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PLUGGED IN: Online guide to your county, city and news

At the Daily Post, our goal is to keep you informed on the news in various formats, from our traditional printed newspaper to social media to 24/7 coverage on the Web via www.gwinnettdailypost.com.

Whether its by smartphone, tablet or desk top computer, we know you have different ways of keeping informed. But you have to know where to look, which is where this year's Newcomer's Guide comes in.

We start with a tour of the Daily Post site -- how to best utilize and navigate it -- and follow with a city-by-city look at how Gwinnett towns are using the Web to inform and help the residents. It's just another way we can keep you plugged in to the news.

Gwinnett Daily Post

www.gwinnettdailypost.com

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A screen capture of gwinnettdailypost.com

Our website provides news for you 24 hours a day. But, we've got a lot more other features that we want you to know about.

• ANNOUNCEMENTS (gwinnettdailypost.com/announcements)

  • We run engagement, wedding, anniversary and birth announcements each Sunday in our Community section. They are free to submit and you can also include a photograph.

• BLOGS (www.gwinnettdailypost.com/weblogs)

  • Several of our staff members are blogging. Are you keeping up with them?

• VIDEOS (www.gwinnettdailypost.com/videos)

  • View our local videos that our staff produces for various stories around town.

• PREP SPORTS (gwinnettprepsports.com)

  • The Gwinnett Daily Post sports staff provides the best coverage of high school sports. Visit our site dedicated solely to prep sports.

• FACEBOOK

  • Connect with us on our Facebook pages! Post comments, view photos and interact with us.

www.facebook.com/gwinnettdailypost (here)

www.facebook.com/gwinnettdailypostsports (here)

• TWITTER

  • Follow us on Twitter for breaking news and other news bits.

@GwinnettDaily (here)

@GDPSports (here)

• INSTAGRAM

  • Love our photography? We now have an Instagram account that you can follow us on!

@gwinnettdailypost (here)

• BREAKING NEWS TEXT ALERTS (gwinnettdailypost.com/alerts)

  • Get breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox or smart phone. We use this sparingly and promise not to spam you with texts.

• NEWSLETTER (gwinnettdailypost.com/alerts)

  • Did you know you can get the daily headlines delivered to your inbox every morning? It is easy to sign up and it's completely free.

• SPOTTED (spotted.gwinnettdailypost.com)

  • View our Spotted gallery from events, games and other gatherings around town. Did you know you can also create your own galleries and share them with the community. Visit our Spotted gallery and if you need help, email photos@gwinnettdailypost.com.

• PHOTO OF THE DAY

  • In each printed edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post, we post a "Photo of the Day." Want to submit your team or organization doing something special? Or just a really cool picture? Email it to us!

photos@gwinnettdailypost.com


Gwinnett County

www.gwinnettcounty.com

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A screen capture of gwinnettcounty.com

• Social media: None at this time

• Online bill pay: The county offers a number of e-government services, including payment of property taxes, water bills and traffic tickets. To find a clearinghouse, click on the “Online Services” tab on the home page. Or go directly to the sites www.gwinnettH2O.com, www.gwinnetttaxcommissioner.manatron.com, www.payyourtix.com/Gwinnett.

• Commission Information: Links to agendas are available under the "Government" tab on the home page. For direct information on proposed zonings coming before the commission, go www.gczoning.com.

• Calendar of Events: The "calendar" tab on the top menu bar of the home page takes viewers to a listing of calendars, including links to calendars from the Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Parks & Recreation and TVGwinnett. You can also see all the offerings at www.gwinnettcountyevents.com.

• Special features: Residents can sign up for a several email newsletter on the website, as well as RSS feeds. Videos from TVGwinnett can be found (here), as well as volunteer information (here) and the daily air quality index.

One award-winning interactive feature, under the “Your Money” tab, helps people learn how their own county tax bill funds services. Information about your community can be found in the Geographic Information Services browser, under the “Online Services” button. And drivers can find live streaming video from Gwinnett County traffic cameras here.

