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Frederick, Md.'s Internal Service Tracker Organizes Citizen Requests, but Leaders Aren’t Totally Sold

The effort to better prioritize and address constituent service requests has taken the form of an internal tracking system, but city leaders have logistical questions.

(TNS) — From noise stemming from a helicopter flying all night near the airport to a broken sink in a City Hall restroom, Frederick officials now have a technological tool to track, prioritize and solve complaints, concerns and requests from residents.

The constituent services tracking program is an internal system designed to log inquiries from the public in an effort to help better address issues across the city.

Mayor Michael O’Connor asked members of the city’s technology department to create a database for the elected officials similar to the one public works employees use to address issues within their department. Technology Manager Matt Bowman presented the system, complete with 20 examples of reported issues, to board members on Wednesday for review and critique.

While aldermen Roger Wilson and Derek Shackelford praised the system as a helpful tool to review and organize correspondence with the public, Alderman Ben MacShane and Alderwoman Kelly Russell had some questions.

MacShane questioned the need for the system and the return on investment of someone’s time to manage it.

“There is good intention in this, and good thought into designing something, but what is the broader problem,” he said. “And to what magnitude the problem exists that are we trying to address, besides trying to keep multiple aldermen from getting the same emails and that being an annoyance.”

Russell said she agreed that a better level of communication would be helpful, but she questioned who would enter the data and expressed concerns about how it could change the way she currently addresses concerns from her own constituents.

“The idea of having it all in one place would be great, just logistically I’m having a little bit of trouble figuring it out,” she said.

Bowman explained that the system is an organizational tool, more so than one designed to address a problem.

“This is more of way for the mayor’s office, people in the mayor’s office, to know who is contacting the city on a regular basis and to make sure the problems are being taken care of,” he said.

O’Connor said no method currently exists to easily review all of the concerns, complaints and correspondence with constituents, and this system would provide that in a modern technical form.

“This is a way to know what the concerns are from residents, and how many there are, and how they are being fixed,” he said. “What we don’t want to lose, it seems to me, is that the inquiry was made. This is way to track and manage dozens of interactions we may have in a given day as elected officials.”

O’Connor also pointed out that the aldermen do not have to use the system, but that it will be available if they want to view it or add to it.

Bowman is still still working out some of the kinks and plans to make some changes based on feedback from the aldermen, but once that is complete, the system will be available for the elected officials to log onto and use. O’Connor said. He also emphasized that the system is internal and that members of the public are still encouraged to connect with city officials in the same variety of ways they always have, whether it be through email, phone calls, or other forms of communication.

©2018 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.