The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council has set a workshop on compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act regarding its web site. The workshop will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2 before a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. and its regular meeting at 7 p.m.
The workshop will discuss the cost, which could be considerable and has not been factored into this year’s budget.
Information technology consultant Steve Murray reported that he has been working on ADA compliance for the town’s web site as well as other projects.
“There are three components of the web site that we have been working on: redesign, agenda automation, and ADA compliance and testing,” Murray said. “One of the items that the council asked me about was if we were to do audio only for the meetings. I did receive quotes from a vendor for audio-only streaming. That cost is $9,700 a year for the first year and $6,500 a year ongoing, so it is a significant investment if the town wants to do audio-only streams. It is an option if you do not want to do video streams.”
Murray said the $9,700 is for audio streaming of all meetings. At an earlier meeting, he explained that video streams require expensive closed-captioning in order to be ADA-compliant, but audio streams do not.
“The bulk of ADA compliance is going to be the video streaming of meetings,” he said. “I received quotes from Florida Captioned Services to close-caption the video of only the council meeting, and that was almost $15,000 a year, so it is significant.”
Murray said the quotes he received from the town’s two web providers for redesign, agenda and ADA compliance are within $1,000 of each other at about $37,000 a year, then tapering off slightly in subsequent years, although there is a greater difference between the companies for providing closed-captioning.
“That is a significant cost, which is why we want direction from you,” he said, adding that the redesign proposes to remove large amounts of older data that is generally unused, but keep it available through the town clerk for public records requests.
“What we tend to see is that meetings and information that is older than a year is usually only used as a research item,” he said. “We recommend that those be taken off the web site and run through the clerk as a public records request instead of being available on the web site.”
Murray said that removing those records would significantly reduce the town’s liability and exposure to an ADA-related lawsuit.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said she was not sure she was comfortable with making certain records available only through a public records request but added that when she did research, old data seems to come up before the more current information.
Murray recommended identifying an individual who is responsible for managing information on the web site.
“Unless somebody is on site that is in charge of content updates on a regular basis, then it will become out-of-date very fast,” Murray said.
Council members asked what would become of old data that is deleted, and Murray explained that all the data online is merely a replication of hard paper data that will be retained by the clerk.
“There is a cost to having that available on your web site without anybody using it,” he said. “At some point, we do want to determine what we want to have available and what should be for the clerk to access.”
Murray said most municipalities keep the records online for about a year before they are archived. He explained that records that are not online do not have to be ADA-compliant.
Councilwoman Lisa El-Ramey asked if agenda automation will cost more, and Murray said the additional cost will be offset by requiring less staff time to organize the agenda and less work during council meetings finding agenda backup items.
Councilwoman Laura Danowski asked if the council should schedule a workshop to discuss details of the web site and develop a plan to be approved later at a meeting.
“We can absolutely do a workshop if that is necessary, where we can do demonstrations of software,” Murray said. “Typically, once a council gives us direction on the source, or funding acceptability, then usually we coordinate the efforts through the manager.”
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said that from the council’s direction that evening, the IT people could compile the best proposal that represents the council’s wishes, funding levels and desire to make the web site ADA-compliant.
“We can set it up as a workshop if you want to look at actual demonstrations and options, or we can put it together as a package,” Titcomb said.
Danowski agreed that the town needs to be ADA-compliant. “Do we have a deadline for that?” she asked.
Murray said that as long as the town is showing that it is making progress on the issue, it is resistant to a lawsuit.
Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said there are lawsuits throughout the state challenging municipalities’ web sites.
“We have been consciously making efforts to educate the council in recent months to start moving this in the direction that it needs to be,” Cirullo said.
Maniglia agreed with Danowski that they should have a workshop to consider a considerable number of questions that had arisen. “I really don’t want to put this off,” she said. “I think this is something that we can put behind us.”
Danowski made a motion to schedule the April 2 workshop, which carried 5-0.