Service is the key, not only for the Gwinnett County government but for its website.

For a big local government offering everything from pet adoption (here) and softball sign-ups (here) to voter registration (here), the county website is not only a comprehensive source, but to improve user navigation, it is divided into many direct links.

“It’s a valuable tool for residents, the business community, and visitors to our community,” Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said. “We have attempted to organize the website to help users easily find what they are seeking.”

The technology, Nash said, helps commissioners achieve one of their biggest goals: transparency.

“We strive to provide the best service in the most transparent way possible, so I am especially proud of the Your Money section of the website that contains links to budgetary documents and interactive tools, like Where Your Property Taxes Go (here), that educate property owners about how tax dollars fund different services,” she said.

“Of course, we appreciate feedback and would love to hear suggestions from residents about how we can improve gwinnettcounty.com,” she added.

Gwinnett Police/Sheriff's Department

www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com

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A screen capture of gwinnettcountysheriff.com

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department website features a searchable sex offender database, a 48-hour docket book which lists recent arrests, notification registration for victims of domestic violence, sexual battery, stalking, and other offenses as defined by law of the perpetrator’s release or transfer. There is also a searchable database of all active Records Court bench warrants and contact information for approved bonding companies. The site also includes links to a history page of the Sheriff’s office, and more information about tactical teams.

At the county website, there are links to alarm system registration, city police departments, corrections, crime mapping, crime prevention, fire marshal, fire stations, Gwinnett emergency management, Loganville Fire Department, National Weather Service, Poison Control, police precincts, police reports, quality of life unit, sex offender registry and victim or witness assistance.


Gwinnett County Public Schools

www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us

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A screen capture of gwinnett.k12.ga.us

• Social media: On Twitter @GwinnettSchools (here); on Facebook (here).

• School board information: Schedule, agendas and board of education bios available.

• Events: All events including holidays and teacher and staff work days are included in exhaustive online 2013-14 academic calendar(here).

• Special features: A major school system initiative called eCLASS, a digital Content, Learning, Assessment and Support System, provides the district an integrated enterprise solution to enhance student engagement and the learning process. It’s available through the website to parents, students and teachers (here).

“We launched a redesigned website on May 1,” said District Spokeswoman Sloan Roach. “It has always been a great resource. However, due to the size of the site and the thousands and thousands of pages it includes … it could be unwieldy.”

Roach said that the new site “is easier to use and leads to a better online experience.”


Berkeley Lake

www.berkeley-lake.com

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A screen capture of berkeley-lake.com.

• Social Media: On Twitter @Berkeley_Lake (here) and on Facebook (here).

• Online Bill Pay: None

• City Council Information: Agendas, minutes, budgets, mayor and council bios available under “residents” tab of main website (here).

• Events: Under the “calendar” tab on the main website (here).

• Special Features: Online newsletters, E-Notify alerts for emergencies, a blog and “Notify Me,” (here) where the public can sign up for notifications about city and department updates.

Residents can read the “Mayor’s Message,” (here) a monthly newsletter from the city mayor, under the “residents” tab on the main website via email through contact with City Hall. There is an option to sign up for the Emergency Conditions E-Notify, which notifies residents of an emergency condition or road closure in the city (here).

There are no other new additions to be created for the city’s website or social media platforms.

“We have no ‘web-wise’ plans for the future at this time,” Deputy City Clerk Roxanne Egan said.


Buford

www.cityofbuford.com

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A screen capture of cityofbuford.com.

• Social media: On Facebook (here)

• Online bill pay: Available under “Pay Utility Bill” tab on the home page (here). Customers can set up a one-time payment or recurring payments using a debit card, credit card or checking account.

• Council Information: Located under the “City Officials” tab on the home page. Also includes calendar of upcoming meetings.

• Events: Information located on “City Calendar” page (here).

