The state is mandating governments to update official websites. The update is costing the city $8,500, according to Alderman Mark Messick.
Messick pointed out during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen works session on Tuesday, Dec. 4 that the Tourism Commission has its own website for the city has well.
“Here’s one thing I would like to bring up and I’m going to pick on you, Ryan, a little bit, okay?” Messick said. “Tourism’s got a website. I don’t understand why we can’t merge those two websites. Tourism, in the last two years, has paid of $22,500 for their website. Well, don’t shake your head Ryan, I got the check stubs right here.”
French pointed out the pay stubs are mainly payments for media marketing and not the website. The Tourism website cost $9,200, 50 percent of which is reimbursed by a state grant, meaning the city pays $4,600 for the tourism website.
Messick wondered if the two websites could be combined to save the city money.
“Our website is focused on people who are travelling,” French said. “We want a website that focuses on where to eat, where to shop, where to go on adventures.”
He added that the site is regional and not focused solely on Manchester happenings.
Depending on where “Manchester, TN” is being searched in the county, the top results can be very different in Manchester, residents will commonly see the official city website. Outside of area, the search may bring up the Tourism Department’s website.
French’s concern is that combining the two in the future will cause problems and confusion. When it comes to the city website, he asked “What are you trying to accomplish?”
Aldermen Bob Bellamy said he wanted a city website that promotes city businesses as effectively as possible.
French countered and said, “As a citizen, I want to go to a city website or an app and report that there’s a pothole on my road,” French said. “I don’t want to know that there’s a great event that’s happening in Lynchburg tomorrow.”
French believes tourism and city/residential services are two different efforts
“I know some people don’t take tourism very seriously, but it’s a massive industry for our city.,” French said. “Our county brings in $95 million a year in tourism expenditures and all the surrounding counties don’t top $30M. It’s a big deal and those numbers are growing and they’re growing because there’s an effort behind it.”
Messick questioned why tourism can’t do the same thing as Parks and Recreation.
The Manchester Parks and Recreation center’s page of the city website will be getting an overhaul in the future. The page will get a redesign, but is staying a part of the city website. Parks and Recreation Director Bonnie Gamble explained 80-90 percent of the city website’s hits come from people going to the recreation department’s page.
French explained why that option wasn’t plausible.
“The ship has sailed. The money’s spent, the grant’s acquired; it’s done,” he said. He explained he was not willing to spend more money to integrate the two at this time and tourism has grant obligations to fulfill.
Vice Mayor Bill Nickels was behind French’s decision.
“It looks like it can be one thing, but it can’t,” Nickels said to merging the two websites.
The discussion ended shortly after, with Messick dissenting.
“As much money as we need to spend, we don’t need to spend more here,” Messick said.