City’s Website Time Warp Under Repair 

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The city of Richmond touts two digital government awards at the bottom of its website's homepage. They're both from 2011 — just like much of the information on the site.

Clicking around the website offers a glimpse of the city as it was three years ago. The Procurement Department touts a forecast that offers "a snapshot of projected projects that are scheduled for bid from August 2010 thru 2011." The Transportation Engineering Department, responsible for traffic safety, hasn't updated its page since 2010. The Sustainability Department's homepage offers that the city will install a green roof in 2012.

Former mayoral candidate and activist Rick Tatnall found the issues while trying to look up a traffic and parking study, he says. Frustrated that the documents available were several years old, he searched the rest of the site to find that many departments appeared frozen in time.

"It's a slap in the face that the information is so poor across the board," Tatnall says. "They went out and got their awards and bagged it."

The relative antiquity of the information on the city's website drew a few jokes at a recent city committee meeting, during which one member noted the Information Technology Department would be building a page for its coming projects. "Will it have that special 2010 feel?" another committee member joked.

City spokesman Michael Wallace says it's the first he's heard of the city's website being stale.

"It is the city's responsibility to provide accurate and up-to-date information at all times," he says. "The information is the responsibility of individual departments. I'll make sure they're aware of that and that the information is corrected."

Virginia Coalition for Open Government gave Richmond a C grade in the organization's 2013 survey of how easy it was to access budget data at 134 local government websites.

While some small towns struggle to operate up-to-date websites, Richmond shouldn't be among them, says Megan Rhyne, the organization's executive director: "A city the size of Richmond, and all of our biggest localities, should have the sophistication and wherewithal to create and maintain a useful website."

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