• Special features: An ‘About Buford’ section (here) includes a detailed history of the city, which was founded in 1872 as a depot on the railway line between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. Also available is information about shopping and tourist destinations around the city like Lake Lanier Islands and the Mall of Georgia.

“It’s a functionality site, and it’s informational” said Jeff Dobbs with accounts payable. “We want our citizens to be able to get their basic needs from this website.”

Dobbs said other sites like visitbuford.com allow residents to further explore the city.


Dacula

www.daculaga.gov

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A screen capture of daculaga.gov.

• Social media: Facebook: Dacula, Ga.; Twitter @MayorDacula (here)

• Online bill pay: None.

• City Council information: A list of mayor and city council members and when each term ends is under the “city government” tab (here) on the main page. A work session is typically the last Thursday of each month, and the city council meetings are on the first Thursday of each month.

• Events: Listings under the “events” tab (here) include any city council workshops and meetings about information related to the city.

• Special features: With a required login, community forums can be accessed and users can comment on topics such as recent rains, a new salon and stickers for kids.

Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks said the city’s website is designed to provide residents and neighbors information that is critical to them.

“Anyone (no login required) can see a calendar of events and general announcements,” Wilbanks said. “Each week we provide an “around town-important date” announcement that provides information about that week’s events. By clicking on that event, the reader can see a more detailed description of the event.”


Duluth

www.duluthga.net

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A screen capture of duluthga.net.

• Social media: On Facebook (here); On Twitter @cityofduluthga (here)

• Online bill pay: Available under the “City and Other Services” tab (here).

• Council Information: Can be accessed from the “Departments” tab (here). Includes bio information about all city council members as well as contact information. Also includes a video of Mayor Nancy Harris discussing the city’s future.

• Calendar of Events: Available under the “What’s Happening” tab (here), the calendar includes a wide range of listings: from Barefoot in the Park to city council meeting dates.

• Special features: The Duluth e-Blast allows those interested in upcoming events and important information about the city to receive e-mail alerts. Click here to subscribe.

Public Information and Marketing Director Alisa Williams said a new website for the city is set to launch in the next several weeks, which will be “more user friendly.”

Williams said staying up to date with technology is “very important to us. These days, everybody’s going to their computers and smart phones for information. Our new site is going to have a mobile version, so that it’s easily viewable on mobile devices.”


Grayson

www.cityofgrayson.org

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A screen capture of cityofgrayson.org.

• Social Media: On Twitter @CityofGrayson (here)

• Online Bill Pay: None

• City Council Information: Links to mayor and council, as well as meeting schedule, available under corresponding tabs on main website

• Events: Some events listed on main website and on Twitter

• Special Features: Can sign up for emailed “eUpdates” on main website (here); “new resident” page available here.

The city of Grayson’s website isn’t much — but officials hope it will offer a lot more very soon.

“Our website has been woefully deficient,” City Administrator Laura Paul-Cone said, “but we had problems obtaining our domain information from our previous administrator and we could never get them to post updated information, which is what has prompted the complete change.”

That in-progress “complete change” at cityofgrayson.org means the current site, which is rarely updated and only somewhat functional, will be gone in (hopefully) the next month or so.

“It will just be completely updated and will be easier to find information about activities in the city as well as have the updated ordinances and hopefully forms for building and sign permits, business license forms ... elections information, update all of the boards and commissions ... and so much more,” Paul-Cone said in an email.

The city’s current site does offer a “new resident” page (here), which helpful general information about schools, police, trash collection and other basics, as well as a detailed telling of the city’s history.


Lawrenceville

www.lawrencevillega.org

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A screen capture of lawrencevillega.org.

• Social Media: On Twitter @CityofLville (here) and on Facebook (here)

• Online Bill Pay: Utility bills, court fines, citations and business licenses payable under “make payments” tab of main website (here).

• City Council Information: Agendas, minutes, budgets, calendars, mayor and council bios available under “government” tab of main website (here).

• Events: Visit Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association’s website here

• Special Features: Monthly email newsletter available via sign-up on left side of main website, weekly blog updates about city news, and current and future residents can learn about schools, housing and more under “residents” tab on main website (here).

