updated 9/14/2004 4:22:58 PM ET 2004-09-14T20:22:58

When northern Kentucky resident Bill Glenn wanted to know about parking options in Covington, he logged on to the city's Web site and sent an e-mail.

Within an hour, he had an answer that included information about Covington parking garages and surface lots plus ferry service.

Communicating through the Internet is becoming more and more popular in cities throughout Kentucky.

There's been a "mini-explosion" of Web sites among Kentucky's 431 cities since 2000, according to Sylvia Lovely, executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities. Before that, she said, it was mostly larger cities that offered Web sites. Now, some 100 have them.

"It's certainly a way for cities to promote their community, their local businesses and tourist destinations," Lovely said. "It is also an excellent way for local governments to stay connected with their constituents."

Nearby Newport sports one of the most sophisticated Web sites in northern Kentucky after a massive upgrade in 2003. Paula Williamson, Newport city clerk and Webmaster, added various kinds of forms, zoning ordinances, job applications and historic district guidelines.

And by the end of September, Newport's site will offer a first in the region, streaming video of city commission meetings.

"It's the age of the computer and it seems like that's the direction that everybody's going in," said Newport City Commissioner Jerry Rex Peluso. "It gets a lot of information out for us to people, whether it's job opportunities, calendar events, who to contact in case of concerns or to have someone answer a question."

The Kentucky League of Cities decided about a year ago to team up with Systems Insight Inc. of Covington to promote the company's model Kentucky city Web site, a generic program customized for cities that participate.

After a startup fee of at least $995, cities pay between $75 and $115 a month, depending upon contract length, said Jeff Hassan, a business development specialist with Systems Insight.

"Web sites are a necessity in terms of communicating, and they can streamline the way the city does business," Hassan said. "In today's era, people expect immediate information and the means with which to obtain information."

Covington City Commissioner Bernie Moorman said enthusiasm for Web sites should be tempered by the fact that not everybody owns a computer.

"Web sites are very nice tools to have, but they're not central to the management of a good working government," Moorman said. "They serve a purpose, but should be kept in context of the overall communication that goes on between the citizens and elected officers."

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