Update: The County Commission this evening voted to delay consideration of the $284,000 website contract for two weeks, and requested a workshop on the item ahead of the next meeting.
The county administration is asking the Flagler County Commission this evening to approve a $284,000 contract for a website redesign and subsequent support for its tourism division. It is doing so after by-passing the Tourist Development Council, raising questions among members of the TDC, including Greg Hansen, who chairs the TDC and chairs the Flagler County Commission.
“I’ve got a list of questions I’m going to ask today because this was not something we discussed at TDC,” Hansen said this afternoon, two hours before the county commission meeting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. “First time it came up was last week when I saw it in the back-up,” meaning the background material included with commission meeting agendas. But even that back-up was startling: it is a four-page document, including a brief memo taking up a few lines more than a page, and the rankings that showed the winning company after a bidding process. The back-up does not include the company’s contract proposal. It explains the costs in a single paragraph.
Ironically, the company the county is contracting with is called Simpleview. (See its proposal here.)
“Actually the costs are going to go down,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said, comparing the proposed contract with the existing contract. “What you’re seeing is the total potential cost if we buy all potential add-ons to the base of the site, those are optimization costs.”
The proposal, says Amy Lukasik, director of marketing for the tourism department, includes an initial set-up of the site for $46,000, then recurring annual costs of $32,000 for the navigation and content-management system and a few other features such as the calendar of events, Google maps, and a booking engine, and $24,000 for search-engine optimization, the back-end part of websites that optimize individual content pieces, or articles, so they get a high rank on Google and other search engines’ results.
The content for the site, which includes two to three articles a month, is the responsibility of the tourism division’s staff, not the web company, which would only optimize that content. But at $24,000 a year for what would amount to at most 30 to 40 articles, the SEO charge is astronomical.
“They were about average with the other vendors, there were some vendors that were lower, some that were higher, that’s just what their costs are,” Lukasik said.
The proposal appears on the commission’s consent portion of the agenda—that is to say, on the portion of the agenda the commission approves wholesale, along with numerous other items, without discussing each item in turn, unless a commissioner or a member of the public requests that it be “pulled” for discussion.
Matt Dunn, director of the tourism department, said such contracts have not appeared before the Tourist Development Council in his recollection in the past. “Our production of media and our media buys have not gone before them in my recollection,” Dunn said. “Basically we take the annual budget to the TDC, typically I believe in August each year, I do have one on one meetings with them prior to that TDC meeting, but we do review the budget line item by line item.” He said the members do see the breakdowns ahead of time. “It’s not that they haven’t seen it, it’s that they haven’t seen this individual, potential vendor. But they are aware of the expense.”
The size of the contract is what startled a former chair of the TDC and current member.
“It is disappointing to hear that the Tourist Development Council was bypassed without hearing a presentation with such a large expenditure,” said Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, a member of the TDC and a former county commissioner who chaired the TDC. During that tenure, Holland and the panel put in place strict procedures on vetting contracts and proposals before they reach the commission. The procedures were deeply eroded soon after she left in 2012.
“The value and knowledge of these stakeholders appointed by the Commission, who are directly involved with the day to day operations in the tourism industry,” Holland continued, “is immeasurable and should be viewed as an asset to both the staff of the tourism office as well as the county. These decisions will have a direct benefit to the board members that serve on the TDC, therefore their input is even more important.”
Hansen said that he may ask for a delay in consideration of the proposal. The commission is not at full strength this evening: Commissioner Don O’Brien, who usually questions financial items closely, is out of the country.
The $284,000 contract, spread over a little more than four years, comes on the heels of a $130,000-a-year no-bid contract the commission awarded another company, Just Program LLC, for tourism-site web design and maintenance, two years ago. Just Program had been initially contracted in 2011 to host and maintain the website. In 2018, its cost rose to $143,000.
For all that, Flagler County’s tourism website doesn’t rate much in traffic measures, averaging 25,000 to 30,000 total visits per month (not unique).
The county has been spending large sums on website design, development and maintenance, for itself and two of its division: tourism and economic development. Aside from the more than half a million dollars it’s paid for its tourism website in the past five years, it twice paid for economic development redesigns ($50,000 in 2012, and $76,000 in 2015). In 2016, the county administration got the commission’s approval for a $30,000 redesign of its website, including maintenance for five years and a second redesign within four years.
Part of the selling point of the county website contract was that “a reasonable estimate of $1,200 per page was provided should the county decide to blend other sites such as TDC and the airport in the future.” The tourism website, however, is sticking to its own development and costs.
Palm Coast redesigned its website a few years ago. The cost: $0. It did it in-house.
The Simpleview Proposal (2017)
Just another scam and waste of taxpayer’s dollars. And our Flagler Country Commission are people who are supposed to be looking out for the residents best interest and best use of the available dollars? What a joke!
This proposal demonstrates the County’s lack of creditable leadership. Can someone please express the need or purpose for a Flagler County tourism website? Perhaps the County Fair will attract tourists???
This proposal needs not to be approved and the entire tourism issue re-visited.
The Geode says
Tourism? Flagler County? Are you SURE “weed” is still illegal? Seems as if someone has been smoking it…
Sounds Crooked to me, is SOMEONE getting a kick back? At best this an overpriced end run around the committee who’s job it is to control this website. Which is it, makes you wonder doesn’t it?
John Kent says
Why not go wild at taxpayer’s expense, right? We the people swallow anything they put in front of us. We deserve our dear rulers! Its not them, its US that do it by allowing it to happen.
