published Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

City of Chattanooga says website needs $328,000 redesign


by Cliff Hightower
www.Chattanooga.gov needs a redesign, the city says.
www.Chattanooga.gov needs a redesign, the city says.
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The City Council is scheduled to vote at 6 p.m. today on a resolution authorizing Maycreate to update the city’s website for Chattanooga.

Chattanooga’s website needs a redesign, despite the $328,000 price tag for a complete overhaul, a city spokesman said Monday.

“We have been looking at redoing the city’s website for years now,” said Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield. “It needs it. Everybody has complained about our website and how hard it is to navigate.”

But one councilman said he is not sure the expenditure is needed right now.

“I don’t seriously think we can afford this type of project at this time,” said Councilman Jack Benson.

Chattanooga first considered a contract for redesign of the website last week but delayed voting on the project. It is scheduled to come up again at tonight’s council meeting.

The city is looking at a contract with Maycreate for $328,000. The city would pay $128,000 for the first phase of the project and $200,000 at a later date for the second.

City officials contend an updated website — it was last updated almost nine years ago — would allow greater transparency for city government and be easier for users to navigate.

Benson said he is having second thoughts about paying for the redesign.

“I’m glad we delayed it,” he said. “The more I look at it, the less inclined I am to vote for it.”

Councilman Manny Rico said the expenditure is worthwhile.

“If we’re going to keep up with the technology, we’ve got to do this,” he said.

The site is “more than your typical website,” he said, and cost should not be a factor. It will take some expenditures to make sure the proper technology is in place, he said.

“When we did the website eight years ago, it cost around $300,000,” he said.

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.

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While I agree the website needs updating, I don't see why this project can't be opened up for bids.

June 28, 2011 at 5:02 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Ridiculous! This is the same group of leaders who thought it a good idea to make policemen pay to take their cars home to save money. Can't afford to help the police but they have no problems when it comes to stupid things. Talk about a waste of tax payer dollars, I never heard of a website and management costing this month. Also, there's nothing special here that isn't something a couple of hired geeks can't do.
The fact that the council paid $300,000 eight years ago for a website, and now wants to spend $328,000 is unbelievable. A $300,000 website is absurd enough, but to turn around and repeat the mistake eight years later is foolish. Taxpayers of Chattanooga wise up.

June 28, 2011 at 6:57 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

Envision 2 people working full-time for 6 months at $150 an hour each to redesign a website and you come up with $300,000 as a fee. Wow, nice work if you can get it! Hard to believe it would actually take more than a week or two of work. Maybe $150 an hour isn't realistic. Maybe this is one of those jobs that only illegal immigrants will perform because of the low pay.

June 28, 2011 at 7:29 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Signal paid under $5000. and they have a nice website: Town of Signal Mountain.gov

I'm not getting how this costs $328,000. Why not employ your own geeks for this? This stinks to high heaven.

June 28, 2011 at 7:39 a.m.
bpqd said...

Unless about $250,000 is for hardware somehow wired into the City, I don't see how we get to $300,000.

Coffeeshops around town are filled with unemployed PHP programmers. The city's public webiste uses mostly static web pages that don't require updating faster than once a day. It's not that hard of a job.

If they only need a public website with a three pages per department, comparable with the departments listed in their task organization chart in published budgets, I know I would be willing to code it for less than 10% of what they say they are going to pay.

If they're paying $300K, then there has got to be extensive private intranetwork overhauls involved, or these people are just complete rubes when it comes to paying for technology.

By the way, the much-derided-by-Republicans-and-Tea-Party-Fanatics Allied Arts AVA Media Lab offers memberships with access to the latest in consumer digital design applications. Maybe the City bigwigs need to take a class over there so that they can understand enough HTML and design applications to realize how they are spending their money.

Oops. I forgot. Those arts programs aren't seen as worthwhile investments in this area.

Too bad, because between that media lab and the public library, I know I wouldn't get milked for $300,000. No, I'm pretty sure I could do a complete overhaul of the entire city's public website for far, far less.

