Resident's gig as town crier coming to an end?

By Melanie Savage
Andover - posted Tue., Jan. 25, 2011
The new Andover website is intended to be user-friendly.
The new Andover website is intended to be user-friendly.

It looks like Dianne Grenier’s days as the unofficial town crier might soon be over for good. Years ago, the energetic Grenier began compiling a list for Andover residents that she called The Town Crier. The e-mail list included information about the events going on in town, gleaned from a number of local and regional newspapers, attendance at town meetings, and news bits passed along by friends and neighbors. “It started with a need,” said Grenier. “People needed to know what was going on.” When she decided that Andover needed a website of its own, Grenier gathered a committee together and served as the chairman, with resident Scott Sauyet providing technical guidance.  

Once the website was up and running, “The Town Crier went away,” said Grenier. But when state mandates raised the bar on municipal posting requirements, smaller towns across Connecticut found it difficult to comply. Andover took a novel approach and declared their town website unofficial. Grenier, not wanting to leave Andover residents in the dark, resurrected her list as Andover This ‘N That. A private committee, overseen by Sauyet, began working to put together a new site totally funded by private sources.

The run of Andover This ‘N That has lasted for just about two years, much longer than Grenier originally bargained for. But the new website is almost ready to go. Sauyet is no longer involved. “Scott’s a pretty busy guy,” said Grenier. Resident Jay Kamins has taken over as resident technical guru, website developer and designer. The committee is currently chaired by Deb Topass. “I think we’re pretty close,” said Kamins. “What we’re planning on doing is sending out an email asking members of [Grenier’s] list to sign up.” When the site is ready to launch, residents will be informed via the list and local media sources. “We’re hoping to be ready to launch within a month’s time,” said Kamins.

Currently, Andover This ‘N That regularly goes out to about 375 different e-mail addresses. “Everything that's on my list should be on the new website,” said Grenier. “If not, people should contact the administrators.” It's not that Grenier hasn't enjoyed her role as town crier. “I will continue to know what's going on in town,” she said. But Grenier is a busy woman. With a job at the Bushnell, a teaching gig with the Department of Environmental Protection, commitments as the president of the Friends of the Library, and a heavy involvement in town government (town elections are coming up), Grenier has plenty of other things to occupy her time. “I'm probably going to just let it slowly disappear into the sunset,” she said.

One of the top goals for the completed site is ease of use. “What we're hoping to do is focus on the ease of accessing the site, and making it very user-friendly,” said Kamins.  It is also envisioned as a living, changing resource. “We don't just want it to be a stiff, unchanging document,” said Kamins. “We want people to know that they can reply upon the site to provide updated, accurate information.”

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