Washington state gopher site (URL: gopher://olympus.dis.wa.gov) is great, and worth all the tax dollars that created it," he said. "It offers the most up-to-date access to state legislation, and getting that is a big part of my job. There's no other way to get that information in a timely way unless you're in Olympia [the capital]. That's really valuable." Sconyers added that he has helped his daughter locate geologic material from a U.S. Geologic Survey Web page (URL: http://info.er.usgs.gov/) for a school project, and even was able to order USGS publications from the site. Also, using the Washington state Web page (URL: http://www.seanet.com/Seattle/Parks/Parks. html) he researched state recreational areas and selected one to visit with his daughter on their first backpacking trip. Particularly useful to commuters, he said, is a Department of Transportation Web page (URL: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ regions/northwest/NWFLOW/) that shows traffic congestion, road construction and ferry schedules in Seattle, updated every five minutes. One office building in the financial district even displays the Web page constantly in the lobby as a service to the people who work in it. Yet Sconyers isn't without criticism. "A lot of what's out there is junk, though," he said. "A lot of the federal government stuff is pitched to a fourth grade level. A lot of it is limited to phone numbers and addresses, which is not very useful. On the other hand, phone numbers and addresses aren't easy to find anymore, so it's better to have them than not." Municipalities have been slow to adopt to the Internet, but lately they have been showing up more often. Robert E. Drescher, a systems analyst for the city of Los Angeles, developed the new Department of Building and Safety Web page (URL: http://www.ci.la.ca.us) to provide residents with a guide for obtaining building permits, the laws regarding building permits, directory of employees in the department, job openings in the department and the current agenda of the Planning Commission. The site will evolve to offer online applications for building permits. It also offers residents the opportunity to report hazards by e-mail. "The point of this is help people from having to come downtown and wait in a line," he said. "The Web page tells them who to call or e-mail. The mayor believes it is cost efficient because it is business friendly, and he wants Los Angeles to be known as friendly to business. The Internet is still young, but it is growing incredibly fast. It clearly is the way of the future, so cities are beginning to recognize that they need to have a presence on it and make it easy for people to get information about the city and its services." Drescher added that the Department of Building and Safety Web page required a week of his time to create, and will demand about 10 hours a month to maintain. "The cost is fairly minimal," he said.

Financial Perspectives Cost is important both to government agencies and taxpayers, and can range from a relative pittance to expensive, depending on the size and sophistication of the site. A simple, no frills Web page can cost as little as $2,000 to develop and $100 a month to maintain in terms of posting fresh information. But that would be using a third-party computer server, and most government agencies want to have and control their own equipment. They also don't want to look drab next to their colleagues, so cost rises with the enhanced brilliance of graphics. A very sophisticated Web page, with online forms, access to extensive material and links to other agencies and information, can run up to $100,000 or more. Government Internet sites range across that spectrum. "They offer a variety of information, and in general they're excellent," observed Bruce Maxwell, a