In 2006, the Fort Wayne City Council signed off on a new project called, “One call to City Hall”. This program would allow citizens to call 3-1-1 for non-emergency services and was one of Mayor Graham Richard’s initiatives. At the roll out, Mayor Richard said in a press release:
One Call to City Hall is an innovative initiative to provide excellent services to the community. Innovation and involvement assist us in our efforts to retain and gain jobs and build a better city. The City of Fort Wayne is a leader in addressing the needs of citizens.
The departments included in the initial rollout included: Solid Waste, Neighborhood Code, Parking Control, Street Department, Property Management, Sign and Signal Operations, and Right of Way. As of this date, all of the major city departments have been rolled into the 3-1-1 call center except for Animal Care and Control, which is underway and is expected to increase the call volume greatly.
Citizens may call 3-1-1 Monday through Fridays from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Voice mails can be left and they are checked Mondays through Fridays. An online version is available which may be used 24 hours a day. Online, citizens may report: abandoned vehicles on private or public property, street lights that are out, potholes, missed garbage or recycling collections, and weed violations. Since April, 3-1-1 has received close to 900 service requests. Citizens then have the option, after reporting online, of logging in to track progress of their request’s resolution.
Cell phone users with Sprint and Verizon services could access the 3-1-1 service on their cell phones at the initial rollout. The City had been working with other cell service providers to add this capability to their cell phones.
This call center received attention during the recent on-going 2009 City Budget Hearings. There were questions over exactly what the 3-1-1 service was providing and if there were enough calls to keep six employees productive. There are also four Mayor Area Advocates and council questioned if having 10 employees devoted directly to citizen interaction is a duplication of services. Cuts to the personnel were considered, but by-passed.
The 3-1-1 personnel are paid out of the Mayor’s office budget, while supervisory personnel are paid out of the City Utilities. Supervisory personnel include one on the technical side and one assistant on the Human Resources side and one over-all supervisor. All of the supervisory personnel have other duties and were already working in their respective capacities. To this end, no other management staff was added for the call center. 3-1-1 personnel are titled, City Services Specialist and were taken from:
1 – Public Works
1 – Community Development
1 – Purchasing
1 – Fire Department
2 – Police Department
The City Services Specialists are paidÂ lessÂ than the amount they received in their previous positions.
To give an idea of the volume they are handling, last year at this time, 19,979 service requests had been generated. To date this year, 31, 985 and they are on track to hit 40,000 by the end of the year. Part of the reason for this is that more departments have been rolled in to the 3-1-1 system this year over last year.
The top four service requests are:
- Missed garbage
- Missed recycling
In 2007, the number of calls received were 65,348. Â This year to date, 85,344 calls have been received. It is estimated this number will top 114,000 for the 2008 calendar year. Of those calls received, 85% of them are answered in queue while the remaining are answered in less than 30 seconds.
The real question becomes, what is the impact of taking 114,000 calls away from various city departments? Has it made it easier for city employees in those departments to accomplish their daily and long-term tasks and responsibilities? I don’t know if any satisfaction surveys have been completed, but it would be interesting and fairly easily accomplished on-line to see what citizens actually think of the service and if they find value in it.
By the way, the contract for the technical software used by City Service Specialists was purchased from a company named Lagan. They were founded and still have their headquarters in Northern Ireland. According to their website, they are a fully-accredited ISO9001 company. In 2008 they became the defacto standard in North America and serve over 37 million citizens worldwide. In North America, they serve: City of San Francisco, CA; City of Hampton, VA; City of Hartford, CT; City of Yonkers, NY; and the City of Fort Wayne, IN among many others. (Yes, they have us listed.)
Special thanks to Deputy Mayor Greg Purcell for providing information.