New Tool Launch: Procurement Alerts for City of Charlottesville

Mail-message-open-alert.svgToday we’ve launched a procurement alert system for the City of Charlottesville.  This system will alert subscribers to any new projects posted on the city procurement website.  Additionally, it will send alerts regarding procurement project updates, including project awards.  Previously, interested parties would need to review manually the city webpage and search for new awards or updates on projects.  Now, any interested party can sign up for these free, automated email alerts.

This service benefits:

  • The City of Charlottesville – Anything that increases the awareness of city projects improves the likelihood of receiving multiple competitive bids.  Moreover, the alerts contribute toward a culture of transparency and engagement within the city.
  • Businesses – New and small businesses will especially benefit from this efficient means of learning about opportunities to do business with the city.
  • Citizens – Charlottesville has a deeply engaged citizenry that will benefit from the information that these alerts will bring.

The city’s procurement page is full of useful community information on current projects.  Each time a new project is posted or updated, subscribers to the Smart Cville alert system will be notified.  Sample projects that subscribers would have received alerts regarding include: Belmont Bridge Replacement, Clark Elementary Safe Routes to School, Garrett Street Stairs Replacement Project, and a Civic Engagement Platform.

Over time, we hope to improve this service and expand its usage to Albemarle County.  The power of this tool, however, is limited by the lack of machine-readable data offered on the city (and county) website (see technical discussion below).  Please feel free to contact us with any feedback or questions.

Official press release

Technical Discussion
Unfortunately, the city does not provide us with any machine readable content for its procurement information.  In order to offer this service, we’ve decided to use a simple web scraping tool called PHP Simple HTML DOM Parser.  Unfortunately, this renders the system a tad fragile and limits some features we’d like to add.  For now, to review the data as closely as possible, we’re storing it in a database and making comparisons to the data that way.  We imagine there are a million better ways to do this and welcome any feedback/questions on the technical end.  We’re here to learn!


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