Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Andover shuts down town Web site

By Robert J. Cyr
Journal Inquirer
October 3, 2008

ANDOVER — The town's Web site became a thing of the past after the Board of Selectmen voted to abandon it Wednesday night, in the face of a new state law requiring municipalities to post meeting minutes within a week.

But it's likely not an end to Andover's place on the Internet. Officials agreed a site run by volunteers should continue providing the same information, but without formal town backing.

It wouldn't change the site's previous incarnation, overseen by a small committee of volunteers meeting once a month, First Selectman Robert Burbank said.

The new law, however, which took effect Wednesday, caught many municipalities off-guard, Selectman Jay Linddy said.

"This is another mandate from the statehouse that has backed us up into a corner. We would be forced to hire a Web site administrator," he said. "Every town needs a Web site; it helps economic growth. It helps everything."

The recent legislation, approved in special session, requires towns to post meeting minutes to their Web sites as soon as they're registered in the town clerk's office, Burbank said, or within a week after the meeting.

The burden falls on the recording secretary, or whoever keeps minutes, to get the electronic form online — an extra task for those in volunteer positions, he said.

The town's previous Web site still is online at

and has not always been the most updated-town page on the Internet, although there are links to government and educational pages and other interactive features about the town. Information runs the gamut from current and exhaustive to dated and sparse.

While all four versions of the 2008-09 town budget are represented on the site — with detailed links to line-by-line alterations until it finally passed on the fourth try in July — meeting minutes have not been posted for the Board of Selectmen since Oct. 1, 2007. Before that, minutes hadn't been uploaded since Sept. 6, 2006.

The town does not pay for its own domain address, Burbank said at Wednesday's meeting. Officials did not say if the site was maintained for free or how it's funded.

But towns are not required to maintain Web sites under state law, state Rep. Pamela Z. Sawyer, R-Bolton said.

"It's very sad to have towns drop their Web sites because of this," she said. "It's a lot of information."

Sawyer said she was not aware of any towns other than Salem and Andover that immediately dropped their pages in response to the legislation, which had been in the works since 2005.

The law came about after state residents complained that meeting schedules and documentation was not readily available. But the bill stalled until last year, when it was placed in Gov. M. Jodi Rell's ethics reform package, Sawyer said.

"People were saying, 'Everything is on the Internet now. Why can't we just get what we need from there?'" Sawyer said.

Before the board voted the Web site out of service, Burbank said he asked the advice of. the Freedom of Information Commission, which is empowered to impose a $500 fine for every time a complaint is filed about unavailable information.

Burbank said commission officials told him that while a town likely would not be fined for an outdated site, the new law has yet to be tested.

Officials in Harwinton also voted Wednesday to take down that town's Web site, the Associated Press reported today.