ordinances? No.
Online payments? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? None.

East Bangor Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Easton City: Score - 9.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online Payments? Under construction.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Community videos.

Forks Township: Score - 8.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2005.
Agendas? Yes, most recent.
Email contacts? Yes.
Ordinances? Yes (zoning).
Online Payments? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Contains downloadable forms for various permits.
Special Note: Supervisor Doug Billings regularly blogs about Everything Forks, indicating a commitment to transparency by at least one of the Forks Toenship's supervisors.

Freemansburg Borough: Score - 2.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Online newsletter? Nearly a year old.
Calendar? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Dowloadable forms for permits.

Glendon Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Hanover Township: Score - 7.
Minutes? Yes, all the way back to 2001!
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online Payments?
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features?
This webpage contains a scrolling news ticker to inform residents, and also includes agendas and minutes for all of its boards. Downloadable forms.

Hellertown Borough: Score - 4.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes. (ticker)
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? None.

Lehigh Township: No webpage. Score - 0. Ironically, Lehigh Township's Volunteer Fire Company does have a web page.

Lower Mt. Bethel Township: Score - 2.
Minutes? No. The web page contains a pdf copy of some Sunshine Act handbook, like that ought to be good enough.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes, on home page.
Calendar? No.
Ordinances? Instead of posting them online, the webpage states you can buy a copy for $25.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Evertrhing about this web page indicates a commitment to releasing as little information to the public as possible.

Lower Nazareth Township: Score - 8.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes. news ticker across top of web page.
Calendar? Community bulletin board.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Downloadable forms, budgets for the last four years, special sections devoted to recycling and recreations. This web page has dramatically improved in the last three years.

Lower Saucon Township: Score - 7.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2006.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? This page has separate sections for its environmental advisory council and zoning hearing board. There are downloable forms and links to some historical sites.

Moore Township: No webpage. Score - 0.

Nazareth Borough: Score - 6.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2007.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? No.

North Catasauqua Borough: Score - 1.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? No.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? No.

Northampton Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Palmer Township: Score - 8.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2004.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Only for one of five supervisors.
Online newsletter? Yes, The home page appears to be a detailed online newsletter.
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online Payments? Yes.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features?
The site contains links to its community center, athletic association, business association, fire department and to forms for various codes and permits.

Pen Argyl Borough: Score - 4.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? None.

Plainfield Township: Score - 4.
Minutes? Only a few meetings listed, with no apparent orahnization.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? On the home page, there are notices.
Calendar? A meeting schedule is listed on the left sidebar.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? The web page does contain downloadable forms.

Portland Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Roseto Borough: No webpage. Score - 0. Athogh Google links to a web page, I have never been able to access it, nothwithstanding several attempts over several days.

Stockertown Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Tatamy Borough: No webpage. Score - 1. Council member Chris Moren publishes The Tatamy Pa Blog, which represents a commitment to transparency by at least one Council member.

Upper Mt. Bethel Township: Score - 5.
Minutes? No. (About five months from 2009)
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? A nice feature of this site, and one I see nowhere else, is the ability to business owners to add links to their sites. The site also accepts ads.

Upper Nazareth Township: No webpage. Score - 3.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Some downloadable forms are available.

Walnutport Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Washington Township: Score - 4.
Minutes? Yes, most recent.
Agendas? Yes, most recent.
Email contacts? None for elected officials.
Online newsletter? Yes, in the form of "announcements."
Calendar? No.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? No.

West Easton Borough: Score - 2.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? None for elected officials.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.
Ordinances? No.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? No.

Williams Township: Score - 7.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2004.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? Zoning. Subdivision and Land Development.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? This site contains numerous application forms, zoning forms and recent ordinances.

Wilson Borough: Score - 6.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2005.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? Four of eleven elected officials.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Ordinances? Some.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? This site also contains an online complaint form.

