App Makes Reading, Pa., More Accessible

The city is leveraging a mobile app and centralized system to improve services to residents.

by Anthony Orozco, Reading Eagle / January 22, 2018
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(TNS) — Maria Kantner considers herself a jill-of-all-trades.

Not the least of those is that she make sure the concerns of Reading, Pa., residents are not only heard, but acted on.

"We want people to know we are here working for them," said Kantner, municipal operations manager in City Hall's Citizens Service Center. "It's important that people know they can come to us."

For little less than three years the city has been utilizing a website and a smartphone application to connect people more easily to city services.

Reading iRequest, available for free through app stores, is tying residents concerns directly into a centralized system.

"It is a really helpful tool for us and for everyone in the city," Kantner said.

The center's 10-member staff fields calls residents or talks with them in the office.

Kantner said she likes the iRequest system because it's easy and immediate.

The app can be used day or night, whether City Hall is closed, if Citizens Service Center lines are long or the phones are busy, Kantner said.

"You might be up at 12 a.m. and notice an issue like your trash has not been picked up. You can put that into the app and we will have it as something to get to right away," Kantner said.

A user can select what type of issue they are having, write a message about the problem and attach a photo that shows the problem.

The app also tracks the progress of the request, giving City Hall and residents information about when the request was received, when it was delivered to the appropriate department and when the request is submitted, received and completed.

The app also shows a map where requests have been made, which can help reduce unnecessary calls or a flood of requests if other residents see that the problem is already being addressed.

Depending on the nature of the request, the center may opt to not make the request public, Kantner said.

The iRequest system also helps City Hall keep on top of problems by reporting which requests are overdue or still incomplete.

Managers of each department receive a weekly email about which requests are still hanging.

Kantner sees great potential in connecting more people to the system and helping her office act on the needs of residents.

I hope more people use it," she said.

©2018 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.