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Marine City, Mich., Works to Upgrade Municipal Website

City Clerk Jason Bell said he had been working on the website upgrade for a few months and got pricing from three companies: Munibit, Revize and Granicus. The city's current website is by CivicPlus.

a close up of a website address
(TNS) — The Marine City Commission on June 6 approved several administrative items, including a proposal to upgrade the city's website.

City Clerk Jason Bell said he had been working on the website upgrade for a few months and got pricing from three companies: Munibit, Revize and Granicus. The city's current website is by CivicPlus.

Bell said the city was due for an upgrade from CivicPlus a year ago, as its platform was out of date, and he still has not received any word about it.

"I have reached out to CivicPlus multiple times to provide a quote for what we were looking for," he said. "I never heard back. As you all know, the clunkiness of our current website is there. I don't think it works, and I've brought up this concern before and I know city manager kind of shares this with me — if we're more than three clicks to find information, we've lost the residents. I think the information needs to be more accessible, needs to be more available, allow us to be more transparent as a government."

He said the city was looking for a complete website redesign and website hosting, as well as some add-on features.

"Some citizen reporting modules, some mass text and email notifications out to the citizens were a few of them, some interactive forms that would have been on the website for people to do just submit them through instead of coming in here or making more than three clicks to find them on a website," he said. "Just anything that can make them easier. When we went through that, a lot of them, those were add-on features, add-on fees."

He noted that the three companies had very different price ranges.

The quotes for Granicus were $14,595 for the first year and $6,741 for the second year for website only or $48,476.63 for the first year, including implementation and training, and $32,159.60 for the second year with optional applications included.

The Revize quotes were $9,850 for the first year and $2,300 annually for website design and maintenance only or $19,850 for year one implementation and $7,800 per year with all optional applications included.

The Munibit quote was for $1,668 annually.

Bell said the main thing the city was looking for was the website redesign and hosting, and that they figured they could add the add-ons at a later date.

"My recommendation is Munibit," he said. "As you can see, the pricing is far, far less than the other two companies there. Munibit specializes in smaller municipalities, smaller government websites. So they understand what smaller governments come up against with budgetary concerns and what they're looking for to connect with their residents."

He said the city is currently paying almost $2,800 annually for CivicPlus, so Munibit would cost less. He also noted that the city of Fennville uses Munibit and said that the city administrator there loves it.

Bell said Munibit has some included tools that would benefit the city and there are third parties the city can go through for additional add-ons. He also said the website would allow for video on it and the current agenda and meeting minute software could be integrated.

City Manager Scott Adkins said the people at Munibit are responsive and have good customer service.

"The mobile web layout is always different than like a standard browser and Munibit seems to do quite well with mobile websites, as well," Commissioner Sean O'Brien said.

Commissioner Brian Ross made a motion to accept the clerk's proposal of utilizing Munibit for $1,668 annually. The motion was unanimously approved.

Phone system

The commission also unanimously approved a motion to use CTS Companies for a citywide upgraded Voice Over IP Phone system at the price of $871.60 monthly.

Bell said the city currently uses Comcast and has since 2018. He said the new phone system would run through the internet and that he received bids from five companies, including CTS Companies, BSB Communications, Nextiva, Pantera and Ooma.

He said the proposals offer a lot more services than Comcast, and when he spoke with Comcast, he was told there were no other features that it could offer.

Bell listed a few of the functions that the new phones would be able to do, including video conferencing, the ability to record calls, a team chat feature and a digital fax option.

"What we're currently paying for Comcast is about $770 per month, so there is a little bit of an increase, even with the recommended company of CTS, but what really drove me to them was their customer service and their personability," he said. "Out of the five quotes that you see here, they were the only ones to come on site, other than Comcast, to meet with me. Everything else was done over virtual meetings."

He also noted that CTS is local and has an office in Port Huron and there are technicians that live closer that can be there quickly for issues.

Bell said CTS representatives said it would be more beneficial to lease the city phones instead of having the city buy them, so that they can be replaced faster and the technology could stay fresh. He also said CTS offers an a la carte subscription option that allows the city to choose what features to put on different phones.

"It's $101.60 more than we currently pay and has a ton of extra features and includes hardware and everything else so sounds like a good deal and hopefully will help your engagement with the city," Ross said.

The agenda also included a Comcast fiber proposal. However, the commission voted to postpone the item, as the information that had been given to the city was incorrect.

Mailing, postage equipment

The commission also approved a Quadient prepaid mailing distribution and equipment agreement and purchase of a DS35 folding machine.

Finance Director/Treasurer Katy Posey said the city currently leases mailing and postage equipment from Quadient and that the five-year agreement is up for renewal. Quadient now offers an online portal and distribution, instead of mailing large quantities in house.

The agenda states that a formal bid process is not needed, as Quadient is a Sourcewell-awarded contract through the state of Michigan.

The new agreement will be for the online portal and distribution, as well as an updated postage machine, as required by the postal service, and professional services as needed for five years at $311.74 monthly.

Posey said the city sends out about 2,500 tax bills twice a year and then about 750 water/sewer bills a month, and it takes a lot of time to run them through the folding machine, put them in envelopes and then run them through a postage machine.

Instead of leasing a new folding and stuffing machine, Posey said it was recommended that the city purchases its current machine that it is leasing outright for $697.38.

"There are going to be things periodically where we can't send it through the automated system and we will have to have it folded here," she said. "The lease includes 5,000 automated mailings already, so if we go over 5,000 a year we'll have to pay like an a la carte amount."

She said currently the city prepays postage, and with the new system, postage will be billed each month.

"So we're only going to be paying postage as we use it instead of prepaying it in advance," she said.

She also said the postage currently left on the machine will carry over to the new machine.

The commission unanimously approved a motion to approve the five-year contract with Qudient Leasing USA Inc. for the prepaid mailing distribution and equipment agreement for $311.74 monthly for five years, as well as a motion to approve the purchase of the city's existing DS35 folding machine for the single sum of $697.38.

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