Bridgeport, Conn., Disconnects 311 App, Launches its Replacement

Bridgeport311 is said to ensure greater accountability than the BConnected app, in part because anyone using the system can look up the individual cases that were filed and their status.

by Brian Lockhart, Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.) / December 8, 2016

(TNS) -- BRIDGEPORT — BConnected has been disconnected.

The smartphone application launched by ex-Mayor Bill Finch for residents to lodge complaints about potholes, broken street lights, unplowed roads and other headaches of urban life has been replaced.

Returned Mayor Joe Ganim, re-elected a year ago, on Wednesday launched his version of BConnected. It’s called Bridgeport311.

“I like technology,” Ganim said. “I like when we take a step out and do something that advances our abilities to do our job better and serve our constituents.”

Bridgeport311 is, in concept, the same as BConnected. Residents can use their smart phones to notify City Hall about quality-of-life issues.

The complaints are forwarded directly to the responsible departments.

But Ganim and his staff insisted Bridgeport311 ensures greater accountability, in part because anyone using the system from inside or outside of city government can look up the individual cases that were filed and their status.

“It’s really, we think, the best technology in the country,” said Tom Gaudett, the mayoral adviser who helped spearhead the rollout over the last few months. Bridgeport311 has already been piloted by some members of the City Council.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Councilman Anthony Paoletto.

Bridgeport311 is made possible through a three-year, $31,402 per year contract with originator SeeClickFix out of New Haven. Now eight years old, SeeClickFix is an online clearing house for citizen complaints.

Bridgeport residents — as well as residents of towns all over Connecticut and the country — could already make use of it and a related phone application, but the company had no formal relationship with the Bridgeport.

That fact obviously helped Bridgeport311 get its foot in the door for the contract with Ganim.

“We had several people using SeeClickFix as a community tool but no one was getting (the complaints),” Gaudett said.

Gaudett said the Ganim administration assessed BConnected upon taking office last December and debated whether to keep it or start from scratch.

Despite the fact the application was heavily-promoted by Finch since launched in 2012, Gaudett claimed it was not widely used.

And, he added, Team Ganim found that the complaints were not being promptly addressed and either routed to the wrong places or to vacant desks.

Some of those issues were caused by Ganim, who laid off dozens of public employees to cut an inherited $20 million budget hole.

Ganim also did away with a related initiative, Finch’s CitiStat office, established in 2008 and modeled on a system in Baltimore for streamlining and improving services and for cutting costs.

Ganim said Wednesday that he has high hopes Bridgeport311 will similarly ensure complaints are tackled with “less effort, less manpower and more efficiently.”

The mayor stressed that Bridgeport311 is not a phone number and is not intended to replace the city’s 911 emergency system.

“If you need police or fire, go to your phone and make a 911 call,” Ganim said.

And Gaudett added non-emergencies -- like speeding cars — should still be lodged with the police.

©2016 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.