Franklin strives for open government — even online
The town of Franklin’s website is a great example of a small town going the extra mile to encourage public participation in local government.
It’s not the best website money can buy, but the content is what’s important for residents and businesses. Town Manager Summer Woodard said the town started the website in 2009 and was also the justification for hiring a full-time IT director to manage the site.
“I feel a website is a good tool to allow residents and visitors to see what is going on with the town government,” said Mayor Bob Scott. “We post quite a bit of legal notices and general information about the town.”
The town’s contact information is the first thing one sees at the top of the page followed by important town announcements — the 2016-17 approved budget, the 2015 drinking water quality report, audit report, town committee vacancies, project bids and more.
Staff members and aldermen are easy to access with a list of names, phone numbers and email addresses. Agendas are provided for meetings, and minutes are updated through April 2016. The website doesn’t contain all the back-up documents along with the meeting agendas but the town will provide that information upon request.
Through the “Town Planner” link on the town website, residents can access the town’s ordinances and zoning maps. They can also make a rezoning request or apply for different permits.
Franklin’s website also does a good job of promoting local events happening whether its highlighting town-sponsored festivals or linking to other local tourism websites.
The Franklin Police Department and fire department also have their own websites where the names and photos of police and fire personnel are listed. The two departments even post their monthly activity reports, which show how many calls and the type of calls the departments responded to that month.
“I feel the town is obligated to share information with everyone as I have been an advocate of open government,” Scott said. “We exist to conduct the public's business and an open website helps us by giving us an avenue to make sure information is always available to the public.”
One thing the Franklin site is currently lacking is the ability to pay utility and tax bills online, but that will change soon. The town board of aldermen made the decision in January to spend more than $100,000 to upgrade its 17-year-old computer software system. Woodard said one of the many benefits of the upgrade will be that residents will be able to pay their bills on the town website using a credit card.
2016-17 Budget: $8.5 million
Annual website expense: $350
Initial website expense: $350
Year launched: 2009
Avg. visits/month: N/A
Avg. unique visitors/month: N/A