County launches new website

Features new design, address

Posted 6/10/21

The Park County government has a new home on the World Wide Web. After long being located at parkcounty.us, the county has moved its website to parkcounty-wy.gov.

In addition to the new location, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

County launches new website

Features new design, address

Posted

The Park County government has a new home on the World Wide Web. After long being located at parkcounty.us, the county has moved its website to parkcounty-wy.gov.

In addition to the new location, the site features a brand-new design, created by the county’s information technology department.

In late 2019, commissioners voted to have a Kansas-based company, CivicPlus, overhaul the website for $36,371; that would have been followed by $5,625 of annual costs for hosting and support.

However, the price tag drew backlash from the public — and commissioners had second thoughts after learning the City of Powell was spending a fraction of that cost on a redesign. (The city paid Vision West of Powell a total of $1,785.) The commission ultimately rejected CivicPlus’ proposal and instead asked the IT department to handle the project in-house.

Outside of consuming staff time, County Chief Information Officer Mike Conners said the cost of the redesign was “minimal — maybe a couple hundred dollars.”

As for the switch to a new web address, Conners said there’s been increasing pressure to switch to .gov domains, which are administered and vetted by federal officials. For instance, he said the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office is encouraging counties to do so to help boost election security.

“If you’re a government entity, you’re supposed to have a government domain — or at least that’s what everybody preaches,” Conners said.

A domain from .gov is supposed to convey more legitimacy to websites and emails. While most domains, like .com, .net and .org., can be registered by anyone in the world, .gov domains are limited to “bona fide U.S.-based government organizations.”

Park County’s new domain is a few characters longer, as county governments are required to include their state in the name to eliminate confusion.

It’s a legitimate concern with three Park County governments in the U.S.: in Wyoming (formerly online at parkcounty.us), Colorado (parkco.us) and Montana (parkcounty.org).

Earlier this year, for example, a Cody resident seeking a COVID-19 vaccine accidentally signed up for a shot on the Park County, Colorado, website. Public health officials in Cody then got confused, initially thinking it was some kind of scam.

Conners said that securing the new parkcounty-wy.gov domain took roughly a month of working with the General Services Administration (GSA).

“It’s a fairly serious vetting process they go through,” he said.

Then-Park County Commission Chairman Joe Tilden had to sign a notarized statement affirming the county was really seeking the new domain, but “that wasn’t good enough,” Conners said. GSA officials insisted on speaking to Tilden personally — and when Conners provided Tilden’s cellphone number, the GSA didn’t take his word for it: they confirmed the number by calling the commissioners’ office at the courthouse. Conners said it’s all part of an effort to ensure that someone can feel confident they’re dealing with a real, government agency when the information is from a .gov domain.

The GSA had apparently stepped up its vetting since 2019, when a researcher managed to obtain a .gov domain for the Town of Exeter, Rhode Island, with phony information. According to information the researcher sent to investigative reporter Brian Krebs, all they had to do was email a form (filled out with a fake Google Voice number and fake Gmail address), copy the Town of Exeter’s official letterhead and claim to be the town’s mayor. In that instance, Krebs indicated that the GSA only reached out to the town for verification after he raised questions about the bogus application.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) used that incident as part of its case for taking over the management of the .gov top-level domain. Congress agreed and CISA took charge in March — which was after Park County had already obtained its domain.

Conners said the county had to pay a setup fee of $400, and was set to pay an annual $400. However, CISA said it’s working toward Congress’ goal of making .gov domains available “at no cost or a negligible cost.” A change in price is not expected until next year, the agency said.

Currently, common top-level domains like .us or .com are far cheaper, with registration fees generally running about $20 per year. Conners speculated that the price has been holding local governments back from making the switch to .gov.

“People are going, ‘Why should I pay $400 a year when I don’t necessarily have to?’” he said.

The City of Cody has been on a .gov domain (www.cityofcody-wy.gov) for years, with a site designed by CivicPlus. As for the City of Powell, it plans on staying put at www.cityofpowell.com.

“Thankfully we have not been getting any pressure to switch to [a] .gov domain,” said Information Technology Manager Damian Dicks. He noted the logistics involved in having to change the city’s web address in each place it’s published.

Dicks added that he’s “not sure there would be a benefit to having the .gov domain since our name already hints that we are a municipality.”

The Park County Sheriff’s Office is similarly planning to keep its website at www.parkcountysheriff.net — at least for the time being.

Conners said the sheriff’s office has had some trouble with the domain. For example, when investigators have sought information from, say, a cellular service provider, “they’d go, ‘Well, we don’t believe you’re a sheriff’s office, because you don’t have a .gov domain,’” Conners said, adding, “They’re starting to get tighter on that kind of stuff.”

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Charla Baugher Torczon said that, while the agency has run into issues, “we are undecided as to whether or not we will be making the change.

“It is still an ongoing discussion,” she said.

Comments