(TNS) — Pasco County will launch a new mobile application this summer that puts many county government services in the palm of your hand.
For the first time, county residents will be able to use their smartphones or tablets to pay county fees, watch commission meetings, file code complaints, even report a pothole or a runaway dog.
But before any of that can happen, county leaders have to figure out what to call it.
“The name is key,” Chief Information Officer Todd Bayley said. “We want a name that’s easily accessible and easy to remember, and we don’t want it to look like a government app. We have to be really careful because we’re on the cusp — Pasco County is going totally e-government.”
The county is conducting an online survey until April 24 in which users can vote on one of four options or suggest their own name for the app.
Public Information Officer Doug Tobin said the app will be designed for Android, Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft products and will have a variety of features including the ability to view a live stream of Pasco County Television, press releases, National Weather Service alerts, park information, library locator, library catalog search, social media access, emergency management information, pet adoption services, road blockage and commuter information.
“We’re trying to keep up with the times,” Tobin said. “The new generation gets their information differently. They do everything on their smartphones.”
It will link to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office app, which launched a year and a half ago and allows users to submit crime tips, commend officers, search jail logs and even track registered sex offenders.
Tobin said the app could also be a tool for citizens to interact with their elected officials in real time.
“We learned a lesson from the whole elevated toll road issue last year,” he said. “We needed a better way for the community to give feedback to the commissioners besides just a once-a-year survey. If we can get 10,000 or 20,000 people signed up for the app, we can do a quick monthly survey — three questions — that only takes seconds to fill out.”
The first rollout is scheduled for June.
“Once we unveil it this summer, that won’t be the final version,” Bayley said.
“We’re constantly going to be updating it.”
He said a second phase will roll out in the fall and will include enhanced features. For example, someone waiting at a bus stop will be able to use the app to track the bus in real time.
In July, the county’s land development division will transition to the Accela software platform, which will allow users to apply for and track building permits and schedule inspections from their smartphones. Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa already use the programs.
“I think it’s needed,” Commissioner Mike Moore said. “It catches us up with some of our surrounding counties, and it shows people we’re making the investment in our future.”
Sheriff’s office spokesman Kevin Doll said the agency received a grant to develop a marine safety app for Florida boaters that could provide information on boating and safety regulations, a link to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and possibly a mechanism to file a “float plan” before launching their craft.
“We’ve rescued people who go out in these little boats with no radio and no life preservers, and once they get in the Gulf of Mexico, their cellphones don’t work,” he said.
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