SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to transfer $13,900 from undesignated surplus funds to buy a new website that should debut in early 2013.

The intent, said City Manager Jim Gailey, is to update the site, which is based on 15-year-old templates, in hope of helping the city “rebrand” its image.

“The current site does not allow the city to provide the professional look it should to its residents and visitors,” said Gailey.

A contract with the winning bidder, BaileyDonovan of Manchester, N.H., has yet to be signed, but is slated to include a $25-per-month hosting fee.

“At that price, I’ll push for a three-year contract, or even five, if I can get it,” said city IT Director Shawn Pennington.

BaileyDonovan was actually not the low bidder for the project. Green Light Websites of Biddeford offered to do the work for $8,700 (with a $75/month hosting fee) but lost out, said Pennington, “based on a comparison of product.”

“The higher-priced bid actually had a much more professional feel to it,” said Pennington, noting that BaileyDonovan was the unanimous choice of councilors and members of an ad hoc website committee, based on company portfolios.

“They didn’t know the prices, they just voted on which one they like the style of,” said Pennington. “This is the kind of thing you can’t base solely on low bid.”

“The sample website from the company selected was significantly more eye-catching and seemed to be more functional and will do a better job for the city,” said Councilor Tom Coward. “And, the price is certainly right.”

One other firm solicited for a bid, Simmons Ardell of South Portland, did not ask for an ongoing hosting fee, but wanted $65,000 up front.

“I think we can all agree that was kind of out of our reach, financially,” said Gailey.

Councilor Maxine Beecher said a website revamp has been a topic of discussion since she first won election nine years ago, but “has always been put off because of the money.”

“It’s nice to see we are finally moving into the Internet age,” said Beecher. “People who go to our website say it’s like we’re still in kindergarten. It’s time we moved forward, because people actually make decisions about you after looking at your website. It sounds crazy, but we live in that kind of world.”

Councilor Tom Blake, who pushed for a website overhaul during his term as mayor three years ago, said estimates on the project ran to more than $125,000 at that time. He credited Pennington and the website committee for securing a price that “is a delight.”

Pennington said the content-management system platform will allow department heads and other “non-technical” staffers maintain and updated information. That, he said, saved the city the cost of having to hire a webmaster.

“This system will allow us to move forward without adding bodies to grow the way we need to grow,” said Pennington.

Because the final price was less than $15,000, council approval was not required to award the bid. Monday’s vote was to transfer funds from surplus to pay for it, given that the project was not included in the municipal or capital-improvement budgets.

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