what does half a million dollars buy?


“Information is moving you know…..moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets”

That is a George W Bush quote from May 2, 2007, that illustrates his complete lack of comprehension regarding the world wide web and social media,  but it could have easily originated from Town Hall.

The Town of Aurora’s website is a complete disgrace to our town and the visible lack of integrity in the town’s website mirror’s that of outgoing council’s.

I have commented on the website previously here: 
http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/letter-to-the-auroran-burying-our-towns-websi  ,
here:  http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/a-website-yeah-we-got-one-of-those ,
and here: http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/town-of-aurora-shaking-their-wales-feathers

Sarah Horton, a fellow UX designer summed up effective web design as this :

“The measure of quality in web design should not be good looks, but graceful transformation: pages that can be accessed under different conditions and keep their integrity… A real web designer embraces the medium and designs for maximum inclusivity.”

I couldn’t agree more.

If anything the website fails to embrace the medium or capitalize on several industry trends, it is designed to obstruct not include participation from its audience.

Interested in finding out how much money the current council has wasted on the website I started a little investigation.
There is absolutely no openness and transparency in the town’s budget process to illustrate where and how much money is being spent on initiatives like the website.

It was quite an ordeal to find out what I did.

The website was redesigned back in 2006 by some hole-in-the-wall company called Fuego Digital Media Inc.:  http://www.fuegocms.com/page?s=262&lang=en-CA

Feel free to peruse their client list and projects, it is less than impressive.  I can’t believe that this company won a tender with such a poor online portfolio.

So what did this abomination cost us, and what are the rolling costs?

I found this article to the Auroran from councilor Buck:


From it I was able to extract the following:

Design cost – $70,000

Monthly Maintenance fee $5,000 x 12 = $60,000 annually x 4 years = $240,000

Annual license fee – $8,000 x 4 years = $32,000

We’re at a staggering $342,000, and we haven’t factored in any staff costs.

A Web Specialist position was added in 2009.

Page 16 of the 2009 Administration budget shows the position costing $79,000.

If you multiply that by two (years 2009 and 2010) we reach $158,000.

In 2010 a web audit was conducted at an approximate cost of $9,000.

It was referred to as a “Web satisfaction survey” and was poorly advertised on the towns website and the Mayora Banner’s noticeboard.  You most likely missed it but it looked like this:


After completing the survey I failed to see how this was nearly $10,000 of tax dollars worth spending.
You don’t need a satisfaction survey, you don’t even need an external audit of the town’s website.  It needs to be completely overhauled.

Page 5 of the 2010 Administration budget shows the cost of the Economic Development Website Redesign to be a staggering $20,000.

Led by Communications hack, and council candidate Chris Ballard, the Economic Development Advisory committee decided to build a “virtual office” for serving Aurora’s Business Enterprise needs as opposed to building an actual office as laid out in the 2006 strategic plan.

This is the Economic Development Website, that I commented on here:

So what are we up to ?


Over half a million dollars, and the result is a web presence that is unusable, unfriendly, unnavigable, and the laughing stock of the region.

Are we getting our money’s worth?

Not even close.

When recently revisiting what was returned as part of an F.O.I. request to one of our citizens I was dumbfounded to read the town’s position regarding the website.

Usually, words are chosen carefully, and communication of policies and procedures is paramount when approaching such a task.

Apparently this is not the case here in Aurora.

The F.O.I. request submitted by Richard Johnson was an attempt to get answers as to why the code of conduct complaint was not removed from the town’s website.

The F.O.I. request is evasive and supplies answers like “only under the direction of council”…blah, blah, blah.

I have included the F.O.I. request here should you wish to view the entire document:

FOI 2009 – 34.pdf
Download this file

But what was most disturbing was the following statement:

“I have been advised by our communications unit that the Town does not have written processes or procedures for removal or editing of material posted on the Town’s website.”


Read that again: the Town does not have written processes or procedures for removal or editing of material posted on the Town’s website.

That cannot possibly be true.

No organization operates this way, let alone a 50 Million dollar enterprise.

This response came from the Town of Aurora’s Manager of Corporate Communications a position that is costing the taxpayers $110K and is currently held by Jason Balantyne.

As of this year the Corporate Communications Division Staff Complement for the Town of Aurora is :

Manager of Corporate Communications
Marketing & Special Events Coordinator
Communications Specialist
Web Services Specialist

Mr Balantye is 100% responsible for the town’s website as per the following reporting structure reported on page 10 of the 2010 Administrative budget.  Mr Balantyne reports directly to the C.A.O.

Pages from 2010 Administration.pdf
Download this file


How can a “Communications Manager” with such responsibilities make such a response?

Page 7 of the 2009 Administration budget clearly states under the heading “Communications Division – 2009 Action Steps”

#8. Continue to manage the Town’s website including design, services, content and navigation; analyze statistics, address departmental needs and recommend improvements to navigation and services.

Page 19 of the 2008 Administration budget has an entire page referencing “Website Management”

Under “2008 Action Steps” point # 1 reads:

Review website content and update regularly

There is even a 2009 “Action Step” that reads :

Develop 2010 website plan with associated budget.

I have no idea where this item is hosted, was it was ever created?

Does anyone at Town hall care?

Your website cost tax payers over half a million dollars.

We care.

oh, and we vote too.




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