Marylanders will have a chance to talk face to face with their legislators tomorrow night in the state's first video town meeting.
State delegates and senators in four locations around the state will lead the meeting, where people in one room can see, hear and speak to those in three other rooms miles away using a network of video cameras, monitors, microphones and fiber-optic cable.
Legislators and residents will gather in video-equipped rooms in Owings Mills, Aberdeen, Rockville and Salisbury at 7 p.m. tomorrow in a discussion on Maryland's economic development and job creation.
The meeting marks a new direction in the use of the interactive technology, which has been used primarily to teach classes in several locations at once.
"We believe that electronic town meetings can help close the communications gap between the government and the people," said Raymond K. K. Ho, president and chief executive officer of Maryland Public Television, which is producing the meeting. "We anticipate that this kind of usage of the technology will become more and more common place."
In addition to bringing government closer to the people, the meeting will showcase the technology to businesses that might want to use it for conferences, Mr. Ho said. There are 43 fiber-optic and interactive-video sites in Maryland.
About 260 seats for the public will be available at the four meeting sites. State legislators will be on hand at the sites nearest their districts, said Thomas Lewis, legislative assistant to House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.
Mr. Taylor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller will be the main hosts for the meeting at Maryland Public Television studios in Owings Mills.
Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann will be the host for a panel of Harford officials, business people and residents at the new Higher Education and Applied Technology (HEAT) Center in Aberdeen.
The center is a good example of an attempt to attract businesses and jobs to an area, according to Mr. Lewis.
For Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore, the meeting will mark the first time the campus will be connected interactively with sites on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay, according to Fred Marino, director of the communications center there.
Since the fiber-optic and video technology were installed over the summer, the 64-seat classroom has been used to teach a marketing class to Salisbury State students and to students at two other Eastern Shore colleges.
"The sound is so good, the picture is so good, the system is user friendly enough that it's almost like being there," Mr. Marino said.
The HEAT Center and Salisbury State are two of the public sites that Bell Atlantic-Maryland has connected to a "distance learning network" through fiber-optic cables and video equipment.
The company has an agreement with the state to lay the cables and provide about $50,000 worth of video equipment free to 200 high schools, community colleges and other institutions. The schools and colleges have to pay the $1,365-a-month tariff, however.
The fourth location for tomorrow's meeting is Montgomery College's Rockville Campus.
Those who can't make it to Owings Mills, Aberdeen, Rockville or Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore could submit questions by electronic or regular mail before the meeting.
* Maryland Public Television: 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills.
* Higher Education and Applied Technology Center: Room 109, 3659 Churchville Road, Aberdeen.
* Salisbury State University: Holloway Hall, Room 114, Salisbury.
* Montgomery College: Campus Center, Faculty/Staff Dining Hall, Rockville campus.
For more information call the Citizen Information Technology Education Corporation at (410) 962-5555.
* By computer prior to tomorrow's meeting: dlrreslark.net or on Internet Sailor home page, http;//www.sailor.lib.md.