Saturday, March 8, 2008


The following article appeared in the May 22, 2008 issue of Bluffton Today (pg. 20):

Sun City’s getting a new home on the Web

Why do Sun City residents pay $9,859 per month for a service used by about 2,716 people? We pay about $118,000 per year for something that 80 percent of us don’t use. Give up? It is our, or should I say Pulte’s, Web site, Pulte launched this site in 2005. Our then Board of Directors —three residents and four Pulte employee appointments —approved a contract with Intellicommunities to provide the site. Prior to this approval, the Finance Committee, of which yours truly was then a member, debated this site and its annual cost at great length.

In the end, the committee chair, Pulte’s comptroller for our area, told us to just vote “yes” because this had already been decided. As a committee, we were told that Pulte would pick up the cost of developing the Web site and Intellicommunities would provide the first year of service at no cost. Our chair showed us projections by Intellicommunities showing that advertising would pay the cost of this site in subsequent years. Because many people might not like advertising on their screens, all advertising would be on a sidebar, which had to be clicked on to activate it. The first ads started appearing during the second year.

Not, as promised, in a sidebar to be activated by the user, but in plain view, annoying everyone. Why complain? We knew that advertising would support the site, so everything was working as it should. Not quite. Pulte refused to share the revenue with us. It claimed the advertisement was a site enhancement. Wow! I don’t know how much money Pulte charged, but I do wonder whether it ever disclosed the actual usage numbers to its advertisers.

You may ask, so what? There’s advertising on Google and the other search engines. but we don’t pay to use Google or Yahoo. During the past year Pulte and Intellicommunities have gone one better. Now we are receiving e-mail advertising commonly referred to as SPAM. When our local webmaster protested this abuse of the Web site’s mail system to Pulte’s Web project manager, orders came from corporate to fire him. Of course, the advertisement caper is only the latest complaint about this site.

From the start, most users found that the Web site is difficult to navigate, you can’t find anything and it is counterintuitive. Our Board of Directors finally heard us. Last year, the board —controlled by the residents at that time — decided to cancel the site and find a better solution. Unfortunately, the board missed the deadline for cancellation and we were stuck for another year and another $118,000. Let there be no doubt, we are a wired community and we need a Web site. Our local webmaster even offered to design, at no charge, anew site that would cost an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 per year to operate. His offer was not accepted.

Is there any good news in all of this? Yes, the board this year did not miss the deadline for cancellation. The letter has been sent, a request for proposals has gone out and we are now awaiting the results.

I’ll have more about this new proposed Web site next week. Of course, given the history of our site, we will have to ask ourselves, will Pulte really relinquish control of a revenue source?

Carl Lehmann is a Sun City resident. He can be reached at

The following appeared in the May 29, 2008 issue of Bluffton Today (page 14). It is a follow-up to a May 22, 2008 article.

Sun City’s new Web site is on track

I promised last week to let you know about Sun City’s new proposed Web site. I will; however, before I do that I need to say shame on approximately 80 percent of the property owners who did not vote for the new board members last week.

Now to our new Web site. The board of directors authorized on May 7 the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the new site. The RFP went to 16 companies judged capable of meeting Sun City’s requirements. The Technical Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Bert Walker, developed the RFP. The committee members worked diligently to make sure the residents’ needs were addressed. They also conducted a survey to see what we wanted. The survey resulted in 76 things that residents thought should be found on any Web site. Suggestions ranged from less confusing/more intuitive to obituaries and mowing schedules.

Some ideas on top of the list included bill paying for our assessments and charges on the activity accounts and a search engine we can use to find what we are looking for within the site. Let’s face it, we love the ability to speak our minds. The new Web site will have a community message board where we can vent our frustrations. Who knows, if it is as easy to access as Bluffton Today’s Vox it might become our internal safety valve.

As envisioned, the site will be open to all comers. No password will be required. So-called portlets, accessible with a password, will protect confidential information. One of these portlets is intended for exclusive use by the board of directors. It seems to me that it would just invite more secrecy by those appointed by Pulte or elected by us to govern our community.

Proposals are due June 6, only 30 days from the date of issuance. Interestingly enough, our current portal provider, Intellicommunities, a Pulte subsidiary, received an advance copy of the RFP. Remember, this is the company that will lose a $100,000-per-year contract if it is not chosen. Is this just another Pulte shenanigan trying to gain an unfair advantage over competitors?

The Technical Advisory Committee will review all proposals and make a recommendation to the board by July 18. The board must make a final decision to negotiate a contract with one company. Given the obvious impropriety of providing an advance copy of the RFP to one company, the question arises whether Pulte has already made a decision to award the contract to Intellicommunities. Pulte appointees control the board. They will certainly make their decision as directed by the home office. Remember, these are the same folks who refused to be included in the board’s code of ethics. Of course, it is possible that Intellicommunities delivers the best and most advantageous proposal. However, it does cast a pall over the proceedings.

Whatever happens, we will get a new Web site, and we can only hope that all proposals will make it easy, make it compelling and make it happen.

Carl Lehmann is a Sun City resident. He can be reached at

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