Hire competent people and they can do and manage the website. The county can hire a person who specializes in this area cheaper than this $284k deal. A waste of tax payers dollars and another indication that this county administrator is out of control and needs to go! Unfortunately we have a BOCC that is not serving and letting this county run itself. This is why our taxes keep going up, and this crap needs to STOP!
ALEXANDER MAKARCHUK says
Wow. Allmoust $300000.00 for a web site? Who gets the money? When is a county re-election? This shit has to stop. Fix city infrastructure, install lights down the Belle Terre. So many things to spend money, but they choose to make a web site for tourists. Get the beach into shape at first.
Matt Dunn and Craig Coffey – both of them seem to think the county financial process is a personal checkbook – and they can spend what they like, when they like, as they like – and to whom they like.
Could they just put it on Palm Coast’s main web site? https://www.palmcoastgov.com/
This is why we need to unseat Nate McLaughlin, Dave Sullivan and Greg Hansen thin election year. The county commissioners should be standing up and take control from these employees of theirs and demand fiscal responsibility. These commissioners are failing us, so they need to be replaced! Let’s do it in 2918—-don’t reekect any incumbents. If we stay the course they will spend us broke!
Out of control- DUNN AND COFFEY NEED TO BE REPLACED. If the BOCC continues this type of mismanagement then they should each be removed from office. There is no good reason for this.
John Brady says
Am I mistaken? Are not all County Council members Republican? Are not the Republicans supposed to be fiscally responsible? Has anyone considered ROI (return on investment)? I know the answer, ROI is impossible to calculate
My efforts has been to question Palm Coast spending but I could not be quite on this one.
Before any contract is published, I think it must be demonstrated why staff can not complete the task
As being a member of the tech community and software at that, this is unbelievably insulting. 300k for a website?!?? Really?
I can’t even to begin to rip this to shreds.
You could hire three website designers for an entire year and still have money leftover. Fully loaded benefits and all. I had to read this twice to ensure I wasn’t hallucinating.
Palm Coast is part of Flagler County so why are they not working together for the betterment of all? This should be done in house, and if they don’t have someone in house that can manage their website shame on them. I remember the hard time they gave former Supervisor of Elections over $2,000 contingency fund and her budget and she improved the website for that office, did a great job, maintained it, and for far less. There is a lesson to be learned here. I am sorry but this reeks of someone knowing someone and there are not that many tourists that come to Flagler County to justify this kind of expense. The tourists are in St Augustine, Daytona, Orlando and surrounding counties. There is nothing here in Flagler to offer tourists so this kind of money is a waste. It is time for Dunn to be replaced with a competent person who can do the job and manage the website. I would like to see bids on this. If our county commissioners allow this kind of waste, then we voters need to take action and get them out of office.
Fernando Melendez says
Where is the effectiveness and efficiency of this website for that amount of tax payers dollars? Kudos to Palm Coast for doing the same on no tax payers dime 👍
The fleecing of the county taxpayers funds. Too much graft. Coffey and at least the 3 commissioners suggested above need to be booted as well as the Dunn dude!
They must be taking their cues from Obama who paid $600,000,000 for a website worth a few hundred thousand. Do we really need to advertise for tourists? Who wants a bunch of drunks stumbling around the beach and downtown areas anyway? Our quality of life is being trashed by a bunch of self-serving bureaucrats who are only concerned with their own job security and pay raises. I rarely go to the beach anymore because it’s just too crowded.
Edith Campins says
Hire someone for less or add it to the Palm Coast website. This is ridiculous.
I hate to say this, but the REPUBLICAN county commission does nothing but spend our tax dollars on give-aways to preferred vendors for things we didn’t ask for and don’t need. Has our county commission ever heard of fiscal constraint??
Jane Gentile-Youd says
What more can I add? The new Flagler county website stinks – and giving away local Tourist Dollars to an out of state web designer stinks even more. It’s high time we clean out the Coffey pot and all the Coffey Mates who are abusing their power and insulting us all with their outrageous off the wall schemes.
Craig Coffey and his sidekick Nate McLaughlin have cried over and over again that we have no money for Welcome to Flagler County signs nor to maintain half a million dollars of free landscaping offered by FDOT for our entry roads . I hope everyone attends the workshop next week and tells ’em what they can do with their $284,000 ‘shady deal’
Just think how $284,000 could be used to generate more tourism and lure future investors into re-locating to Flagler County to help our anemic economic growth instead of blowing it on this crap.
Is Jim Landon running this op?
Ms. Youd, I find it more than disturbing that you and others here do not understand which projects are city and which are county. You’re running for office?
While Palm Coast did it in-house, the cost was not zero. The amount of time to retool a website of course depends on features but the cost was in the thousands if not more. Albeit a lot less than what these crooks are looking for.
Between County and City they are picking our feathers (pockets) naked! I am so disappointed…
Jane Gentile-Youd says
It is disturbing that some people are quick to make false statements which unfairly point fingers such as you did. Please be assured that I am in no way confused between city and county government. I do know however that because certain services overlap it can be confusing to some people as the tourist dollar issue was to you.
What a waste
Pave the roads a website for tourism is needless
Tourism….what a laugh….their is nothing in this county to attract a tourist!!!! Abolish Dunn’s position and do away with the website. https://www.palmcoastobserver.com/article/palm-coast-10th-worst-place-live-florida
Ridiculous! One word… tourism?