311 helps residents with quality-of-life problems
By Debbie Gardner
Springfield -- Do you know what department to call if you have a question about your trash or tax bill? If you find a bee or wasp hive on city property? If someone dumps old furniture or appliances in front of your house in the middle of the night?
These types of problems, and many more, are exactly why the city of Springfield instituted a 311 line. Unlike 911, which is the city's emergency number, 311 is a place where residents can get information about or report a variety of quality-of-life problems and issues.
Established on a trial basis in September of 2008 with five customer service representatives from the Department of Public Works (DPW) answering the line, the city began actively marketing the 311 line to residents in March of this year.
"We're growing, growing, growing," Donna Carney, call center director, told Reminder Publications, who added that the call center now fields complaints, questions and requests for a total of eight city departments. "Yesterday [July 14] our call volume was 705 calls and we answered 92.6 percent of them within 15 seconds."
City residents need only dial 311 (or 736-3111 to report a problem from outside the city limits) between 8 a.m and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to report anything from excessively tall grass in front of a foreclosed property to potholes, trash problems or blocked storm drains in their neighborhood. Carney said the same line also accepts requests for bulk item pickup appointments and can "give [callers] great detail on what they owe on their trash bill or tax bill or personal property."
Currently the 311 line processes calls for the collectors', assessors' housing, finance and treasury departments, the DPW, parks and forestry, and the main operator number in city hall. In September or October, the center hopes to begin handling requests for building permits.
"One call does it all, that's our slogan and we live up to it," she said.
Carney said incident reports and requests can also be filed online at www.springfieldma.gov/311
Each call or e-mail generates a work order for the appropriate city department. Customer service representatives track these orders, ensuring that the requested work is done in a timely manner.
Carney said the public response to the new call center has been very positive.
"At one time on the collector's office line, you got voicemail, and you no longer get voicemail, you get us," she said.