WEST ALEXANDRIA — West Alexandria Village Council voted to delete the contact form found on the village website during a meeting held Monday, June 18.
The decision came after discussion from council regarding how time-consuming the village website is. Originally, council wanted to delete their emails all together, but after the public weighed in, they decided to keep the emails, but take records of them down from the site.
Council member Jerry Carter III opened the discussion.
“I went and did a fact finding mission on what we actually have currently for administration and I’ll present that to the council,” he said. “What we’re doing now is we have probably about five hours a week of work that was previously being done. That includes about 30 minutes a day checking emails — either with those emails even if we’re not using them, they’re out there and people can still send the emails — that builds up and they need to be checked.
“There’s also a bucket out there that if they use the domain and say junk at whatever the email is, it’ll go into that bucket and that has to be cleared out of the junk email. That builds up. With the special announcements that gets posted on the website, there’s formatting that has to go in and special notice has to be formatted correctly. It’s five hours a week, 20 hours a month that was previously being done.”
He continued to state that Clerk Christine Bitner was doing that work, but is no longer doing it. He added, “We need to decide as a council if all of that work we still want that being done, how that’s going to be accomplished? Do we have a volunteer to do that? Are we going to pay somebody to do that? Or are we going to go back to the company who made the web page and ask them how much they would charge to administrate?
“Basically, because I did the investigation, I decided that the 20 hours a month — the work is not that hard to do, it’s just time consuming. That’s more than, as a volunteer, I’m willing to take on myself. If we were to size down, the website and what we’re asking of it, let’s keep it static, except for posting the minutes, and maybe announcements of special meetings. We’re talking maybe 30 minutes for each action, so maybe an hour a month to do that. That’s something I can volunteer to do, if that’s what we want. That would mean disabling all the emails.”
Council replied that they thought that was a good idea, as they don’t use their email regularly.
Clerk Bitner spoke up to make a plea against deleting the emails.
“Please, I cannot get rid of my email,” she said. “The email I’ve been using is a Yahoo account, and every time I have an interaction with Verizon or a company like that, they balk at that email because it is not a company email. So, I mean, it creates more work for me to use that Yahoo email, which really isn’t that clear either. I prefer to have a more official email.”
There was some confusion regarding what emails would need to be deleted, but according to Bitner and Carter, there needs to be a catch-all email. That way if someone does send an email to the mayor’s deleted address, that emails still go somewhere.
Law Director Richard Faber suggested, “Close all the emails down and what emails are there, make a record of them.”
Carter responded, he wasn’t sure that he could make a record of old emails.
A representative from EMS stood and replied that they need their emails, because they use it to communicate with hospitals and EMS coordinators.
Carter replied, if there is one email on the service, there is going to be a junk box and there will still be work that needs to be done for the website.
Currently, there is a contact page on the village website, but it is an image that lists everyone’s emails and phone numbers. Bitner added, the image can be removed. Carter suggested the image be taken off, but the emails kept. The junk email would still need to be emptied. Bitner was asked if she was willing to keep doing that service for the village.
Village Administrator Chris Day, who is Bitner’s boss, replied, “If we’re going to do that, then she’s going to need more money. That’s fine.”
Bitner added, “If you do not want me to do anything on the website, I go and check those emails probably three or four times a day, in between doing other things. If all you want me to take care of is the email, then yes that would be fine.”
Carter asked council, “Can I submit in a form of a motion any minute or special notices a month will be done by me administered on the website as a volunteer, and Christine [Bitner] as a volunteer? Is that what I heard?”
Bitner responded, “No, I’m not volunteering.”
“As part of her daily duties, because I didn’t hear any money, will still administer the general mail file,” Carter corrected.
“Now, I respectfully refuse,” Bitner said. “These are specialized skills that not every single person can do. I’ve been doing this for a year and I did approach council when the website was started and I was told to wait until budget time. All due respect, I feel like trying to better myself, help the village out, and do more specialized things — try to prove that there is a future for me there. For me to do all these things and then it be ignored, as if it was no big deal, when it was quite a bit of work and it still is. If I’m not going to be compensated in some way for the additional effort, I would respectfully decline to do any part of it. It would probably be best if someone else did.”
Council member Holly Robbins argued that compensation would go to Day and that Carter just did not hear Day levy additional compensation for Bitner’s work. She argued, compensation would be something Bitner and Day had to discuss outside of council. Day would then have to bring the amount to council for approval.
Bitner stuck to her statement about declining the additional roles, but Day suggested he bring an amount for Bitner to be compensated at the next meeting.
However, council members argued it needed to be done at the current meeting, because meeting minutes needed to be put online.
They decided to rely on volunteers instead, and council member Deb Smith volunteered to manage the junk file email, if Carter would do everything else on the website.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH