City discusses ‘311’ information line, other topics
Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013
CORDELE, Ga. — The Bainbridge City Council discussed a variety of ideas as its annual planning retreat, held at the Lake Blackshear Resort at Georgia Veterans State Park this past Friday and Saturday.
Adrienne Harrison, executive director of the Bainbridge Convention and Visitors Bureau, made a big splash with her presentation regarding possibly creating a “one-stop” hotline for city residents and visitors to get their questions answered.
The “311” would combine a call center with a live operator, after-hours recording, mobile device and e-mail integration and a Web-based “self-serve” site where citizens could find answers to common questions or get help with a service.
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The 311 operator/agent would transfer the caller to the appropriate city department that can solve their problem, or if the concern can’t be directly handled by city government, the agent can refer the caller to a non-city department. This would build on top of the “See Click Fix” website and mobile app the city already has up-and-running at www.bainbridgecity.com.
Council members seemed excited by the possibility of the citizen-focused nature of 311 and the chance to continue extending the city’s information via other multimedia outlets. Harrison said the city of Bainbridge will launch its own custom smartphone app, primarily targeted at tourists, on April 1.
There was some discussion among the council members after City Manager Chris Hobby made a suggestion to make the first council meeting of the month, on the second Tuesday, a workshop meeting that would only be held once every three months. The meeting would still be open to the public and advertised in the newspaper beforehand, Hobby said.
Hobby proposed using the workshop meeting for the council to review and discuss the city’s monthly financial statements, in lieu of conducting an agenda of various items, as they do presently. The city manager said he noticed that most of the council’s agenda-item business happens at the second meeting, held on the fourth Tuesday, after the city’s Planning Commission and other committees have had their meetings.
City Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer said she was concerned that citizens might have the perception they were being kept out of a city council meeting. City Councilman Luther Conyers said he was also worried that citizens would have less chance to comment on city government affairs.
Councilwoman Glennie Bench pointed out that all of the council members welcome and in fact, receive, calls from citizens on a personal basis throughout the month.
Mayor Edward Reynolds said that if the council elects to make the change in its meeting schedule, which would require a vote, he pledged that there would “still be an avenue for public input” at the workshop meetings.
• Public Services Director Steve Winburn discussed possibly switching the city’s fleet of refuse collection trucks over to using compressed natural gas as a fuel. Given that the current energy equivalent of one gallon of gas costs just $0.58 in natural gas form, Winburn said the city could see as much as $85,000 in fuel savings over the estimated seven-year life of a garbage truck. However, the city would probably have to partner with a private energy company, such as Southwest Georgia Oil, to build the facility needed to pump the compressed natural gas into vehicles.
• Public Safety Director Eric Miller talked about the need to purchase a new rescue truck for his department, after an older truck was damaged in an accident. Since the truck will have to be replaced, Miller suggested looking into buying a hybrid truck that would store rescue equipment like the “jaws of life” and also carry a small amount of water that could be pumped into other fire trucks. Miller said he also wants to create an emergency response team, trained to deal with violent situations, to be comprised of Public Safety officers.
• Amanda Glover, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, proposed the creation of a downtown master plan that would detail how downtown might be developed further in a way that would “counteract the [area’s] retail loss while revitalizing the city’s core.” Glover said the plan could include ideas such as a green space along an unoccupied area of North Broad Street, or construction of more downtown apartments, which she said have proved very popular.