New Town Website Looks Great but Erases History

Official Town of Cape Charles website got a makeover for 2014, which included deletion of some important Town documents as well as some “dirty laundry.”

Cape Charles Wave

January 6, 2014

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated at 12:15 p.m. today to reflect that the Comprehensive Plan and one of the six Annexation Agreement documents may be found on the new Town website.)

The Town of Cape Charles has ushered in the new year with an impressive-looking new face to the Town’s website ( At first glance, the new design looks a lot like the Cape Charles by the Bay tourism website, which launched last year. Both websites feature alternating scenic photos on the home page.

On the Town website, five drop-down tabs across the top of the page display links to information such as tax rates, a list of Town departments, and forms — for example, to apply for permission to hold a yard sale.

One tangible improvement over the old website is a staff directory of every Town employee, shown by department. (Although one longtime member of the waterworks staff is missing — an apparent oversight.)

But while the website includes a lot of information previously not posted, it also leaves out some crucial information and documents that previously were available.  Previously the Town website posted the 1991 Annexation Agreements between the County, the Town, Bayshore Concrete, and most importantly, Brown & Root, initiator of the development that later became Bay Creek. These documents form the basis for the legal argument that the Bay Creek South developer, Baymark, is responsible for sharing the cost of the expanded Town sewer system. As the Wave has documented, the Town demanded payment by Baymark several times, but ceased its demands around the time that then-Baymark official Steve Bennett was elected to Town Council.


An earlier version of this story reported that all the Annexation Agreements had been removed from the new Town website. But a reader commented (below) that [one] Annexation Agreement may be found on the new website. That had not been apparent, because a search for “annexation” reveals nothing, but misspelling the search to “annexaton” turns up the document. However, the old Town website displayed six important documents related to the annexation, as may be seen by clicking here.

The Town has also deleted records of its “dirty laundry.” Until last week, the Town’s website documented the outrage expressed in emails and letters by dozens and dozens of residents over the negotiated resignation of Town Manager Joe Vaccaro. The records were part of the January 8, 2009, Town Council meeting and included in a Town web folder named…/AllPublicemails-letterscombined01-08-09.pdf Clicking on that link demonstrates that it has been removed.

Google, however, has preserved the deleted letters and emails, which may be read by clicking here.
Letters may be read from (in order):
Karen Jolly Davis
Joan Natali
Joe Vaccaro
Erin Harvey
Victoria Di Leo Vaccaro
Beth Davis
Victoria Morgan
Reggie Wesberry
Tom Gale
Gaywood & Margaret Wagner
Beth Hayward
Lisa Brasch
Nora Lo
Loraine Huchler
Susan Bauer
Marian Dipboye
Mollie and Denis Pickron
Bruce Lindeman
Rob Smithwick
Andie Morgan
Judi McCoy
Kim Boytos
Karen Gay
James Metz
Gene Kelly
Colleen Kelley
Jackie Chatmon
Bill Payne
Jim Mahaffy
Luis “Cheech” Perez
Beth Ann Sabo
Elizabeth Hayward
Steve Bennett
Jim Mahaffy
Stephen K. Fox
R.B. Vest
Andrew Follmer
John and Linda Schulz
David Kabler
Joanne and Randy Warren
Christine LeVick
Mark Usry
Ken Kuttler
Jan Neville
Susan Kovacs
Mike and Sharon Dunnagan
Mara Ifju
Patricia Buckley

The new website is a product of MunicipalCMS, a Missouri firm that specializes in designing websites for municipalities. There is no record of Town Council authorizing funds for the makeover, so the expense apparently was paid out of a department’s regular budget. The design cost for the similar Cape Charles By The Bay website was $15,000.

The website includes a number of interesting reports including one entitled “Population,” which gives results of a 2007 population study. However, the report has not been updated to reflect the 2010 census.  A similarly interesting “Community Profile” page cites the most recent Town budget data as coming from 2009.

Information on the Cape Charles Memorial Library is up to date, but to find it one must click “Government” and then “Departments.”



