The Lake Mills City Council approved a policy Tuesday night that will tighten the reigns on city departments using social media.
After a long discussion on a social media policy intended to protect the city the council approved the question unanimously.
“This is a topic municipalities are dealing with right now,” said Dan Drescher, city attorney. “This is consistent with other communities’ efforts in this (social media). The pitfalls are that it is a work in progress and enforcement of this policy will be an issue along with the amount of time and effort and resources that are going to be dedicated to this initiative.”
The policy calls for department heads who want to have a social media presence assign an employee or group of employees who will be in charge of social media accounts.
“This will create a framework and a structure,” he said. “This will affect the way the city communicates with its constituents.”
The information disseminated on city owned social media sites will have to go through the proper channels.
“We’ve run array of prudent use in the past and this is attempting to address that.”
Council Vice President Mike Foster expressed concern over the rumor mill that tends to get started on Facebook sites like the Lake Mills Community Network.
“Our answers and correspondence must be deliberate, and it must be precise. It must be planned, or we get the wild, wild west in this situation,” Drescher said.
“You have departments that want to be dropping something every day,” said Steve Wilke, city manager. “To be precise and not make a mistake is difficult. We’ve already talked about there was information that was put out there before council had any idea the project was out there. Now you’re in a position where you’ve got a public expectation and the council hasn’t had an opportunity to evaluate it and go through all the pitfalls like union MOU’s (Memorandum of Understanding),” he said referring to the difficulty the city is having coming to an agreement in regard to the K9 officer with the Police Union.
The city will have to dedicate an unknown amount of time and resources to the city’s social media presence.
“As president of the council I don’t want any of my departments posting on Facebook every day,” said Diann Fritsch. “That’s a lot of time.”
“We are in that day and age where all the folks living in the city and working in the city want that information and they want it quickly and this is how they get that information and if they don’t get it from an authorized source in the city they’re going to get it from somewhere else and then we fight the rumor mill,” Foster said.
“What we have right now is very little oversite and a couple of departments acting very independently,” Drescher said.
The hope of city staff is to cut that off with this policy.
“This holds folks accountable and it lays out what they can and can’t do,” Foster said.
“I just don’t think we have the budget for a whole public relations department and I don’t want to go to my constituents and say we are going to raise your taxes because we are bringing someone in to monitor Facebook,” Diann Fristch said.
“We do public relations every day whether we want to or not,” Wilke said.
“What is it they have to get off of Facebook instantaneously they can’t get off of the website or making a phone call,” asked Steve Fields, council member.
Drescher said the Lake Mills Police Department tries to produce good will stories on Facebook.
“Don’t kid yourself this is already happening, and employees are on Facebook on behalf of the city on a regular basis.”
Wilke says he would prefer the city not be on Facebook.
“I think it’s a hazard,” he said. “It’s a black hole, but we do not have one newspaper, TV station or radio station that everyone reads and listens to. It’s hard to communicate with people.”
Officials say a lot of people are no longer using websites.
“They’ve taken the wild west and put some regulations on it,” Foster said.
City staff will continue to work on the policy to figure out the best way to create an archive of the activity the city has on social media for possible Open Records Requests. Until that time the city manager was directed by the council to stop all city related social media activity.