Scranton, Pa., Mulls Citizen Reporting App

The city council is considering a contract with SeeClickFix to allow citizens to report maintenance and nuisance-type problems from their smartphones.

by Jim Lockwood, The Times-Tribune / April 9, 2018
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(TNS) — See, click, fix.

Scranton City Council is reviewing whether to use the mobile app “SeeClickFix” as a tool for citizens to report potholes, graffiti, blight and other problems. The app allows users to send photos of problem areas directly to City Hall.

Once logged, a problem would get assigned to the proper department or employee to take care of it, said Councilman Wayne Evans, a proponent of the city using the app.

The app notifies senders their submissions were received and provides updates on the city’s progress addressing the submitted issue.

The city would get analytical information about the number and nature of problems logged, their locations and resolutions, and lengths of time it takes to resolve them, Evans said.

“This is something I view as not only transparent, but engaged and efficient government,” Evans said.

The cost for Scranton to use the app and service could be about $16,000 a year, said Evans, adding he believes it would be money well spent and not require hiring more employees.

Council plans to hold a public caucus soon for the SeeClickFix company to explain its app and service. A date for this session has not been set.

The idea stems from general discussions between council members and residents, business owners and others about ways to improve the city, Evans said. Earlier this year, council revived holding brainstorming idea sessions.

After hearing about an app approach to reporting maintenance and nuisance-type problems and tracking their fixes, Evans researched, found SeeClickFix and contacted the New Haven, Connecticut, company for information.

Efforts to reach SeeClickFix officials were unsuccessful.

A video demo on the company’s website explains the app, saying “We care deeply about our neighborhoods and when something is broken on our street, we want it fixed quickly. Knowing who to call and having the time to call them can be really frustrating. On the other side, managing these concerns along with daily workloads takes time and a lot of internal communication — so much so, that the concerned citizen often gets lost in the shuffle. This results in a bad service experience and a discouraged citizen. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Problems also could be submitted through their website, according to the decade-old company that boasts “3.6 million issues fixed and counting” in numerous cities nationwide. Cities using SeeClickFix include New Haven, Connecticut; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Albany, New York; Carbondale, Illinois; Bainbridge Island, Washington; Howard County, Maryland; Huntsville, Alabama; Houston, Texas; Vallejo and Corona, both in California; Taylor, Michigan; Taunton, Massachusetts; and St. Paul, Minnesota, according to the company’s website.

Testimonials on the company’s website cite several benefits. Phone traffic and caller wait times are reduced by channeling submissions directly to the proper department for fixing. Residents can easily track a city’s responses to reported problems. Cities also can better track problem areas in real time and better respond to citizen concerns.

Whether Scranton gets the service in place this year or waits until the next budget year remains unknown, Evans said.

Councilman Bill Gaughan said the SeeClickFix app sounds like a good way for the city to be more responsive in identifying and correcting problems.

©2018 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.