Wind Gap Borough: Score - 6.
Minutes? Yes. Back to 2002.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.
Ordinances? Yes.
Online Payments? No.
Municipal webcasts? No.
Additional features? Zoning forms can be downloaded.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bushkill's page is regularly updated every three to four years.

Dave said...

Bangor Boro is trying to get a webpage and is working with the school district to have a student invloved in the design and maintenance of the site. We have had a false start and now are waiting for the school to advise us as to whether or not they have an appropriate student to do the job for us. The district has the web design software and it is fairly expensive to buy so we are trying to do this as best we can in light of costs to the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
Now please list Lehigh County's community web sites.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's the plan. It's a lot of work.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave, In 2007, Bangor did not have a web page. They've been trying three years? You don't need a student ot any technical ability. At this point, it's safe to say the will just is not there.

Anonymous said...

Dave - Educate yourself. What you say is a bunch of nonsense.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No need to attack Dave personally ... and anonymously. He is a member of boro council and thus knows what is going on.

Anonymous said...

the nice thing about websites now is that if you get the site designed, you can easily have google docs embedded in the website to manage and update teh information at literally no cost. it is fantastic.

We've been doing this with www.kutztownpa.org, experimenting with different functions and formats. I like the quick control. the design is simple. often times, what kills websites, is the dated information.

In 2010 this is just a must for local gov't. it is no longer an option.

Geoff

Anonymous said...

Dave said...
Bangor Boro is trying to get a webpage and is working with the school district to have a student invloved in the design and maintenance of the site. We have had a false start and now are waiting for the school to advise us as to whether or not they have an appropriate student to do the job for us. The district has the web design software and it is fairly expensive to buy so we are trying to do this as best we can in light of costs to the taxpayers.

7:12 AM


Dave,
Sorry but the Web's been around 10years or so. There's no excuse for not having a Web presence.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
No one is attacking Dave. It is his excuse that is being challenged. Government officials come up with all sorts of excuses. How much is the software? Did Dave post a free ad on the Web seeking an adult volunteer to create the site? Did Dave contact the community colleges to ask for a student seeking term paper credit in exchange for creating such a site. The point being, Bernie, imagination and a willigness to see something through is what is needed. Excuses can last a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

No need to attack Dave personally ... and anonymously. He is a member of boro council and thus knows what is going on.

Being on boro council doesn't qualify one to "know what's going on" with regards to website creation. This simply requires a few hours of time to read and educate yourself. You can have a website up and running in a couple of hours using any number of services without "expensive software."

Dave said...

You people are harsh. Kids in the HS need projects like this to graduate and we believe that student involvement is a good thing. I'm not making excuses..just telling you we are trying and will move on if the school can't/won't help us do it. Other things seemed to take priority but now the council is commited to doing this in a prudent and non costly manner. If any of you want to volunteer to do this for the boro..please call the office and we'll call you back asap!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave, Except for one borderline comment, I don't think people have been harsh at all. You can get a web page from godaddy.com for peanuts. You can even set it so that bangorborough.org goes into a blogspot, and essentially run it for free. I'd volunteer to do it but I don't live there. As Geoff pointed out, you can use google.docs and other sites for big pieces of information and to keep timely. It is very easy.

You are not the school district. You are a borough. You have an obligation to be transparent and accountable and are failing. Let the school district educate the student. You have an obligation to inform the people of Bangor.

Anonymous said...

I use Easton's website all the time.

There's a lot of information. Good. on the other hand, some pages have been under construction for over a year. No purchasing info as promised to encourage open and transparent bidding.

Council agenda posts use to be several days before meetings. Now, they are a day before. It's hard to use the minutes archives because there are no short names used for legislation, only numbers. If you look at minutes from several months ago, you will have no idea what they were voting on.

Mitman use to have more financial info including budgets which allowed you to follow legislation. Mitman also permitted a lot of community posts. I hear that such posts may be expensive.

not so casual observer said...