6 Responses to “New Town Website Looks Great but Erases History”

  1. Janet Dudley on January 6th, 2014 9:16 am

    As much as I appreciate your efforts to keep me informed about what is important to the town of Cape Charles and its residents, it seems as though there is more negative than positive input into your efforts. I grant you there are lots of problems in Cape Charles and any other town you live in, but once again you bring up OLD business just about every day. Now as for the new town website, if I want to know something about the comprehensive plan, or what happened in 1991, I can certainly go to town hall and request this information or as you say go on Google and if I need it that desperately pay the $14.95 to see it. As for the emails and letters that were sent that too is OLD business, and while I was here at the time of most of the things you bring up, what is done is done and we need to move forward. As for the website, I don’t know about you but if I read it once, I really don’t need to read it again every day.

  2. Mary Finney on January 6th, 2014 10:00 am

    In response to the above comment, obviously, those who are ignorant of history (willfully or otherwise) are doomed to repeat it. So sorry if the reports of goings on in town seem to some to be “negative” in tone. As a result of good old investigative reporting, we are being told what is actually going on, as opposed to being served up some whitewashed version of events. If one doesn’t like what one is reading here, blame the ones whose actions are being divulged. Verbally “shooting the messenger” here is plainly misguided. Clearly, those who currently hold office in Cape Charles (public servants?) — have no right to withhold information that is and should be PUBLIC RECORD. And sure, all those boring old comprehensive plan documents aren’t as fun to read as say, the latest issue of People Magazine, but they are much more relevant to our community and its future than Kim Kardashian’s dramas. Another truism, as long as I’m at it: Knowledge is power — those who have the knowledge have the power, and those who insist on seeing reality through rose-colored glasses are at their mercy. So grow some thicker skin, people, and start choosing truth over superficial spin.

  3. Wayne Creed on January 6th, 2014 11:05 am

    Although the site design is not really to my taste (I understand it is just following the design standard established by Cape Charles by the Bay, so what are you going do?), the new site is a good move by the Town, and Town Manager Arcos and her staff should be applauded for the effort.

    More importantly, this is not really a website, but an application, a content management system that will allow our staff to update the content 24/7, just by using the application’s interface (no coding required). The system also incorporates some nice features, such as the ability to customize email alerts from the Town, based on your own preference. I believe the platform (MunicipalCMS) also allows for immediate pushes to social media such as Facebook and Twitter (once something on the Town site is updated, it also gets published to social media where it can be accessed by the device of your choice, including mobile). So between email alerts and social media pushes, you can get the information without having to browse to the Town’s site.

    The parts of the old site that are missing, such as history, can easily be added by our staff. The system allows them to create new pages, and add any new content. The history page is probably on the way, but being a bit more complex, they probably did not want to put the rollout on hold just because it wasn’t ready.

    Once concern would be the cost. Not sure how much the initial design cost, but the annual hosting and support fees could add up. It should also be noted that there are other, probably more frugal ways to accomplish what the Town is doing here, such as “relatively” free, open source solutions such as blogging software. The text you are reading right now is produced by WordPress, which can be extended to perform just about everything the new system is performing, for a very affordable price — but that’s all water under the bridge now. If leveraged correctly, the new site should become a valuable and robust asset for Cape Charles. Kudos Heather!

  4. Mike Killebrew on January 6th, 2014 11:40 am

    I went on the Cape Charles Web site and found the Comprehensive Plan and the 1991 agreement easily under “Planning and Zoning.”

    Thank you – indeed, two documents have surfaced, and the story will be updated to reflect that. A search on the website for “Annexation” reveals nothing found, but searching the (misspelled) “Annexaton” turns up one document. The old Town website had six annexation documents, as may be referenced here:

    The documented letters regarding former Town Manager Joe Vaccaro have not been restored. — EDITOR

  5. Ron Wrucke on January 6th, 2014 7:19 pm

    The Cape Charles by the Bay site cost $15,000 …. ? …. unbelievable … I need to give up photography and get into the website business .. :-)

  6. John McKown on February 3rd, 2014 9:53 am

    Pretty sad design work for $15K.