As a team effort, the city of Lawrenceville and Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association work together to keep residents, local businesses and future residents informed.

“We are also working more closely with the LTTA to proactively market the community,” said Lawrenceville’s Executive Director of Community and Economic Development Lisa A. Sherman. “In doing so, we will also be exploring the development of a proactive public relations strategy, utilizing video communication resources like YouTube to create an outlet for visitors and residents to see what is happening in addition to reading about it.”

QR codes and Augmented Reality programs are concepts that may be explored in the future for the city, as it is free or cost-effective for the users, Sherman said.


Lilburn

www.cityoflilburn.com

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A screen capture of cityoflilburn.com.

• Social Media: On Twitter @CityofLilburn (here)(here).

• Online Bill Pay: Traffic tickets payable under main site’s “courts” section (here).

• City Council Information: Schedule, agendas and mayor and council bios available under “mayor’s welcome” section of main site (here).

• Events: News and events stripped down center of main site, as well as under respective tabs

• Special Features: Monthly email newsletter available via sign-up on right side of main website

Content-wise, the city of Lilburn’s website is pretty stellar. Navigation-wise, it’s a little tougher, officials will admit — that’s why they’re retooling it and hoping to reveal a new and improved site in October.

“This one is going to be very clear and concise,” city Public Relations Manager Nikki Perry said. “We’ve just got the four menu items at the top and five graphic buttons for the main things people are going to be looking for. So we hope that this will be much more user friendly.”

Lilburn’s current site offers plenty of information, including news and events, city council schedules and agendas, and information about police, code enforcement and trash schedules. But Perry said the city gets calls regularly from folks unable to find key features.

The new site will offer, in addition to better navigation, the ability to pay for things like permits, citations, business licenses and pavilion reservations — and hopefully be easier for folks to surf.

“I just want to make sure that it’s understandable to everybody,” Perry said, “not just people who are familiar with government.”


Norcross

www.norcrossga.net

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A screen capture of norcrossga.net.

• Social Media: On Twitter @CityofNorcross (here); on Facebook (here); on YouTube (here); smartphone app

• Online Bill Pay: Utility bills and business licenses payable here.

• City Council Information: Agendas, minutes, calendars, mayor and council bios available under “municipal” tab of main website (here).

• Events: Under the “events” tab on the main website (here) or visit aplacetoimagine.com.

• Special Features: Newsletters, city news, community development and photo galleries available under the “community” tab on the main website (here). With a diverse population, there is an instant translation tool, which translates all the content on the site (not the attachments, just the loaded content) into Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

The city’s website is getting a face-lift and will be unveiled at the end of the summer.

“The changes we’re making reflect input from the community over the past few years, as well as updates city staff felt were needed,” city spokeswoman Tixie Fowler said. “The new site will be more comprehensive as far as area amenities, allowing people to contact departments via email, voice concerns and report issues, as well as sign up to volunteer for events and community activities. It’s going to be more interactive than the prior site, and easier to navigate.”


Peachtree Corners

cityofpeachtreecornersga.com

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A screen capture of cityofpeachtreecornersga.com.

• Social media: None. “That is step two.”

• Online bill pay: The city is considering allowing business licenses to be paid online in the future.

• Council Information: Information about council meetings can be found by clicking the “Public Notices/Agendas” button on the home page (here).

• Calendar of Events: Events are listed on the home page. Officials say this section will soon become more robust (here).

• Special features: Within a few months, the city hopes to add email newsletters for residents.

Nearly from the moment Peachtree Corners became a city in 2012, a website has been up to help residents learn about the fledgling government. Mayor Mike Mason said the tool is important for people who have questions or want to follow the new government in action.

While a committee is working to improve the site, Mason said the most important part thus far has been the Q&A section (here), which hopes to answer as many questions about the new government as possible. It also provides a key contact, with the mayor pledging that emails sent to info@cityofpeachtreecornerga.com will be answered within 24 hours.

