City government's 311 celebrates its first year

ALBANY, Ga. -- It's been one year since the city, county and the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission partnered to create the 311 program and, for the most part, the center is meeting expectations, officials say.

With more than 15,000 calls answered by operators in the first year, Call Center Manager Cindy Tiernan says that the biggest challenge the center faces is just getting word out about 311.

"That's been the hardest part for us," Tiernan told media representatives during a luncheon Thursday. "We've tried just about everything we can think of to promote using 311, but we still feel like we have had trouble getting the word out."

The intent of the program was to make it easier for the public to place a work order, report a hazard or problem or make a complaint, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said.

A resident can call 311 during normal business hours and reach an operator who will then determine exactly what service the resident is looking for before either helping them with a work order or providing them with the right piece of information.

Residents can also go online to the city's website and accomplish the same task through the city's 311 user interface. Residents can choose from a list of services or can leave a question or comment that will be addressed the next business day, Tiernan said.

If a resident goes online to request a work order -- such as a pothole to be filled -- whenever the task is completed, the resident will be notified that the project has been closed and then be asked to fill out a short survey for feedback on the process.

While government information telephone lines are rather common, Smith and Tiernan say that the program is unique in that it is a one-stop-shop for service for all three major government entities in Dougherty County.

Smith said that plans are to continue to move 311 upward in its second year.

The program has already partnered with some local businesses to help promote the number and that work will continue to be done to track and follow work orders and complaints to make sure they're answered as quickly and efficiently as possible.

According to information passed out Thursday, the most requested agency by callers to 311 has been probation offices, followed by the Department of Family and Children Services, the Department of Motor Vehicles, information on Outreach Centers and the Department of Natural Resources.

The top requests for city, county and WG&L services is removal of yard debris, reports of blown street lights, removal of junk furniture, repair or replacement of garbage cans, stray or dead animals, overgrown grass and weeds, blighted property or potholes.

Mike Tilson, the Albany-Dougherty County Code Enforcement Director, said that the program has helped streamline the work order process for his department and allows for a good follow-up process to ensure the work was done.