By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The Town of Grand Island's old website host is firing back at Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray after he leveled criticism at them during Monday's Town Board work session.
McMurray blamed a lack of cooperation between the town's old web host, giecom.net, and its new host, Revize, for the slow pace of migrating data from the old site to the new site.
Councilman Ray Billica had the topic placed on the agenda at Monday's meeting in the Town Hall conference room. Earlier in 2016, the board put out a request for proposals to redesign the town's website and selected Revize for the work from a number of bidders.
"I am not happy with what we've asked all the website designers to do and what was expected of Revize or what has happened," Billica said, noting the volume of work Cyndy Montana, the assistant to the supervisor, is doing migrating the files from the old town website. "Cyndy is taking on so much work that I think we paid Revize to do, so I would like us to take a look at that and if we think that's the case, call Revize in."
McMurray praised the new website, saying, "First of all, it isn't even close to the old site, No. 1. The old site was an embarrassment to the town. No. 2, it's a content management system that we paid for. ... A content management system is what you got, and that's about right for $5,000."
Giecom.net provided the web service to the town from 2008 to 2016, when McMurray was elected and moved to change the website right after taking office.
"Websites take time," McMurray said. He pointed out, "It took forever to move over content" from old to new sites.
Billica had a problem with that, saying Montana should not "have had to move any content at all. Part of the contract was all the content on our current website was to come over to our new website."
McMurray said the old content manager, giecom.net, gave the town a link to a site where the Town Board meeting information packets were all listed individually, not in a group, where they could be download in mass.
"So what we're trying to do is get the old website manager to get involved so we can easily upload them. I'm telling you, every single packet was the process of downloading it going to their site, identifying it in their server, then they changed the name, who God knows why, typing the new name in the server, downloading it, and then uploading it to our site. It's literally the most tedious process ever," he said.
Reg Schopp, owner of giecom.net, said that's not his company's fault. Giecom.net changed the name because the town wanted to prevent Google searches from directing traffic to the old site.
Changing the name "gave them access without affecting the Google search engines," Schopp said. "It did exactly what they wanted us to do."
McMurray said, "The issue was lack of cooperation between the old site and new site. ... Revize is going to come to us and say 'Lookit, we did everything we told you we'd do,' and it's going to be impossible to prove otherwise."
Jodi Robinson of giecom.net chafed at the suggestion by McMurray that giecom.net didn't hold up their end of the bargain. In an email to Montana Tuesday, Robinson wrote: "I'm very disappointed with the remarks made at last night's workshop. I have bent over backwards for you on making this a smooth transition, and to have someone say otherwise is a complete lie."
"Revize never came to us. Not once did they come to us and say, 'Could you give us the site on a disk?' They didn't ask us for anything. Never. And we would have given it to them," Schopp said.
Robinson pointed out that the complaints made Monday came out of the blue. She said that in an email sent in January, Montana praised Robinson for being responsive to problems in the past.
"There were no complaints whatsoever," Robinson said. "And all of a sudden, (McMurray's) blasting."
Billica raised the possibility of having an employee on the town payroll work 10 hours a week to assist Montana, but Montana demurred. She also said updating the data was not Revize's job as delineated in the contract.
Backup of Town Board work is an important historical archive, suggested Councilman Mike Madigan.
"Right now we have back to 2013," Madigan said. "I know I personally have a number of times gone way before 2013 and looked at it because of topics that have come up in this meeting. My sense is the community also."
McMurray said, "They're all there. We're downloading them one by one from the old site."
McMurray said the content has been put on a jump drive, so the process will be easier going forward. On about Feb. 14, at Montana's request, Robinson gave all the data on a flash drive.
McMurray concluded, "Listen, I wish it was better. You know what we should have done? If I could go back in time, I would have talked to the previous website operator and said, 'Can you please do these things and make this easier for us? And that didn't happen. But I don't have a time machine."
The next regular meeting of the Grand Island Town Board will be at 8 p.m. Monday, March 6, in Grand Island Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road.
Grand Island Town Board
Supervisor: Nathan McMurray
Council members: Ray Billica, Chris Aronica, Bev Kinney, Mike Madigan
Send comments to the board at [email protected].