Macon’s web presence has come a long way
Macon County’s government website started 16 years ago with a shoestring budget.
“I built the first webserver in 2000 on a refurbished computer with Linux and Apache. I think the project hardware and software cost about $58,” said Andy Muncey, the county’s IT director.
Today the county spends about $14,500 a year for email/web hosting services, but Muncey and the IT department still manages all the content and updates. And while the site may not have the most eye-catching design, it serves its purpose well. Based on The Smoky Mountain News’ analysis, Macon scored high ratings when it came to online services and transparency.
Its simple and straightforward design makes it fairly easy for residents to contact their elected officials, pay their taxes and navigate county procedures like building permits or rezoning requests.
Muncey said content provided by departments and requests from the public helped grow the website into what it is today, and he’s pleased that the site can help save residents a trip to the courthouse.
“I most often wondered how much gas and time it saved as we saw the foot traffic and phone calls diminish,” he said.
The current Macon County Board of Commissioners and County Manager Derek Roland have prided themselves on being as transparent to the public as they can — and the website is an example of that goal.
The public can view the line-by-line budget for 2016-17 or read about the highlights in Roland’s detailed budget presentation to commissioners. While some county administrations are slow to post the minutes and supporting documents from their monthly meetings, Macon County consistently posts its minutes and documents in a timely manner.
Commissioners took it a step farther in March by installing new software and cameras in the commissioners’ boardroom that will allow the county to live stream meetings online. The meeting videos are also archived on the county website so residents can view them anytime. The software cost $550 and the annual service cost is $1,188. The two new cameras installed cost about $560 each.
Tony Angel Media did the last major upgrade to Macon’s website in 2010 to the tune of $7,200. Even last year, Muncey said the IT department used a service called Siteimprove to find and fix broken links, typos, coding and other issues.
Maintaining a website is a lot of work that requires constant updates.
“It takes years to build and a year to become obsolete,” Muncey said. “But we had features on our website in 2004 that major metropolitan areas have only recently developed.”
2016-17 Budget: $47.7 million
Annual website expense: $14,500 (email/web)
Initial website expense: $58
Year launched: 2000
Avg. visits/month: 22,816
Avg. unique visitors/month: 11,707