Mendon web site lets residents follow city affairs without leaving home
MENDON -- Whether you're a resident wanting to know how the City Council voted on a particular issue or a newcomer curious about this small town in Cache Valley, the information you seek may be right at your fingertips.
In fact, you may not even have to leave your home to access it.
Thanks to longtime resident Rodney Sorensen, most Mendon information you need is only a hop, skip, and a click away. Sorensen is the creator and maintainer of Mendon city's official Web site, and has been providing online visitors with valuable information for more than four years.
A self-proclaimed "pioneer as the first community newsletter/city Web site in Cache Valley," the Web site first appeared on the World Wide Web on Jan. 13, 1998. It is formally known as the Greater Mendon Area Community Newsletter and is at http://www.pcu.net/web/mendon/.
The project began in 1997 in a small office in Sorensen's basement. Bookshelves and filing cabinets--chock-full of everything from software manuals to old photographs--line two walls of the small office, while another wall is occupied by a large desk that houses Sorensen's computer and other electronic equipment. It was here that Sorensen first created the Web site, voluntarily working on its pages after work, during lunch breaks, and on weekends.
"I did it because I like computers and I have the ability and knowledge," he said.
Sorensen said he is "a big fan of Web design" and taught himself how to use the software programs needed to build the Web site. He is also an avid history enthusiast and is particularly interested in family and Mendon history, which is a big reason why he posts the Web site.
It was also created because Sorensen has a strong belief that people need to be made aware of what's going on in their community. A key purpose of the site, as stated on one of its pages, is to "inform and make readily available information that belongs to the public."
Sorensen first had the idea of creating the Web site so that residents could stay up to date with what was happening at city meetings. Paul Cressall, city eecorder, said the number of residents coming to the monthly meetings varies. Besides the regular council members, usually there are only about half a dozen residents who attend. Sorensen wanted to offer an alternative for his Mendon friends and neighbors, and thought providing the minutes of each meeting online was the answer.
"They don't have to come out to the meetings to know what's going on," he said. "They can do it right at home."
While Sorensen currently serves as a member of the Mendon City Council, maintaining the city's Web site is completely separate from his council duties. He runs the site as a public service--using his own resources and his own time for its maintenance. For $5 a month, which Sorensen pays from his own pocket, a friend at PC Unlimited provides Sorensen with the Web space.
Visitors might wonder what a small town of around 900 residents might have to offer in terms of a full-fledged Web site, but Sorensen has had no problem filling the 300+ virtual pages. The site consists of a variety of information and links and is divided into two major sections, Mendon City and Mendon Utah.
The contents of the Mendon City section deal primarily with the specifics of living or settling in Mendon. For example, you'll find links that provide information about basic services (such as specifications for water billing, mail delivery, and garbage pickup) along with details for obtaining a dog license or business license. Also included are numerous Mendon City cemetery pages, which provide an alphabetized index of all persons buried in the cemetery and a map showing a numbered list of plots.
A big portion of the Mendon City section is the government segment, which lists the names, phone numbers, and responsibilities of all of Mendon's elected and appointed officials. It's also on these pages where the schedules, minutes, and agendas are posted monthly for the city council, planning and zoning, and board of adjustments meetings.
In addition, users can access archives for any of these meetings back to 1997. In this government section, Sorensen has also included links to locations outside the Mendon site, such as links to the Utah Open Meetings Act and the individual Web sites of state and federal officials.
The Mendon Utah part of the Web site generally provides information about the history and geography of Mendon and the surrounding area. Detailed histories and biographies about both the area itself and those who founded it can be found here, along with maps and photographs. Among other things, information and links to local schools, churches, weather, roads and other related topics can be found in the Community Interests part of the section.
Sorensen doesn't actively promote the site although he said people are aware of its existence.
"If you're looking for it, you'll find it," he said.
In addition to old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising, the URL address has appeared in the quarterly newsletter sent to residents living in Mendon and the surrounding community. Sorensen imagines most of the visitors to the Web site are either residents or people who live out of town but maybe own property or have interest in the area.
"It gets about 10 tickles a day," said Sorensen, who included an invisible counter on the Web site just to satisfy his curiosity.
Sorensen said he hears little feedback about the Web site, but he does get a lot of requests for permission to print the photographs that appear on it. Sorensen took the majority of the pictures himself, though some of the older photographs he's collected over the years. All content and pictures on the Web site are copyrighted, but he gives everyone full use.
"I own the information, but I publicly share it," he said.
So if you can't make it out to the city council meeting or you just want to view the yearly water quality report, don't worry. Sorensen has made such Mendon information available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.