Maine Gold Star Communities
By Lisa Leahy, Office of eGov Services
The 121st Maine State legislature passed An Act To Encourage and Support Maine Small Businesses which calls for the development of an enterprise-wide online business registration system and encourages municipalities to participate in Maine’s electronic government initiatives by developing a Gold Star Communities Award.
In response to Gold Star Communities directive, the board of the Information Resources of Maine (InforME) and the staff of InforME have carefully reviewed Maine municipal websites for best practices and service availability, acknowledging that the landscape of resources varies significantly from municipality to municipality. Following are the recipients of the awards:
Gold Star Community- Cape Elizabeth
Visiting Cape Elizabeth’s homepage it is clear that the city takes their online presence very seriously. They have acknowledged the efficiencies and efficacies of online services and have therefore stepped out as a leader in Maine’s municipal government landscape. The homepage provides access to every municipal department City Clerk to the Comprehensive Planning Committee. The City of Cape Elizabeth is very thorough when it comes to making information and services available to their citizens and visitors.
Beyond a simple web presence, Cape Elizabeth showcases many online applications on their website, including: rapid renewal, dog licensing, ATV/Snowmobile registration, property tax status information, hunting and fishing licenses, contact requests, as well as planning information. Additionally, the city makes forms available to their citizens, online, ensuring that citizens have them already completed when visiting the office or they may mail them in. Some of the forms/applications that are readily available are; heating permit, marriage license, mooring, home occupation, and absentee ballot. By providing these services, Cape Elizabeth is giving their residents an opportunity to transact business with their office 24 hours a day 7 days a week and developing efficiencies for their constituents and the city.
Cape Elizabeth is a glowing example of a Maine community improving relations with their constituents through electronic government and Maine’s Gold Star Community.
Long Term Achievement- Portland
Serving a population of more than 64,000, it is an absolute necessity for the City of Portland to provide a robust website and online services. The city leaders recognized this early and responded by being one of Maine’s first communities to adopt and online presence and provide online services. Portland’s website features useful information using “life-event” navigation making the site an example for usability. For example, persons interested in becoming a Portland resident or “LIVING” in the city are able to “cyber visit” places of interest, including hospitals, the chamber of commerce, and transportation options. Additionally, job-seekers to the greater Portland area are opportunity to tour some of many different of employment opportunities, among other services offered within the “WORKING” section of the site. Of course, “PLAY” is always important and the city’s website provides access to number of places that will keep constituents entertained, be it winter and summer sports, dining, or cultural events. It is all readily available through a simple point and click!
Of course, static web content is no longer the cornerstone of a website, users require the ability to complete a transaction. To this end, Portland has been a first or early-adopter of a variety of services including vehicle registration renewal, payment of a parking ticket, licensing a dog, purchase of a hunting/fishing license, locating a property, obtaining voter information, and the search for vital record information. The city has plans to expand on these services, planning first, to offer property owners an opportunity to apply for a building permit online.
Honorable Mention- Greenwood & Fort Kent
Greenwood is a small Maine community that has a big online presence. A town of approximately 800, Greenwood offers every online service that is available in partnership with the state, including Rapid Renewal, dog licensing, hunting/fishing licenses and ATV/snowmobile registrations. Because resources are limited, the town has availed themselves of Ready.Set.Gov! in order to provide a their basic homepage and has modified the service to include their town meetings and minutes, news, a calendar, history, departments and a request for more services. Greenwood has recognized the demand, leapt at opportunity, and provided excellent service to their constituents.
With a great deal of enthusiasm, Fort Kent Town Manager, Donald Guimond, came to InforME to participate in the Rapid Renewal pilot program. Maine’s northern-most community began providing the online vehicle registration renewal in July of 2002, making them one of the first 10 communities to roll-out the service. Now, the town offers an enhanced web presence, featuring a variety of services and information for citizens, visitors, and the business community. Their site has provided tools for constituents to participate in town business, including council agendas and minutes, links for businesses and community, an activity schedule, ordinances and parks and recreation information on their site. They have also added a feature of a guest book to their site for visitors to provide their comments, thoughts or suggestions. Furthermore, Fort Kent’s online services page offers hunting and fishing license purchase and ATV/Snowmobile registration. Fort Kent led the way for Rapid Renewal and continues to be a leader.