Originally created 01/19/98

Cyber city



NEW ELLENTON -- None of the 3,500 people who live in this federally created town outside the Savannah River Site has e-mailed town hall yet with a complaint or a query.

The option has been there for the past couple of months, but not the interest.

However, the town's Internet home page is drawing surfers from Petaluma, Calif.; Lima, Ohio; and Houston.

Local residents also are making hits to the site. Most leave messages of praise for the home page. In one case, a student named Stacey with a class history project asked for more information about the history of Ellenton, the town's predecessor.

To date, nearly 120 visits, or hits, have been recorded on New Ellenton's Web page.

The number may not bowl anyone over, but it's a start, said former Town Councilman Greg Carmack.

"The potential is there. New Ellenton might as well be one step ahead in that," Mr. Carmack said.

The town was created after the federal government laid claim in 1950 to 310 square miles south of Aiken on which to build a nuclear facility to produce tritium for its nuclear arsenal. About 6,000 residents sold their property to the government including people in Ellenton, some of whom rebuilt the town a few miles away in what became New Ellenton.

Kris Lowe, 22, who grew up in New Ellenton and served as a volunteer firefighter, lives now in Petaluma, Calif. His father, Andy Lowe, told him about the page, and on Jan. 12, he left a message.

He's been home about three times in the past two years. The Web page is a way to keep in touch, he said.

"I think they did a really good job," he said. "I know the people there, and it's interesting to see what's going on."

When town council decided to go electronic, Mr. Carmack enlisted the expertise and hometown pride of Roger and David Gay, owners of Palmetto South Internet, to build the home page. That was about nine months ago.

Chris Beam, another former town councilman, also has pitched in to help get out a town newsletter that goes global on the Internet and through the mails to local, non-surfing residents.

The newsletter gives residents a range of information, from the time and route for the Christmas parade to an explanation of just what's going on with the water and sewage bills after the town council and the Commission on Public Works disagreed about a contract for the commission to handle the billing for sewage.

How the messages are delivered matters for the site's credibility.

"It should be real clean, not anybody's personal opinion," Mr. Carmack said.

The potential of the site is great for drawing the community together and for promoting businesses and jobs, he said. As a public service, the town council in the future could consider publishing minutes of council meetings and other public record documents, he said.

The page gives the town a chance to shine and also show off its best assets to people who think about moving to the area, Mr. Carmack said.

The link from the home page to town hall via the town's e-mail address eventually can become an easy way for residents to communicate with their officials, he said.

Even if residents haven't become acquainted with it yet, the e-mail address is being used by some businesses, most notably the company that recently upgraded the town's computer system, Mr. Carmack said.

The site has links to current events with postings on town council meetings, area businesses, schools and churches, local government, Commission of Public Works, and the fire and police departments. There are also links to the newsletter, a history of New Ellenton -- a work in progress -- and a visitor's log book.

Nancy and Mack McLendon in Columbia discovered the site in November and left a message, "What a good way to bring this town to the attention of so many people."

Gerri in Houston has spent summers in New Ellenton and visited the Web site in December. "It's a lovely little town with a relaxing atmosphere," she wrote.

Thomas Duffy from Lima, Ohio, has friends in New Ellenton, and the home page, he wrote in December, is a way to stay in touch with what's happening.

Roger Gay said, "I wish more people would take a little more interest in this little town. We did the home page in good faith hoping we can help somebody. If we give a little good information, we've done what we set out to do."