Columbia County officials continue to beef up the county's Web site with the hope that eventually it will serve residents' needs 24 hours a day.
"Most of our citizens probably work outside of the county and they need access to information after hours," said Lewis Foster, an information technology manager for the county. "Plus, you've got to realize too, more and more people are getting used to doing business over the Internet. The next generation, that's how they do business."
Virtual tours of four county facilities were recently added to the site at www.columbiacountyga.gov and more online services are added all the time, said Todd Glover, the county's director of Management and Financial Services.
"Pretty soon, you'll be able to pay your water bill from the Web site," Glover said. "You can already do your property taxes. You can do your car tags. You can sign up for any of our recreation leagues from the Web site."
The county site has earned accolades including being dubbed one of the best government Web sites in the country in 2006 by the National Policy Research Council, which reviewed more than 11,000 government sites.
"We're just doing our job, trying to utilize resources that taxpayers provide us and being good stewards of their money," Foster said.
The site also was highlighted in a recent AT&T trend report distributed to the company's other government clients. The article, which focused on how to manage Internet services in fast growing counties, praised the long-term goals of county officials regarding the site.
"My goal is that everything you can walk up to the counter and do in Columbia County, you'll be able to do it on the Web over the years," Foster said.
Already, residents can participate in the county's surplus auctions, renew vehicle tags, get an employment application, view county ordinances and building codes, check lost and adoptable animals and take virtual tours of county facilities among many other things.
Foster said the site received more than 3.2 million hits in 2005 and nearly 7.5 million hits in 2006. So far this year, the county's site has had more than 5.7 million hits, averaging nearly 48,000 per day, according to Foster.
Soon, county vendors will be able to manage their accounts, submit quotes of bids and check invoices on the Web site, Foster said.
Vendors will be able to begin registration in the system in the next few weeks, Foster said.
Foster said the site will soon feature a historical map of the county and a Google map of nearly every county facility, building, park or office.
"There's history in Columbia County that nobody knows about," he said.
Although county officials say personal service isn't going away, in a fast-growing county Glover said expansion of the Web site is much more cost-effective than building new offices and hiring new people.
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