SOUTHINGTON — Since Garry Brumback became town manager he has been striving to create a virtual Town Hall through new initiatives.
In the spring a new website was launched with an interactive calendar, online payment system, a new search engine and a mobile site for smart phones.
Town Council candidates were contacted to share their opinions on technology, if they agreed with Brumback’s plan and what they would like to see happen in the future with technology.
“We have an unbelievable website right now,” said Dawn Miceli, a Democratic incumbent. “If you take look at other municipalities and what they have on their websites, we are far above and beyond where so many communities are.”
As for future ideas, Miceli said she hasn’t had any conversations about further needs on the town’s website.
“We were way behind with technology in this town,” said Republican incumbent Cheryl Lounsbury. “Our departments didn’t talk … I think we did some much needed upgrade with technology.”
Lounsbury said she would like to see the town become more “technically sophisticated” with tax records and billings by putting them into an electronic database. She believes that could make things faster and “more user friendly” for citizens.
Tom Lombardi, a Republican candidate, said a virtual town hall should “serve as a complement to the in-person experience … not a substitute.”
“I would love to see a system implemented where homeowners have the option of requesting inspections and paying fees online as opposed to going down in person,” Lombardi said.
Democratic candidate Dennis Conroy suggested a central technology department to service other departments.
“Maybe we should have one technology department with school, government, with the Police Department and Fire Department,” Conroy said.
“(They) should be all on one system with same language,” Conroy continued, “so it’s easy to maintain. ... I suspect we would be moving in that direction if we haven’t already.”
Republican candidate Paul Champagne said expanding email by allowing bigger files to be sent between departments, citizens and the town could be helpful.
“Enhancing the server and tying it in to the school system, that will be an important thing,” Champagne said. “If something happens, one email can respond to everyone and alert everyone.”
While Democratic candidate Chris Kelley believes that the “more information available online for citizens, the better” he still feels that there should be other options.
“We must make sure that we do not rely too heavily on a virtual town hall as there are members of our community that may lack the means to access the Internet regularly or when needed,” Kelley said.
“The town must be able to continue the personal interactions.”