By CARL SMITH
Local government and Mississippi State University officials unveiled a new county website which they say will help deliver pertinent information to citizens and serve as a streamlined first impression for outsiders curious about the community.
The site, located at http://www.oktibbehacountyms.org, features detailed information about county departments and services, a comprehensive list of elected and appointed officials and detailed maps of county districts and facilities. The project is the culmination of a two-year, zero-cost effort between county administrators and MSU‚Äôs National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (nSPARC).
Web browsers can use the site to view information ranging from county alerts and updates to simply finding out where to pay a speeding ticket. Officials say additional features will be added in the future, including the ability to pay property taxes and renew automobile license plates.
Each county department can access their portion of the site and add additional alerts and information as they develop. For example, County Administrator Don Posey updated the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors‚Äô page to include June board orders and supervisors‚Äô July 2 meeting agenda. Posey says he will post future agendas, meeting minutes and board orders to the site.
County and university representatives gathered and officially launched the site Tuesday at the county education building. Domenico ‚ÄúMimmo‚ÄĚ Parisi, nSPARC director, and other research center employees said they were excited to work on the collaboration because it gave them a hands-on project which will better their own community.
Parisi said designers aimed for the highest visual quality and functionality possible to reflect the hard work and dedication of Oktibbeha County‚Äôs employees.
‚ÄúVisual quality is the first impression, and we wanted to convey to the public and anyone interested that we are a community that cares about quality. We spent a lot of time making sure the visual quality of the website is appealing,‚ÄĚ Parisi said. ‚ÄúThe site‚Äôs design was heavily influenced by the end users. (County employees) are really trying to make a difference. If you sit down with them, you see how passionate they are, and we wanted this community-oriented site to reflect that passion.‚ÄĚ
Troy DeRego, an nSPARC user experience designer and local resident who worked on the project, said his design approach focused on connecting all residents to county government and creating a user-friendly experience.
‚ÄúAs a citizen, I knew how different (the previous county website experience) was before,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI was excited to work on this project.‚ÄĚ
Besides its use as an informational tool, county board of supervisors President Marvell Howard said the site is a useful tool for economic development because it allows interested parties to ‚Äútest drive Oktibbeha County.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt serves as Oktibbeha County‚Äôs new business card and will be an amazing tool to market the community,‚ÄĚ Parisi said.
Melvin Ray, an associate vice president for research at MSU, said the project reflects the university‚Äôs focus on service.
‚ÄúService equals outreach; Outreach and community development are in our DNA,‚ÄĚ Ray said.