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By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor
There’s a new “front door for Rantoul,” in the words of a developer of the village’s upgraded website.
Bryan Hahlbeck, regional sales manager for Kansas-based CivicPlus, who worked with village personnel to design the site, outlined the new website at the village board’s monthly meeting last week. It may be accessed at myrantoul.com.
Hahlbeck called the team of village staff he worked with to develop the site “very proactive.”
Village Comptroller Scot Brandon said the site is a distinct upgrade from the previous one.
“We’re very proud of it. We think we’ve got a much better website in both look and content,” Brandon said.
Brandon said the price for the website redesign is $39,714, which includes site development and four years of maintenance, support and hosting a basic redesign after four years.
Hahlbeck said the new website is different both in design and functionality.
Users of the old website, for instance, were able to apply online for village jobs, “but there was no database,” Hahlbeck said. “There was limited job application functionality. Trends show most residents will come to the village website to look for jobs.”
He said the new site also features greater search capacity for board and committee meetings, agendas and related material.
The new website also offers the ability to view posted bids and to track vendors.
Hahlbeck said the village’s old website “wasn’t content management system-driven.”
“Staff didn’t have the ability to go in and make edits or change content on the site. They can now do that and do it easily,” he said.
According to the CivicPlus official, the new website has a “lot more community branding. It’s very citizen engagement-driven.”
It lets the public more readily interact with village officials.
People can sign up for emails for bid estimates and text messages for such things as general updates, alerts, job postings, news updates, calendar changes and agendas.
“The Twitter, Facebook, email and ‘notify me’ will allow the residents to follow the site (without actually being logged into the website),” Hahlbeck said. “You’re accessing (people) where they already are even if they’re not on the website every day, every month.”
People have to sign up to receive notifications.
The new website also gives the public greater capability to voice concerns online for things ranging from abandoned vehicles to more serious problems.
The site is also equipped with a site posting bids and RFPs (request for proposals).
Hahlbeck said the village can expect to see 30-50 new people sign up for the notification services monthly.
Recreation Superintendent Rich Thomas said the Recreation Department had already received two rental bookings since the new website went online five days earlier.
Village Administrator Bruce Sandahl gave a review of village accomplishments in recent months “to show how much Rantoul has improved and changed in the midst of a very difficult economic and political environment” — political as in Springfield and Washington, D.C.
He cited new business or expansion projects including Ace Hardware, Aaron’s Furniture and Appliance, This Is It Furniture, County Market, Rantoul Foods pork plant, Charles Industries expansion, Prairie Village veterans wing and dementia unit, Hope Meadows expansion, Casey’s General Store expansion and renovation, Dairy Queen renovation and expansion, Starcrest Cleaners, Lindsey Lane Bridal moving to the old Busey Bank building, Style FX hair salon expansion, the soon-to-open Internet Cafe, Easton-Bell complex being constructed west of Rantoul, the opening of Maria’s Tacos, the planned Stewart Oil convenience store and gas station, Murray Road ugrade and the planned Twin Lakes senior villa project.
He cited other projects, including the University of Illinois enterprise works, Parkland College and village of Rantoul joint effort for a satellite facility at the Business Center for an incubator for start-up companies, and business start-up management classes.
Sandahl pointed to the Air Force property transfer and airport size reduction.
“We have the final property transfer to the Air Force set for March of 2013,” Sandahl said.
He also cited the planned demolition by the Air Force of White Hall and the construction of the shared-used walk-bike path.
Sandahl also noted the village cleanup efforts by the Rec, Public Works and Inspection departments and airport employees in the areas of mowing, trimming, painting, code enforcement “and working with new business owners.” He also pointed to civic organizations, churches and community groups “that have increased their efforts to improve our village.”
“Continued progress is being made to eliminate substandard housing,” Sandahl said. “Multiple apartments, duplexes, multi- and single-family properties have been eliminated from the market.”
Sandahl also cited the “outstanding efforts” by the police and fire departments.
In the area of the village budget, Sandahl said, “Expenses and revenue show a positive year-end balance again this year. We have not increased the village portion of property tax four years in a row.
“When you look at all these things ... Rantoul has moved a long, long way down this road to revitalize itself.”
The board also:
— Approved a $1,156,311 tax levy ordinance. The board agreed to keep the tax rate the same as last year — 1.31 per $100 assessed valuation. Brandon said at the board study session that the village will receive about $75,000 less in property tax money from the previous year due to a lower equalized assessed valuation.
— Approved refinancing four bond issues. Ken Beth, village attorney, said at the study session that the refinancing could save the village up to $518,00 over the life of the bonds, depending on the interest rate and bond rating.
— Approved the purchase of 10 single-phase transformers from Delta-Y Electric Co. for $21,250 for the Twin Lakes senior villas that will be constructed north of Brookstone Estates.
— Approved a contract with Municipal Well and Pump, Waupon, Wis., for $42,290 for a 75 hp submersible well pump for Well No. 8 in Rudzinski Park.
— Approved the purchase of two vehicles for the police department from Morrow Brothers Ford, Greenfield, for $67,578.
— Approved an ordinance for the execution and implementation of a natural gas all-requirements sales agreement with Illinois Public Energy Agency through March 31, 2019.
— Approved Mayor Neal Williams’ appointment of Jeff Seegmiller to the Rantoul Plan Commission to succeed Dennis Stubblefield, who resigned. The term expires in 2017.