CHCA to vote on fate of web portal at Feb 3 meeting

(Revised story to reflect one week postponement of CHCA vote)

With the holiday season buried under a fresh coat of January snow, the Chestnut Hill Community Association is ready to get back to business. The possibility of a web portal being created by the CHCA was on the table during a public committee meeting on last night.

CHCA Board Member Rob Remus was appointed to explore the options of a web portal about six months ago and formed a committee after a series of task force meetings held over the summer of 2010.

The web portal would act as a host of community events, editorial, business news, and any other Chestnut Hill related news. The purpose of Monday night’s meeting was to solicit feedback from the public on what the community expects from the web portal, if that is what they want at all.

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“Everyone across the board said that they want to be a part of it,” said Remus in reference to conversations he has had about the web portal with members of the community. “It gets tricky when you ask how much (money) you need to support it.”

About ten people were in attendance of the meeting at the Town Hall office on Germantown Ave, sharing an office space with the Chestnut Hill Local. Residents were given an opportunity to voice opinions on the proposed web portal.

Gerald Tracy, a web consultant on the project, addressed concerns and explained that the web portal would act as a mechanism to protect the Local while also forming partnerships with other community based organizations, such as the business association.

It would be a place where “neighbors can submit opinions on the community,” Tracy explained. “Once the missions are defined, the portal is like a defensive end pushing forward.”

The missions in question would be those of the business association, CHCA, and the Local.

Tracy went on to say that $10,000 would be needed for the first month of the web portal to get the project off the ground. Remus suggested that CHCA put up $5,000 and seek out a match in the community.

Remus and Tracy continually emphasized that partnerships would be needed in order for the web portal to be a reality. CHCA Board President Walt Sullivan was in attendance of the meeting and intimated his understanding of the situation. He stated that his conversations with members from other Chestnut Hill community organizations led him to believe that a final decision by the CHCA to move forward with the web portal would be paramount in eliciting support from elsewhere in the community.

Tracy spoke about the media’s role in a shifting information landscape where people are able to share information quicker through web-based applications such as Twitter and Facebook.

The web portal would have to maintain an ease of use and relevance to the community to compete with these other current local news and event websites.

The Local’s associate publisher Larry Hochberger listened in on the meeting intently but did not add anything until prompted.

“Do you think that the paper has the capability to do all that the portal is proposing to do?” asked Joyce Lenhardt.

“Yes,” Hochberger answered definitively, “and we have been moving rather quickly toward that.”

Hochberger offered up no other details on the Local’s ideas for changes to their website that would be in a firmer position to compete with other media outlets such as AOL’s Patch and WHYY’s Newsworks.

After about two hours of discussion, the only thing left to do was adjourn. Sullivan stated that committee members would have to submit a proposal to the board in the next week.

“It’s time for the board to come to a decision,” Sullivan stated at the close of the meeting.

A final vote on the fate of the web portal will take place at CHCA’s next monthly meeting, which will be held on Thursday January 27  February 3 at the Chestnut Hill Library.

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