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Aug 12 2020

Online Excellence

By Casey Fields for The Island Connection

The Town of Seabrook Island has received a Municipal Achievement Award from the Municipal Association of South Carolina for its website redesign and online public comment portal. The town, which won in the 1,001 to 5,000 population category, competed with 30 cities and towns that submitted their projects for consideration.

The Town of Seabrook Island understood from the flood of 2015 and hurricanes in the years afterward that its old website had significant limitations while in emergency mode. Advisory alerts had to be very short and could not be archived, and the aging website was expensive to maintain, difficult to navigate and not mobile friendly.

Officials decided to resolve these issues with a new website. The town began a comprehensive planning and research process with an advisory committee made up of local residents. While a third-party developer had created the old version, town staff created the new site in-house for less than $600 – far less than the cost of the previous site.

The new version of town of seabrookisland.org launched in April 2019.

Built on a new hosting platform, it features improved navigation and a community calendar. The site also improves transparency with an archive of audio recordings from public meetings of the Town Council, commissions, committees and boards.

The town coordinated with local businesses for a new visitor information page.

 The site also has a public comment portal to promote resident engagement in the policy-making process and help them better understand how local government works. Residents can review and submit comments on pending action items. For public hearings on ordinances, 77% of the comments received by the Council came from the new site. The site continues to be key for emergency notices, which are now archived. In the three days before and after Hurricane Dorian, traffic was up by 947% compared to the rest of 2019.

“Leaders in Seabrook Island saw an opportunity to improve a vital service for residents, and in doing so they found a way to include their residents in the decision-making process,” said Todd Glover, executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina.

These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. Information and a video about the project are available on the Association’s website, masc.sc.

The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the achievement awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovation and excellence in local government.

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