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Middletown Transcript
  • Townsend expanding web tools with social media, online billing

  • Townsend’s town government is rapidly expanding its online resources, with the recent additions of a new email alert system and Twitter account soon to be followed with an online bill payment system.
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  • Townsend’s town government is rapidly expanding its online resources, with the recent additions of a new email alert system and Twitter account soon to be followed with an online bill payment system.
    “One of the things we’ve truly lacked in the past has been direct communication between the town and the residents,” Mayor Jermaine Hatton said. “It’s been a goal of ours to resolve that problem, and we believe these tools will allow us to get information out to our residents more quickly.”
    The new email alert system, which launched last month, allows residents and non-residents alike to sign up for notifications by scrolling to the bottom of the town’s website, www.townsend.delaware.gov, and entering their email address.
    Those who sign up for email alerts are required to respond to a message seeking confirmation of their address, but no personal information is requested.
    Residents don’t have to clutter up their inbox to receive the notifications, however.
    The same information also will be made available on the town’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, which provides the community with multiple ways to stay on top of emergencies, public announcements and upcoming events, said Councilman Joel Esler, who chairs the town’s community relations committee.
    “It’s a unified system, so now whatever we post to the website automatically goes out to through email and social media,” he said. “The real beauty of it is there is no cost. The email alerts were available to us through our existing website, so there was no additional cost there and the social media components are completely free.”
    Three weeks after launching, the town’s Twitter account has only gained eight followers, but Esler said town officials are hoping it becomes as popular as the town’s four-year-old Facebook page, which has more than 440 fans.
    “I’m not sure how much people in Delaware use Twitter to get their information, but (the town feed) is there for those that do,” he said. “It’s just another tool we have to get information out.”
    In the coming weeks, Townsend will further expand its web presence by rolling out a new online service that will allow residents to pay their $25-per-month trash bill directly on the town’s website.
    “We’re hoping to roll it out in the next 10 days, but we want to be sure everything works first,” Hatton said last week. “It should be available for residents to use the online bill pay for their July bills, but if not then, definitely for August.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Esler said the new service will be made available through the town’s existing accounting software package, which it purchased from New Jersey-based Edmunds & Associates earlier this year.
    “Prior to that, we were using Quickbooks and the town’s auditors had been recommending for years that we upgrade to something better suited for a municipality,” Esler said. “This online billing service was available as part of that new software, so we decided to take advantage of it because anything that helps residents pay their bills on time without having to make an extra trip to town hall is to everyone’s benefit.”
    Hatton and Esler said they’re hoping to eventually make tax bills payable online, as well.

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