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Fairlawn Council moves forward with new city app

6/5/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

During its June 2 meeting, Fairlawn City Council agreed to move forward on a new app that will focus on the city of Fairlawn.

The app will be run by Citizen Sync and officials described it as being “designed to connect residents, visitors, local business communities and city information on one easy-to-use mobile application.”

Council Vice President Bryan Nace (Ward 3) said the app will contain information similar to what currently is available on the city’s website, www.cityoffairlawn.com.

“It would allow you to look up information about the city, obviously, and it would allow [city] departments to post things that they want citizens to know,” he said. “And the Fairlawn Area Chamber of Commerce will include information about the businesses, locally. ... Also, the city would be able to push information all at once, so if there was some kind of an emergency or some kind of problem — like a street closing or a flooding issue — we could get the information out to everyone right away.”

According to Council President Russ Sharnsky (at large), the initial cost for the app will be $5,000, which will be split between the city of Fairlawn ($3,500) and the Chamber of Commerce ($1,500). The annual maintenance fee for the app is $1,000, which will be split 50-50 between the city and the chamber.

Nace said the day-to-day operation of the app will be handled by Citizen Sync.

“Our people will funnel them the information and they will put it together and get it out there,” he said. “Our IT [information technology] guys like this very much. They’re really excited about it.”

The app was approved as part of an ordinance “authorizing various appropriations,” which passed by a 6-1 vote. The dissenting vote was cast by Councilwoman Barbara Potts (Ward 2).

“I find this a redundant thing to do,” she said. “We have a good web page. If you want to spend $5,000, improve the web page.”

In addition, Potts said the app would provide more benefits for businesses than the city itself.

“If the Chamber of Commerce is excited about this, this is something they should control,” she said. “I’ve asked the question without getting a good answer: If you are not a member of the Chamber of Commerce, can you be on this app? Do you have to be a member? Because I could see the chamber using this as a good marketing tool to get people to join the Chamber of Commerce and I couldn’t blame them for doing that. But I think that puts Fairlawn in a ticklish position of sanctifying some businesses over another business.”

Sharnsky said he was under the impression every local business would be listed in the app.

“That is my understanding from Citizen Sync,” he said.

Potts listed other concerns, such as the potential for “data mining,” as well as her belief that people wouldn’t use the app because it would have too many functions.

“Most people prefer an app that has one function — it’s your weather, it’s your GPS, it’s your restaurants — but the city’s [app] is going to be kind of a muddle of things,” she said. “The people I’ve talked to, just residents in the city, I’ve asked them, ‘If the city had an app, would you use it?’ And they said, ‘What for? I go to the web page.’ ... I just see this as a waste of money.”

Sharnsky said the app will be useful in ways other than “just pushing information out.”

“It will get information to people who won’t necessarily take the time and go through the cumbersome process of getting on our web page. I think our web page is a little bit cumbersome,” he said. “I think this [app] is on the leading edge of cities using something like this kind of technology. ... It’s a very worthwhile endeavor for the city to enter into and it’s a small cost to reach, potentially, a great number of people.”

Nace said the city is always looking for ways to “communicate with our citizens” and this is a new way to do that.

Also during the meeting:

  • Council passed a resolution confirming the appointment of Mark Auburn, Dan Konvolinka, Rita Madick, Cynthia Visca and Thomas Wagner to Fairlawn’s 2014 Charter Review Commission.
    “Our charter is like the constitution. Council can’t change it,” Sharnsky said. “What happens is that every three years they pick five members of the community to come in and review the Charter. What they do is they take input from the community and then make recommendations about possible changes to the charter. They will come to Council with their concerns or their thoughts about what needs to be changed, and then Council will review those recommendations and then decide whether it is worthwhile to send them to the voting public on the ballot. If we see something that needs to go on the ballot, then we will have it put on the ballot. But the final decision to make those changes is based on the voting public of Fairlawn.”
    According to Sharnsky, the goal is to put any possible charter changes on the November 2014 General Election ballot.
    “There are restrictions on how quickly things need to get done before they can get on the ballot,” he said. “That’s why we wanted to get the commission in place today, to give them enough time with the time restrictions involved. Hopefully, what we’re looking at, if there is anything to be voted on, is November. If not, it would probably go to the May election. But those suggestions wouldn’t go to waste.”
  • Police Chief Kenneth Walsh said there are still openings for the afternoon session of Fairlawn’s 2014 Safety Town, which will be weekdays June 16-20 at the Fairlawn-Kiwanis Community Center.
    “The afternoon sessions run from 1 until 3:30 p.m.,” he said. “If anyone has any preschool children they’d like to register, they can contact the police department [at 330-670-4300].”
    According to Walsh, physical applications are available at the Fairlawn Police Department, 3487 S. Smith Road. Registration also is available on the city’s website.
    The Safety Town graduation ceremony will take place June 20 at 5:30 p.m.

The next Fairlawn City Council meeting is set for June 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Fairlawn City Hall, 3487 S. Smith Road.

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