Fairfield, Vermont is synonymous with maple sugaring and dairy farming, and was the birth place of the 21st president of the United States, Chester Arthur. This Franklin County town of 1900 residents does not live in the past, however. Their library, the Bent Northrup Memorial, has a new building with several computer stations and wireless Internet access for personal computer use.
The town office is also keeping Fairfield citizens connected to the present, and looking ahead to the future with the help of Amanda Forbes. Amanda, who was first elected as Town Clerk in 2008, thinks “it makes sense to stay ahead of the curve.” She has helped the town do just that by spearheading the development of the town’s first website.
Although challenged by the lack of Internet access in several areas of town, Amanda wanted to get an e-government presence started right away so residents could access information like board meeting minutes, news and community event listings.
Amanda recruited Michael Malone, a resident and owner of Jupiter Lane Video Productions, to build the town website. As a father raising two children, a school board member and business owner, Michael has a busy schedule. But he agreed that the town needed an online presence, and built a website with his own software and volunteer time. However, since Michael was the only person who could add information to the website it was hard to keep updated. As usage of the town website grew, so did ideas for how to use it. When Fairfield was chosen to participate in the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project, Amanda and Michael decided the time was right to redesign the town website to add more functionality. They chose to adopt a website template developed by the Snelling Center for Government that follows state standards for accessibility and usability. The template also came with a blog function that they put to use right away, with a request for public comment on a sidewalk study. Town staff can now add information and manage the site fairfieldvermont.us.
Town staff and the select board continue planning for the future to provide more e-government services that will “keep people connected as much as possible.” Now that improved broadband service is coming to Fairfield, they want to stream live video of town meetings on the website. Soon people will be able to do title searches online because the town office is digitizing Fairfield’s land records. Amanda is following the Vermont Municipal Clerks and Treasures Association best practice recommendations for this process. Uniformity among Vermont towns for use of Web applications and development will make data sharing much easier, and create possibilities for cost sharing as well.