County Council opens Web site to bring the public closer Officials so far offering only basic menu of data

February 22, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Council has opened a tiny electronic office on the World Wide Web.

Internet surfers won't find much there for now -- a Web site with a basic menu of information on council operations -- but officials planning an interactive future say it soon will bring the public and government closer.

"When I started, I was surprised by the lack of modernization," Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz said, recalling his early days in public office in 1994. "I had a staff member who couldn't use an ATM card, and a computer system from the Paleolithic period."

Last summer, the county spent $25,000 on computers for the council and began work to go on-line -- following in the cyberspace path of the state and Howard, Carroll, Montgomery and Anne Arundel county governments.

Baltimore County plans to build this year on earlier efforts of its computer pioneer -- the library system -- to allow people with home computers to learn more about government and get services quicker while at home.

For now, Internet users can reach a council page giving a basic summary of its operations, listing names and numbers for members and aides, a schedule of council events, agendas for future meetings, and summaries of major events in meetings past.

"This is going to be a training process," Mr. Kamenetz said, adding that the council won't go interactive until all the members are able to respond to computer communications. By next winter, residents with snow-clearing complaints will be able to send them electronically to council members, while snowbound staffers will communicate from home.

County officials hope to use computers to make government agencies accessble from diverse locations -- for example, allowing people to obtain permits electronically from any library branch.

The county planning office also has gone on-line, and next month the Ruppersberger administration plans to open its Internet site, where information will be available on zoning variances and notices, zoning matters and police-community relations meetings, according to William H. Bond, director of information technology.

By July, he said, residents at home may be able to communicate directly with the government.

The council's Web address is us/ (tilde)council/council.home.html/.

Information about the county planning office can be found at centers/baltcogov/planning/ planning.ofc.html/.

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