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Calvert County Government’s online presence is getting an overhaul that includes a new county website and a Facebook page.

On Tuesday, county staff presented the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners with the new website, demonstrating its features.

The process for modernizing the county website began in the summer of 2011, said Joseph Klausner, director of technology services.

He explained that after analyzing different approaches, a vendor-hosted solution was selected and the website redesign and update was begun.

Civic Plus, the selected vendor-hosted solution, specializes in designing and building “interactive communication systems using advanced technology” for city and county government, according to its website.

The new website, which launched Wednesday, allows users to navigate easier and access the site and its features on mobile devices and tablets, and incorporates social media like Facebook and sharing tools.

In addition, users can customize their own county website homepage and the community calendar to include information and events they care about most.

The county’s tourism website also received an overhaul, incorporating many of the same features on the new county website.

BOCC apprehensive about Facebook

Although the commissioners were apprehensive about users’ ability to comment on “posts” made by county staff on behalf of the county government on the “Calvert County Government, Calvert County Maryland” Facebook page, the page was unanimously approved to launch simultaneously with the new county website.

“When we first started working to create the page, we had originally planned to just put information out as a manner in which to push information out,” said Linda Vassallo, the director of economic development. “So we would not allow posts or blogging to be happening on the site.”

But, since Facebook settings have changed, a user cannot be blocked from “commenting” on the posts or status updates made by the county government page.

“We’re four deep in redundancy,” Vassallo said of the number of staff checking the page for inappropriate comments.

She said that any inappropriate comments from other users would be deleted and then a “comment” explaining that the inappropriate comment was deleted would be posted in the inappropriate comment’s place.

Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) asked who would deem what is appropriate.

Carrie Lovejoy, the county public information specialist, said it would “immediately start with me because I’d be the person getting the notification.”

“We need to make sure that stuff that is unappropriate [sic] that could be offensive to citizens and different groups and different religions and things like that don’t get posted on the site at all,” Clark said.

He said some of the information that could be posted on the Facebook page could be “detrimental to the information we’re trying to put out there.”

Commissioner Pat Nutter (R) said he shared Clark’s concerns.

Lovejoy said, “We can decide who can comment. We can block constant problems if we have constant problems with the same people.”

The county government’s Facebook page, she explained, is a way to point people back to the county website.

“We’re only trying to share our own information,” she told the commissioners.

Commissioners’ Vice President Steve Weems (R) asked County Attorney John Norris III what he had to say regarding “comments” on the page.

Norris said he had input in preparing the policy for how county staff can post on the page, but not the creation of the page.

“If there were status updates that garnered people to respond or post, my preference would be that we either have a policy that we don’t allow posts, we delete them all, or we allow all of them, as opposed to trying to determine which ones are inappropriate or appropriate.

“... It’s like trying to nail jello to a wall,” Norris said.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided that no comments would be permitted on the Facebook page.

Lovejoy said there will be a clause in the “About” section on the page that would tell users that comments and posts are not allowed and would be deleted.

In other business, the commissioners:

ź Accepted a $2,003 training grant from the Local Government Insurance Trust that will cover the cost of sending 1st Sgt. Craig Bowen to the fall Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Accreditation Inc. training conference;

ź Unanimously approved a budget adjustment for $40,000 in fiscal 2013 for services to be covered by the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds for the initial site work and other costs for the demolition of cliff homes in Calvert County;

ź Postponed a Department of Public Works work session for a projects update. The work session was scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.

aharrison@somdnews.com