“If (residents) have questions we want to know,” he said. “Don’t hesitate.”


Snellville

www.snellville.org

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A screen capture of snellville.org.

• Social media: Facebook (here); Snellville PD Facebook (here); Twitter @SnellvilleGA (here); Snellville PD on Twitter @SnellvillePD (here)

• Online bill pay: To pay traffic citations online, follow a link on the website’s home page to the city’s ticketfastpay.com page (here).

• Council Information: Links to mayor and council profiles and agendas are under the City Government tab on the home page (here).

• Calendar of Events: City and community calendars can be found on the site’s home page (here).

• Special features: Residents can sign up for a city email newsletter on the website (here). The city has also partnered with CodeRED to provide emergency notifications to anyone who lives or works within the city. To sign up for text or email alerts, go here.

For Mayor Kelly Kautz, Snellville’s city website is “just one of many tools that the city utilizes to keep citizens connected and informed.”

The city has fully integrated into the digital revolution, using social media accounts for nearly every city department, from the police force to the parks and rec staff. And the CodeRED service warns citizens of potential threats, road closures and severe weather.

In the works is a city app for smart phone users to have government information and events in the palm of their hands.

“That will be yet another tool for citizens to stay connected,” Kautz said.


Sugar Hill

cityofsugarhill.com

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A screen capture of cityofsugarhill.com.

• Social Media: For events, go to the “Sugar Hill Parks and Recreation” Facebook page (here).

• Online Bill Pay: Gas bills payable under “online payments” tab of main website (here).

• City Council Information: Agendas, minutes, mayor and council bios available under “government” tab of main website (here).

• Events: City news and events listed down right side of main website (here) and on Facebook (here).

• Special Features: Newsletter, “construction watch,” program guides and more available via email under “email mailing list” tab of main website (here).

The city of Sugar Hill’s website — cityofsugarhill.com — isn’t flashy, but it’s plenty functional and very informative.

“The website means a lot to us,” city IT Director Tracy Williamson said. “It’s rich in content, it’s always current. I update it several times a day. It’s very important to get the information out to the citizens and we take great pride in that.”

News and events are constantly updated and stripped down the right hand side of the main site. Unique features like a business map — helping Sugar Hill residents shop inside city boundaries — and “construction watch” photo galleries keep the site fresh, too.

The city is also proud of its “online service request” feature, which allows residents to report everything from potholes to code violations.

All that said, Williamson said the city is getting ready for a “website refresh” in the next month or two.

“We’re just going to take what we have and make it better, build on it,” she said.


Suwanee

suwanee.com

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A screen capture of suwanee.com.

• Social media: On Facebook (here), on Twitter: @CityofSuwanee (here) and a Suwanee mobile app is expected to be developed soon.

• Online bill pay: Tickets for Municipal Court can be paid online by clicking on the “pay tickets” link (here). Most Suwanee residents receive water services from the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources. All other utilities within the city are provided by private companies.

• City Council: Member bios, email addresses available under “City Council” link on main page (here), along with links to agendas and minutes along the right side of the page (here). City Council meetings are typically held at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at City Hall.

• Events: Suwanee is home to about 40 events each year, including concerts, festivals, movies, races, farmers markets, plays and food trucks (click here for details).

• Special Features: Suwanee ‘S’ car magnets are free and available at City Hall. The city publishes an official newsletter, “CrossRoads,” six times per year. Click on the “send me news” link at the top of the site (here) to sign up for the Suwanee News email list serve. Emails are generally no more than twice a month about events and other upcoming programs.

Suwanee officials pride themselves with new, up-to-date information about upcoming events and meetings.

“We feel that one of the things that makes our website stand out is our commitment to keeping the information, particularly on the homepage, fresh and up-to-date,” spokeswoman Lynne DeWilde said. “The stories on the home page feature upcoming events, news stories about ongoing initiatives, and features about things/programs that make our community vibrant and interesting.”