Too bad we've skimped on paying for those "liberal" arts programs. Maybe if they had been adequately funded, we'd not only have the huge crop of people who can do this job to standard, as we have now, but local leaders would have been exposed to these topics enough to keep from embarrassing themselves.

Even Mayor Littlefield could be smart enough to use Dreamweaver.

Maybe.

June 28, 2011 at 8:18 a.m.
pgoldberg said...

Let's say you had the fastest internet in the country...let's say you had a semi-private utility providing that internet with a vested interest in being the named sponsor of said city's technology portal...seems like you could have the entire thing paid for and developed by private companies without a dime from tax payers. If it's really going to drive in the dollars the council members say, large local businesses benefit from every person who moves to the city. Wal-Mart, Bi-Lo, EPB. You could even have a bidding war between EPB and Comcast on who is willing to pay the most to get top billing.

June 28, 2011 at 8:46 a.m.
bpqd said...

Even if they are complete rubes when it comes to buying network programs like web pages, it's just so unethical to charge those large sums that there has got to be something wrong.

Hopefully, the story is wrong.

Anyone who would take $300K for just those web pages, and I mean only those web pages we see on their public website now, would be carrying out some kind of borderline fraud. There would have to be some other kind of services involved: interviews of employees, hardware improvements, sophisticated math and programming: something.

$300K for completely being in charge of any and every web page used by a mid-sized City like Chattanooga? That'd be about right; but, only if it included all of that extensive data sharing used in private terminals throughout the city. Like, the databases and web pages used to see who paid their taxes, and so on; keeping that locked up and wired in on a closed-circuit intranet system, that'd be what would cost the big bucks.

A few dozen public web pages? Mostly static? Maybe updated weekly? Even with custom writing, photography, illustration and design, and also with a few hundred dollars per month devoted to retaining techs and maintenance, it should come in well below 10% of what they're quoting.

June 28, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

This is the second time, Chattanooga has paid $300,000 plus for a website. So, yes, you are correct: they are rubes.

June 28, 2011 at 8:57 a.m.
bpqd said...

Perhaps the outsourcing costs of sending this work away from Chattanooga is part of the bill.

It looks like the online payments page for court stuff is done through municapalpaymentsonline.com; it may be Tyler Technologies. If it is them, they list 23 offices throughout the US. None of them are in Chattanooga.

http://www.tylertech.com/about-us/office-locations

The online hiring for HR is advertised as outsourced to Neogov. http://www.neogov.com/ Again, outsourced services. Neogov apparently does all of the HR computer work for the state of Tennessee. Three major offices, all of them out of state.

http://www.neogov.com/default.cfm?page=offices

So, apparently, some part of this $300K is going to buy services from out of state companies. All of the complex computer work is done someplace else. Probably all of it by machine.

This means that the web pages and some of the art are nearby, but the hard crunching calculations appear to be done automatically in places like California and Massachusetts.

So, redirect a subdomain over there and outsource it. Hardly worth $300K.

Is the $300K paying the salaries of a full time staff of half a dozen people 365 days a year? I'll leave it alone for now, but as you can see, for $300,000 we ought to somehow see $300,000 worth of goods or services. There should be some kind of large hardware purchase or employee salary that's observable. A strait cost for the project of coding these web pages alone is simply not worth $300K.

If all this is the case, then I'd have you know that I have sorely needed work for the past few years. I could have coded this, either by myself or with local BFA-grade design help, for under 10% of what was paid. Meanwhile, it's obvious that the hard math on these computer science problems was routed out of state. So, whatever those fees are: maybe that's the substance of this bill. Really, we have our own database guys in this City; it's not unreasonable to believe that we could have employed our own people.

Thanks for sending out the work. I love being unpaid some days.

If you need a web page coded for less than a quarter of a million dollars, try any coffeeshop in this city. I might help you out.

If this job was open for bids, I know I'd pitch an invoice at near 4%, $13,000. I have been citing "less than 10%" because my sight unseen estimate of this work is below 5%. Even at ten grand I could still contract an assistant.

Way overpaid. And also outsourced when we're low on work. Thanks.

