Madison looks at 311 system to help communication with residents

Madison looks at 311 system to help communication with residents

MADISON, Wis. - Need to report a pothole or have a question on city permits?

A new reporting service could help answer those questions with a live chat on the phone or web. The city of Madison is looking at a possible system that would make it easier to find the answers you need.

"Since most people don't have a phone book anymore, their ability to try to find out who to contact in government is limited to the internet. This would provide an easy way by contacting government by calling 311," said City Application Development Manager David Faust.

In 2018, phone books are a thing of the past, which makes finding the necessary city department for your questions and complaints hard. Faust said implementing a 311 system for residents to report questions or complaints could create better communication between residents and staff.

"311 is more than just a phone number to call. It's web, it's text messaging, it's online chat. It's bringing together social media. It's bringing all those channels of information together to provide a better user experience," said Faust.

The system would create a live chat with a city staff person to answer questions and provide information. According to Faust, it would help the city keep track of residents questions and complaints. It would also allow the city to see if there are repeated problems or concerns around the city that need to be addressed.

"Right now, if you use the city's reported problem website, there is no tracking system. There is no number assigned to it, there is no way to see how long it took for the city to respond that and whether or not the city did respond," he said.

It's just a concept now, but city staff introduced the idea to the finance committee Monday. If the system is put in place, Faust hopes nonemergency calls that are often dialed into the Dane county 911 dispatch center would be redirected to the correct city department. 911 director John Dejung said the center often gets calls into dispatch that have to be redirected to the city.

"We do get bogged down with nonemergency calls that should really be going somewhere else," he said.

Dejung said when in doubt, it's always best to call 911. When it comes to  calls for city business, he said those only distract from dispatchers' ability  to help someone in need. Dejung said 311 could help decrease non-emergency calls.

"When a non-emergency call comes into us and we get bogged down taking information  and making sure it's not an emergency it slows us down. Sometimes it creates a situation when we are not able to answer a 911 call as quick as we would like," he said.

According to Faust, the 311 concept has been talked about for over a decade within city council. Many larger cities across the nation have already implemented the system. The city is looking for a consultant to assess the city's infrastructure to handle a system, maintenance  cost  and several other factors.

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