Exeter, N.H., App Goes Beyond Just Reporting Potholes

A newly released smartphone app has all of the normal 311 functionality you might expect, but officials are also looking to the tool for interactive recreation opportunities.

by Alex LaCasse, Portsmouth Herald / August 17, 2018

(TNS) — EXETER, N.H. — Residents looking to engage more with town government and stay in the loop with upcoming projects and events in town will now be able to do so in the palm of their hand wherever they can connect to 4G or Wi-Fi.

On Wednesday the town's IT department unveiled the My Exeter NH mobile application, which will allow citizens to report a number of public works issues, like a streetlight out or a pothole; view the town calendar; pay certain municipal fees online, such as car registration and dog licensing; and watch Exeter TV programming. Smartphone users should download the "MyCivic" mobile application and search for Exeter to find the My Exeter NH menu.

"It's a lot of the similar info and functionality of [the town's] website, but really designed to be much more user-friendly and interactive," Robert Glowacky, IT technician for the town and executive producer at Exeter TV, said. "Residents will be able to have a two-way conversation with the people working on their individual submissions."

Glowacky said a prominent feature is the app's camera capability for people to take a picture of a large pothole to direct to public works or a broken bench in a park designated to recreation, for instance. In the "report an issue" menu it features geo-location so the responsible party can find the exact location of the issue. He also said for residents who do not own a smartphone, a My Exeter NH website with the same capabilities of the mobile application will soon be live for their use to report any issues or make payments.

Town Manager Russ Dean said the app presents, "a real opportunity to enhance citizen engagement and service to our residents."

"The thing I like about it the most is the functionality - that you can do these things from your phone like so many of us are doing now - so it doesn't require the effort to call up a website, search around for the right department. I think people will find it intuitive, and I expect we'll be able to improve it to maximize its capabilities after the first few months on the street," Dean said. "Another valuable feature for us will be the back end dashboard reports - we'll be able to see what departments are getting the most inquiries on what issues, so we'll have a measuring stick to look at what is coming in versus what we are focused on work-wise and see how they coalesce."

However, the app is not just for streamlining municipal responsiveness to residents' issues.

Starting on Thursday and continuing until Aug. 23, the Recreation Department, working in partnership with the town and Exeter TV is launching a scavenger hunt residents can participate in using the My Exeter NH application.

Greg Bisson, recreation director, said one of the department's summer interns, Abigail Castrucci, came up with the idea to place a flag in each one of Exeter's parks. Participants using the app, will be cued to take a photo of the flag and submit it through the application along with feedback as to how the department can improve the park for visitors. Each day during the scavenger hunt, the recreation department will post in the MyExeterNH Scavenger Hunt Facebook event where users can find the flags hanging each day.

"Abigail's scavenger hunt is win-win for the town in rolling out the app. It gives us a chance to highlight our parks and for the town to get people to download and learn how to use the app," Bisson said. "It'll be great for residents to have pride in self-reporting how we can improve the parks."

©2018 Portsmouth Herald, N.H. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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