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CITY UPBEAT ON RESPONSE OF PUBLIC TO WEB SITE

Buffalo's e-government initiative is off to a smooth but slow start as people begin tapping computer technology to pay city parking tickets and user fees and file complaints about services.

Less than two weeks after the city unveiled its newly designed Web site, residents have turned to the Internet to pay $2,000 in fines and fees. About 100 complaints have also been filed online by people who otherwise would likely have reported their gripes by calling a hotline.

Considering that a citywide awareness blitz is just getting under way, the program's coordinator said he has been pleased with the initial response. John J. Zebracki, who heads the city's data-processing unit, said 83,000 property owners will receive information about the Web site next week when user-fee bills start appearing in mailboxes.

Several days ago, the city also introduced new parking-violations tickets that encourage people to pay fines by visiting the Web site at www.city-buffalo.com.

Zebracki said the site processed about 30 parking tickets and 10 user-fee payments in the first 12 days. He anticipates a dramatic increase in the coming weeks as more residents become aware of the new Internet option.

"We're happy with the early response, especially when you consider all the turmoil last week," Zebracki said, referring the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

By November, a new feature might bring a new target audience to the Web site. Designers are working on a genealogy search component that would enable visitors to inspect old birth and death records.

"We met with the city clerk this week to talk about the mechanics of it. There are certain guidelines that have to be followed when you're putting these kind of records online," Zebracki said.

The genealogy search feature will likely be launched later this fall, right around the time that applications for various city permits start appearing on the site, he said.

The city's $100,000 e-government initiative is designed to make City Hall more "user-friendly," according to Mayor Anthony M. Masiello.

Staff members have encountered no technical problems in the first two weeks, Zebracki said.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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