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MENNA DERAILS WEB DEAL

BoroughwebsiteThe homepage of the soon-to-be-replaced borough website.

Score one for public pushback.

Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna anounced last night that he won’t sign a contract that would have paid C3 Citizen Communication Center $2,000 a month to build and maintain a new borough website.

He cited issues raised at a recent council meeting, as well as “rather spirited” comments posted on an unnamed news website (ahem) among his reasons for putting the brakes on a deal that appeared to be a fait accompli when it was unveiled last month.

Even though the council had authorized that the borough sign up with C3, “We will not be signing the contract,” Menna said at Monday night’s bimonthly meeting of the governing body.

Still, the borough will get at least temporary benefits from its dance with C3. Menna said the Nutley firm had gone ahead and developed the new site, and has now volunteered to launch and maintain it, at no charge, while borough officials continue the process of determining just what they want the site to do, and who to create it.

The site could be launched as early as today, but won’t have a citizen-alert component that C3 has built into similar sites for Fair Haven and Middletown, Menna said. Such a system requires users to register, which raises privacy issues among other questions should the borough opt for another provider, Menna said.

The URL for the interim site — which will replace the current site — was not available last night.

Meantime, Menna said the education and technology committee headed by Councilwoman Kathleen Horgan “will be holding a number of public discussions, here in the council meeting room,” about what the borough needs and wants its website to do.

The borough will then issue requests for proposals from parties interested in providing the service, Menna said.

“There’s no guarantee that what has been done by C3 will be implemented,” he said, calling the interim agreement “a fair and equitable resolution of the issue” that “won’t cost the borough one penny.”

“It brings us into the modern age and still puts this out to public discussion.”

When Horgan announced the apparent deal with C3 in late December, it came under immediate and harsh criticism from then-Councilwoman Grace Cangemi, who said she’d had no prior awareness of the deal despite having been appointed by Menna to the committee.

Horgan, who recently began her second year on the council, indicated she had largely shepherded the process by herself, with input from borough officials.

Then, earlier this month, Jim Willis of Harrison Avenue, a web information specialist, urged the council not to tie itself to proprietary software like C3’s, but instead to rely on “open source” software developed and continually improved by communities of civic-minded programmers. [Disclosure: Willis provides tech services to redbankgreen, though he was not speaking for this publication in this matter.]

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