Some on Council have 3-1-1 complaints

Posted: October 20, 2009

Whom do you call when you're not happy with 3-1-1?

Well, if you're on City Council, you get a meeting with the mayor to discuss the nonemergency-call line, designed to replace the old City Hall switchboard and provide a central place to make all requests for city service.

Before the line debuted in January, many people requested services through their Council offices, but now those calls are supposed to go to 3-1-1. Since then, some Council members have raised concerns about that practice - and have complained that operators sometimes give out inaccurate information and that service requests are not fulfilled in a timely fashion.

"I think 3-1-1 has been very good at collecting statistics," said Councilman Bill Greenlee after yesterday's session in the Municipal Service Building. "The end result is still a work in progress.

Greenlee also stressed that residents should still be able to reach out to a Council member.

"It still is fair and right that people should be able to call their elected officials," Greenlee said.

Mayor Nutter said that Council can still take calls, although the requests should be passed on to 3-1-1. He also noted that the city has tried to make 3-1-1 more accessible to Council, by providing a private line for elected officials and offering training so that Council staffers can use the 3-1-1 databases to check on requests.

"Our perspective on this is, we want to make sure we're delivering high-quality services," he said.

Yesterday's meeting was attended by four Council members - Greenlee, Anna Verna, Brian O'Neill and Jim Kenney - as well as some staffers from other offices.

The meeting also reviewed other 3-1-1 complaints from Council - that the city directory assistance is sometimes inaccurate, hold times can be long and that the 3-1-1 system will say that requests were "resolved" when they hadn't been completed.

Managing Director Camille Barnett said that wait times had been reduced, that staffers had gotten more training, and that the city was trying to determine whether requests actually had been completed.

"We are in the very first phase of 3-1-1 and it's going to get better," she said.

Through Oct. 10, 3-1-1 has received 935,919 calls, according to reports posted on the 3-1-1 Web site. The budget for the line for this fiscal year is $2.7 million, the mayor's press office said.

Budget constraints have diminished the impact of the center. In August, the 3-1-1 call-center hours were reduced from 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now the center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

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