West Jordan will annex a corner of cyberspace this week as it becomes the first city in Salt Lake County with a home page on the World Wide Web.
Its local neighbors will soon follow, though, with claims of their own on the Internet. Salt Lake City, West Valley City and South Jordan expect to have Web pages running this summer. Centerville, Murray, Sandy and Orem also are talking about going online.City governments across the country are using the Internet to put information and services at residents' fingertips. They're also using the computer network to broadcast their attributes to the rest of the world.
It's a relatively cheap way to get the word out, they say. The cost is less than $5,000, excluding employee time. And it marks you as a technically savvy and progressive place.
"I almost hate to say it, but you need it these days to relate to people. It's almost as if you look behind the times if you don't have (a Web page) to communicate with people," said Pam Witt, a project manager in Salt Lake City's information management services division.
Given that, Provo is the hippest Wasatch Front city. Its Web page, which has been up since February, has an economic-development flavor, with a good overview of things a prospective new business or resident might want to know.
And Salt Lake County, too, is a technical leader. It debuted a Web page a year ago; today that page even has an audio clip welcome for visitors.
Sandy officials will gather next week to discuss whether to pursue posting a page on the World Wide Web, the graphical part of the Internet.
"Our feeling is it probably makes sense to go ahead with it, but we have to put our business hats on and make sure we're utilizing tax dollars in the best way possible," said Rick Davis, Sandy's community relations director.
Brok Armantrout and Bruce Miller are two city employees who love the idea. Armantrout, Sandy's zoning administrator, and Miller, the city's data processing director, have worked through lunches and stayed late some evenings to develop a prototype home page.
They estimate about 30 percent of Sandy's households have computers with Internet access. The high percentage of computer-literate Utahns in their communities is often mentioned by other cities, as well, as a compelling reason for getting online.
All of the cities picture the same sorts of information on their Web pages: city meeting agendas and minutes, city codes, who's who listings, job openings, city services and contacts, demographic facts and figures and newsy articles from various departments.
They also want to let residents send e-mail to city employees.
"If you have a computer, it's an easier way to get information," said Karl Augat, West Jordan's management information systems administrator. "It's always readily available, any time of day or week."
West Jordan is even considering putting video clips on its page.
"The area of coverage is nothing like anything we could reach with any other medium," said Mark Isaac, community and economic development analyst.
Ed Wilde, West Valley City's network administrator, said taking a virtual trip to a locale has become a routine step for businesses considering new developments or relocating.
West Valley City constantly gets calls from people asking if it has a Web site, Wilde said.
Salt Lake City ventured online in 1994 with a gopher server that can be accessed from a link on the state's Web page. The city's gopher menu offers the same sort of information likely to be found on a government Web page, minus pretty pictures and graphics.
Much more information, all interlinked, will go up with the city's Web page, Witt said. Salt Lake City's status as host of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games is likely to make its Web page a huge draw for people around the world, he said.
But Salt Lake City, like many of its peers, also has an interest in making life easier for residents. The city plans to make it possible for residents to download commonly requested documents like building permits, business licenses and job applications.
That would be a time saver for both residents and city employees, Witt said.
Cities on the 'Net
West Jordan (will go online Friday): http://www.ci.west-jordan.ut.us
Salt Lake County: http://www.co.slc.ut.us
Salt Lake City (via the state's Web page): http://www.state.ut.us