June 28, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.
fedup350 said...

Manny Rico thinks this is a good idea? Keep in mind that he voted to close and take away three police precincts (one in his own district) to save the City $30,000 then he turned around and voted to spend $30,000 on a tarp, yes a TARP, for the Summit ballfields. How in the world do the citizens and voters in his district re-elect him? He and any other City Council person who votes for this had got to be voted out. The Chattanooga City Council is the laughing stock of the South and if you look up "The worst Mayor ever" in the dictionary you will see a picture of Ron Littlefield

June 28, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
GoonrGrrl said...

bpqd is spot on. There's no excuse for $300k/+ being spent again, most of it directed out of state. I agree the website needs improvement, but the City Council really needs to revisit how it's spending its money, b/c there's no way the site as it exists is worth paying $300k for.

June 28, 2011 at 11:16 a.m.

I only hope that 'those' who run against 'those' who are presently in office will bring these issues to light. What shocked me is that beeland even permitted this issue to be made public. The administration clearly has dreadfully distorted priorities and ONCE AGAIN label the citizens of the scenic city as stupid. God Help US if anything more than a few hundred dollars is spent for a more 'transparent' website...it's not rocket science folks.

June 28, 2011 at 11:53 a.m.
Pita said...

This job should definitely go out for bids, and Maycreate should be required to provide references from several recent clients. The Council may benefit from knowing what others have experienced in working with this firm. They should try to discover what it's like to work with them, if they actually deliver the goods in a timely fashion and as promised, and continue to support clients after payment is made...or if they are one of those design firms whose primary expertise lies in promoting themselves and talking up their "vision" for the project.

Of course, if this is just another "good 'ol boy" arrangement I wouldn't be terribly shocked, just disappointed... again.

June 28, 2011 at 11:54 a.m.

I will not apologize for my opinion under any circumstances. One can report fraud, waste and abuse on the present website. littlefield is by far the primary violator. Such a wonderful city (filled with so many good people) suffering while he is in office. I live for the day that he is no longer mayor of Chattanooga.

June 28, 2011 at 12:02 p.m.
bpqd said...

This smells of sending money to Jon Kinsey.

Apparently Maycreate is Old Chattanooga money. They're next door to the Tivoli. The Chattanooga.gov website is not listed in their portfolio, but the Choo-Choo is. You know what that means: it's what's his face before Corker used the Mayor's office to line his pockets.

If they've got the Choo-Choo contract, it's probably Jon Kinsey's connection. Maycreate also has Chattanooga Convention and Visitor's Bureau listed as their client. Kinsey has been chairman of that organization.

http://www.maycreate.com/featured.php

Interestingly, it turns out, despite my insults earlier, that Allied Arts is also a client of Maycreate. These people know that a website does not cost $328,000. They have got to know that this does not cost that amount.

That Embellish shoe boutique is in some expensive North Shore real estate. Anyone want to guess who owns that building? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the landowners for some of those organizations were related to these political connections. The Visitors Bureau moved into the old abandoned movie theater at the Bijou parking garage. I suppose they have some connection to that building.

So, drop 22% of 328,000, and you're left with about a little over $250,000, net. It sounds like a 10% allotment for taxes and 12% allotment for something else. That 12% is near $39,000, which would be about double the 4% I would have charged. So maybe under $15,000 to build the website and two allotments of $5K for the outsourced data services, with a $5000 allotment for related taxes and service fees.

That plan would leave $250,000 left over in pure profit.

What do these business cronies need a quarter of a million dollars for?

Buying ads for upcoming elections?

June 28, 2011 at 3:15 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Did Maycreate do the first website too? The one that needs revising? The city paid $300,000 back 8 years ago, so that would be during Corker's term. That they are used to overpaying for websites and never questioning this tells a lot about the city.

Btw, Embellish is at Warehouse Row now. It's owned by Teri Holley, her husband is the CEO of Capital Mark.

June 28, 2011 at 3:25 p.m.
bpqd said...

I take it you noticed those Capital Mark guys are on the portfolio list for Maycreate, also.

