Some say you can’t be all things to all people. But when it comes to serving the town and people of Cornwall, and even visitors passing through, Rocco Botto is convincingly defying this accepted rule. As the web designer, developer and leading force behind the soon to be revealed, entirely revamped cornwallct.org website, Rocco is passionately committed to making the “best town website in the state of Connecticut.” In fact, he and his fellow website committee members have spent an estimated 400 volunteer hours working to achieve this goal.
A sneak peek at the new website, in its final phase of development, reveals a robust, easily navigated and aesthetically inspired digital destination packed with information for three distinct yet overlapping audiences/users—government, community, and visitors. Thanks to photos by Lazlo Gyorsok, the site also visually conveys Cornwall’s abundant natural beauty and vibrant community. Lazlo, who has served on the committee since being one of the key players in the launch of the current website 20 years ago, reflected on the new site: “Rocco’s work is fantastic… and it’s time for the younger generation to take the lead.”
Rocco presented the committee’s approach and goals, along with a thorough demonstration of the site, at the October 20 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. The Board (and other attendees) expressed their delight and enthusiasm, giving a general “thumbs up” of endorsement for the committee’s work.
Gordon Ridgway commented, “a lot of the sense of Cornwall comes through on this site. It combines a lot of elements you won’t get on an off-the-shelf website.”
Rocco explained that towns often have “dusty looking” civic sites and nicer visitor sites if they are lucky. “People want one consistent place where they can get information quickly and efficiently,” he said. Cara Weigold, who serves as webmaster (a role she fills for the current site as well), agrees. “[The site] is a great marriage of everything that Cornwall is. One stop shopping. One address you need to remember to find everything that is going on in Cornwall,” she said.
Addressing a question from Gordon about ease of updates, given that it has become more important than ever to keep people informed during this time of Covid-19, Rocco was quick to show how fast a new post or event can be added, even by people without technical experience.
The project is two years in the making. The website committee was originally a sub-committee of the Cornwall Association but now functions as an independent entity, and is also autonomous from the Board of Selectmen. In addition to Rocco, Lazlo, and Cara, the committee includes Louise Riley (Chair), Richard Griggs, Raymonde Burke, and Virginia Brecher.
The independence of the committee and the management of the site itself, at least the civic content, is a point of concern to some who believe the Town should have its own site and be responsible for its content. Another issue is ongoing financial support to keep the site up and running. This year, the $650 annual fixed costs were covered by a donation from the Cornwall Foundation. While the committee was not asking for funding when the site was presented, it remains to be seen if there will be a specific request for the Town to consider this expense.
The status quo of independence for the site seems an acceptable approach for now, at least by most opinion. “The committee is super easy and accommodating to work with,” Ridgway says, “a week never goes by when Jonathan Berry doesn’t work with the committee to post something and get updates on the site.” Cara Weigold says the new site won’t change this process.
The redesigned site includes links to many Cornwall businesses and organizations, such as that of this publication, but does not replace any of those independently managed sites. Jacque Schiller, who works with the committee as liaison to the Chronicle, says the Chronicle will contribute some content, but complete stories will remain on its independent site and social media channels.
According to Rocco, the committee is comfortable with its independence. “It is very Cornwall for a group of people to pick something up and get it done,” Rocco says, “It speaks to the community and volunteering aspects of our town. It’s a grassroots effort.”
All Cornwall eyes will be able to see the results of this team’s effort when the site launches in the new year (a public demo is planned for January 16 at 9:30 A.M.). Whether you’re looking for a quick reference of the town’s boards and committees, want to discover a new hiking trail, or are considering a move to Cornwall and need to learn more about CCS, you will find what you’re looking for with a few easy clicks. While conventional wisdom still holds, the site will be more comprehensive for certain, and many will discover that almost all things are found in one place.
Visit cornwallct.org to explore the new website.