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Commissioner seeks delay of Treasure Island Web site

Published Sep. 13, 2005

(ran Beach edition)

While the city's new Web site is full of information, much of it is irrelevant, according to Commissioner George Makrauer. He wants the city to delay putting the site on the Internet.

The city's proposed site "is filled with data and information that fails to meet the "who cares?' test," Makrauer said.

"We're not breaking new ground, but my position here is we want to break good ground."

City commissioners decided a few months ago to spend about $3,000 to develop a Web site. They hired Horizon Marketing Group to work with the city manager and department heads in creating Internet pages.

"We're about 95 percent complete and ready to go up (on the Internet)," City Manager Chuck Coward said.

But in a two-page memo to commissioners, Makrauer said the city should spend another $2,500 to $3,000 to upgrade the site or "put the project on hold and wait until the funds can be allocated."

Commissioners discussed the issue during a workshop last week and decided to hold a special workshop on the subject at 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 120 108th Ave.

Makrauer said he is hoping Tuesday for "a simple approval" of the extra expense "and not an obstinate defense of a poor product."

Mayor Leon Atkinson said he thinks the proposed Web site looks pretty good. He wants the city to put it on the Internet and make changes later, if necessary.

After Makrauer started complaining, Atkinson said he and his wife, Jeri, viewed the site on their home computer.

"I thought I was going to see something that was done in crayons," he said. "We both sat there and said, "That's beautiful!' "

The proposed site, accessible right now only through the consultant, contains the city logo and seal along with a scene of a beach. Visitors can locate information about city services, special events, meeting agendas and general government information. Material about hotels and area attractions is available through the Chamber of Commerce site, which is accessible through the city Web pages.

"George's attitude is a slap in the face to employees who beat their brains out to do this site," Atkinson said. "I'm not interested in spending more money on anything that as far as I'm concerned would be demoralizing to the employees who worked on it."

Makrauer said his concerns are not personal.

"The folks who have put this together in the city have done a good job, but it needs editing," Makrauer said. He suggested making the site more consistent, condensing some information and changing some graphics.

"What's important is the perspective of the outsider looking in, not the insider projecting out," he said in his memo.

Part of the disagreement stems from the original intent of the Web site. Some commissioners want the site to serve as a marketing tool to draw visitors to the island.

"We never authorized the city manager to develop a marketing type of Web site. We asked him to develop an information Web site for the people of Treasure Island," Atkinson said. "We're not New York and we're not Chicago, we're just a little laid-back town."

Makrauer, who said he has been working with Internet sites since 1994, said Atkinson is a novice when it comes to Web site issues. Atkinson admitted that he is new to computer technology. He said he began Internet service at his home last month. Commissioners Mary Maloof and Allan Sansotta have access to the Internet as well.

Without the improvements, the city's new site would be "difficult to navigate, filled with extraneous information and noticeably inferior to those of other municipal sites," Makrauer wrote.

So far, Treasure Island is second only to St. Pete Beach in developing a Web site. That city's Web site went on the Internet in the fall with information about the Police Department and library. Police Chief Charlie Boice said other departments are hoping to add information soon.

The cities of Madeira Beach and Gulfport also are developing Web pages. North Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Redington Beach and South Pasadena have no Web sites under way.