CHAPMAN BOROUGH uses the tried and true Grapevine for its website. It seems to work well even if the power goes out. We have 200 residents and everyone knows what is happening. If they need anything, believe me they call ME or the MAYOR mostly. The problem is not the cost it is the maintenence. If you are on Boroguh Council you have extra tasks and it all takes time.

So if you can all forgive us, we are doing just fine up here in the boonies.

Dave said...

I'm not tech savvy enough to do this on my own and I have only been on board for a little over a year. The school now says they don't have a student who wants to take this on so we have to move on and we will. I realize the need and was leading the charge to get this done when our student rep. dropped out and left us holding the bag so to speak. It will get done and I am doing all I can to make it happen. Not all of us can snap our fingers and make a web page appear. Again..If anyone wants to help us..please call the boro office and offer your assistance in this matter.

Anonymous said...

"The problem is not the cost it is the maintenence. If you are on Boroguh Council you have extra tasks and it all takes time."

so why exist. if you have so much to do, merge with a neighboring township to find some effiencies.

there is no excuse for keeping residents in teh dark. the grapevine is code for "in the back room where no reporters can watch us."

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Good work. Web access is important, necessary, and basic. The next step is live webcasts at all levels of government. There is no reason I cannot sit at home and watch any public meeting.

Publius

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Good work. Web access is important, necessary, and basic. The next step is live webcasts at all levels of government. There is no reason I cannot sit at home and watch any public meeting.

Publius

na studios said...

Bethlehem Township does accept payments online. On their menu system the button is called Payments.

I don't mean to use this as a plug but our company has spent many years developing the best methods to deploy good municipal website design which is why the majority of the top sites listed on this blog have been created by our company...na studios (http://www.nastudios.com)

Our government sites include...
The City of Easton
Forks Township
Bethlehem Township
Lower Saucon Township
South Whitehall Township
New Britain Township
etc...

For those townships that are in need of a well constructed website, please feel free to contact us.

Bob Bysher
na studios
http://www.nastudios.com

not so casual observer said...

We are open to everyone, and the public does come to some of our meetings. We are ot secretive. THe factis we are a historic old borough wuth a nice way of life and very low taxes. We all pitch in an things get done. If we had a website there would be no need to change it except perhaps once a year.

I think it should be up to the people of CHapman to decide if they'd like tohave a website..not bloggers who are not part of our municipality.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Just for that, I'm moving right next to you. There goes the neighborhood.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bob, I think I should let everyone lnow I do not know you or your company. That's probably why you're so good.

na studios said...

Bernie,

I do appreciate the fact that you run a blog like this. I believe it to be very informative so thanks for your efforts! I myself have been in business for 13 years. I was born & raised in Easton and later moved into Bethlehem Township. In my personal opinion, government should be completely transparent. After all, this is where our tax dollars go. We encourage all of our townships to put as much information on their sites as possible. We design simple content management systems to help them keep their websites up-to-date. And for those townships that don't have the time or resources to update their site, we offer inexpensive maintenance packages where we do all of the work. There's no excuse why some of the local townships can't have a better website.

Cheers!

Bob
nas

Bernie O'Hare said...

Keep up the good work, Bob.

Anonymous said...

FYI Northampton Borough has a website. www.northamptonboro.com

Unknown said...

Hey Bernie -

Hope all is well. It's been a while since this blog post but I wanted to make you aware that Tatamy Borough has upgraded it's online presence with a full-blown, fully operational, professionally crafted website thanks to Bob Bysher and his team at NA Studios. You can find us at www.tatamypa.com

Additionally, our Facebook page is alive and well and I have made a commitment to the citizens as Mayor that I will update it as much as I'm able to do so, to make sure that everyone has as much info as possible. Check us out at https://www.facebook.com/tatamypa/

Thanks for all you to do to keep all of us honest! :).

Best,
Chris Moren
Mayor, Tatamy Borough
cmoren@tatamypa.com

Bernie O'Hare said...

Congrats, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate your efforts to be transparent.