I received your message and it is an excellent question: “Why do I have to go to another website rather than have this information on the County’s site? Seems like a complete waste of money and resources.”
We discussed the content of your question early in the process of preparing the Request for Proposals, and once the proposals were received, during the process of interviewing the companies who submitted proposals: How can we best utilize the web to help engage the general public?
A high priority of ours is to make all information about the study available to the general public in the best way possible. This includes ongoing progress of the study, the information generated during the process, and broader online participation by the public through the use of community surveys and similar activities. Not everyone can attend public meetings, so it is important to make it as easy as possible for them to contribute by other means. We also discussed what options we might have to further distribute and provide access to the study once the work is complete. This is not something that we expect to sit on a shelf collecting dust, rather something we will strategically market to help facilitate the best possible and most complimentary uses for the interchange. A few simple changes to the content of the Plan CR25A study website could easily transition it into a marketing tool.
The county website is somewhat limited in how and where we can make this information available to the general public. As I’m sure you have seen, there is a lot of information on the Plan CR25A website, and while we might have been able to squeeze it into the county website, we believe a lot of the pertinent information would have gotten lost. There are a lot of departments, resources, information, and other items contained within the Miami County website. To accomplish what we have done with the separate website, we would still need to add internal pages and content to the county website, which wouldn’t have been entirely free. Surprisingly, a simple website created by templates available online is relatively cost effective. Not everything is perfect, but we hope the notices, banners, and links that appear on the county homepage and on the Department of Development page make it easy for the public to access the study.
We want the CR25A study to “be its own thing,” so to speak. We want all county stakeholders to feel ownership of the study. We want the work, the interactions, the dissemination of information, the exchange of ideas, the public participation, and the transparency of the study to occur in a special space, or special place, separate from yet linked through the county website. Please have another look at the Plan CR25A website and see if what is accomplished is far greater, and we hope far more effective, than what could have been accomplished by inserting the general information on the County website. Based on the limitations of the County site, it would not have been as robust and engaging as the project website, which was accomplished with minimal cost and to which we believe will achieve greater return.
I am happy to discuss this further and to address any additional questions you might have. I encourage you to attend the next public meeting, which we are looking to schedule during the second week of December (let me know if you want to be added to the direct mail distribution list). Please feel free to engage in ongoing conversation with me, whether by email or in person. We can’t work to support and advance public interests without public input, so I am very pleased you reached out to me via the contact form.
-Richard Osgood, Miami County Department of Development Director