I probably should have gone to that council meeting and told these people I would do the website for much less. I am confident I could do it for near or below $14K, aside any expenses over $500 per year. Even if those outsourcing companies are billing us like madmen at a cost I can't absorb, I know the page coding cannot require so much typing that it's an impossible job.

By comparison, a basic Cray supercomputer from Dell costs $35K.

http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Processors/productdetail.aspx?sku=A3336379

How much can it possibly cost to code and operate this website? Even if we had to build and code every bit of this from scratch, including massive databases, it just could not cost $328,000. Even if we bought them premium hardware, like that supercomputer, and retained lawyers and had two people parked on some phones at a help desk, we still could not come to these costs.

It's possible to spend $325K, but I really think this job is, at full service, far less.

The plain pages are obviously far below what they are saying. I am confident I could have coded this job on my own, typing by hand, for $14K or less. Even if we billed them a thousand a week for three months, a generous amount of time to do this entire thing by hand, including testing and deployment, it still would not be over 5% of what they are saying.

$14K, plus recurring expenses like pre-existing contracts, royalties, internet hookup, etc.

June 28, 2011 at 6:48 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Wish you could have gone, but not sure anyone would listen to you. It would have been awesome to let them know they could have had a Cray Supercomputer and everything else, plus still not even come close to the cost with hiring you. I still can't fathom this cost.

We need to hire local and not cronies. This is so unfair. I hope you get some good work from this bpqd. You deserve it for enlightening all of us on this matter.

June 28, 2011 at 8:22 p.m.
wade_hinkle said...

So many great ideas here, and expenses that would be so much cheaper. Why doesn't our leaders get it. Who is it that Brian May(the owner of Maycreate) knows that gets this contract without having to bid for it.

June 28, 2011 at 9:24 p.m.
AdamHK said...

There was an RFP process. You can see a breakdown of all of the proposals at http://chattarati.com/metro/government-politics/2011/6/24/crowdsourcing-where-chattanoogagov-redesign-began/.

MayCreate was the only local company to bid.

June 29, 2011 at 7:13 a.m.

@bpqd - Wow, you obviously have everything figured out. So smart in so many ways. Maybe you should be mayor, since you are in touch with every conspiracy theory related to deep seated issues of politics.

Nevermind the fact that you're willing to work for 75 percent less than the going rate for the expertise you claim to have. God knows I'd love to build a top notch house with a contractor that claims they can undercut everyone else in the market with promises of crazy low prices, but no portfolio to back anything up with similar projects... I would have a problem with that.

I don't agree with the price of this contract. I really believe that it could be done cheaper, but this discussion is downright ignorant and to insinuate that the City of Chattanooga website is doable for $14,000 is unrealistic and anyone who says otherwise is a hack.

June 29, 2011 at 11:19 p.m.
zjcavan said...

Please!

What 50-year-old, out-of-touch white guy made that $328,000 decision? There is no way that a WEBSITE should cost that much. If you think that it should, like the Mayor's office clearly does, then you are as out of touch with 2011 as they are.

It is no longer 1996. Websites and web developers shouldn't cost that much to redesign or design anything. Stop using your @aol.com email and get with the program!

Give me $328,000. I'll build you a fantastic website. I'll go to school to learn how and spend some time gaining some experience and then slap something together and still have enough money to buy the biggest boat on the TN river.

Hire young people who are computer literate in your office and you'll know when someone's trying to screw you for a $328,000 website.

July 8, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.
dao1980 said...

That's just it zjcavan, most of our leaders and office holders are in fact waaaay behind the curve on the ever more quickly evolving social-economic-technological world that we live in.

Of course Grampaw thinks a "new fangled, computer picture site" for our city should cost that much. He has spent most of his life using a typewriter.

The biggest problem today is due to elected "elders" making important decisions based on lessons they learned in a world that disappeared fifty or so years ago.

Sure, study history fervently as to not repeat its mistakes. But to choose your actions as though you were still in the past only screws up the present.

July 8, 2011 at 10:11 a.m.
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