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Palm Coast Tuesday, May 29, 2018 3 months ago

Commission praises website plans

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The final vote will be June 4.
by: Wayne Grant Real Estate Editor

It’s likely that the Flagler County Commission will vote approval for a new tourism development website design at their June 4 meeting after tabling the matter at their May 21 meeting where some commissioners said there was not enough information in the agenda documents to make a decision.

At a workshop on May 29 to discuss the matter, Matt Dunn, tourism development executive director, apologized, saying the project had been delayed for various reasons, including last year’s hurricane, and he was concerned there would not be enough time to redesign the website before the current contract runs out.

“It had to do with me trying to move it forward,” he said.

After receiving a presentation from Tourism Development Council personnel at the workshop on how the new design will boost tourism and actually have a lower annual cost, only positive comments were heard from County Commissioners.

The cost of the new design will be $46,475 and will have an annual cost of $56,000. The annual cost of the current website is $59,000 to $61,000.

 “There’s not much difference in cost and it’s a much more robust product,” said Commissioner Donald O’Brien.

All of the funds for the website come out of taxes on hotels, short-term rentals and campgrounds, so it’s all visitor-generated.

The selected company, Simpleview LLC, was not the lowest or highest bidder.

“You get what you pay for,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said. “We’re confident our website is the gateway to visitors and we want to put our best foot forward.”

The commissioners mentioned receiving emails from residents who criticized the expenditure. Coffey responded to a comment which said that Go-Daddy or Wordpress should be used, explaining that these sites are informational, and do not accomplish the needs of a tourism website.

Amy Lukasik, the TDC director of marketing, told the commissioners that one of most important features is that the site will adapt for laptop, pad or phone usage. Most people are using phones for getting information on the Internet, she said.

“It functions just as good on a phone,” she said. “That’s what we’ve been missing.”

Another plus is that Flagler County staff can make changes at any time to the website, even using their phone, she said.

The search engine optimization, which edits content so the site appears high in Google searches, will be enhanced, she said.

Commissioner Greg Hansen said one of the criticisms he had received that the cost included $2,000 per month for SEO, but he emphasized the importance.

“If SEO is optimized, we will continue to come up on pages when they search,” he said.

Commissioner Charles Erickson Jr. praised the work of the tourism office.

“This team we’ve got in TDC is bringing in more business every year,” he said, pointing out the college golf teams as an example.

“These college golfers are the new generation of executives,” he said.

In the public comment portion, Jane Gentile-Youd, who has announced a run for the County Commission, said the county should also redesign its website.

“It’s disgraceful,” she said, referring to difficulty in finding a meeting agenda as an example.

She said people considering moving to the county look at the website, so it should be improved, as well as the tourism website.

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