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Terrell Hills, Texas, App Replaces ‘Antiquated’ Alert System

The city of Terrell Hills, Texas, has a new smartphone app that allows residents to find information about city services while also serving as an alert system for emergency events and other important service changes.

(TNS) — Terrell Hills, Texas, residents have a new way to stay in the know with an app that the city launched this week.

My Terrell Hills was designed to answer in a more direct way some of the most common questions that officials hear from residents, from when trash, recycling and brush pickup is to how to get a permit or inspection, City Manager William Foley said. The app also includes contact information for city council and staff members and links to public meeting agendas and an open records request form.

But Foley said he is most excited about the notification system in the app, which will allow the city to communicate messages about severe weather, water restrictions, trash pickup, community events and more to its residents.

"That's what we're shooting for, is to give you as much information in the palm of your hand that you can possibly have," Foley said.

The city has been using Blackboard, a system that can send voice message alerts, texts and emails. But Foley said he feels the system has become "antiquated" as people have shifted to smartphone technology. He also thinks the app may tamp down confusion; he said that when people receive a voice message from the city, officials often receive several phone calls asking follow-up questions.

The city is spending about $3,000 a year on a contract with a company called GoGov to make the app a reality. Foley said this is about how much the city has been spending on Blackboard.

In a week or so, Foley said a message will be sent out on Blackboard encouraging people to download My Terrell Hills as the city prepares to shut down its Blackboard system.

Terrell Hills officials started looking into creating an app about a year ago and considered a couple of different companies. They ended up talking to Alamo Heights leadership early in the research phase and have stayed in touch throughout the process.

Alamo Heights City Manager Buddy Kuhn said that both communities looked at different options together, but Alamo Heights wanted to "see how their product is received before we transition into something different."

The Terrell Hills app launched Monday at the city's annual Fourth of July parade and block party.

"Everybody was really, really excited about the app," Foley said.

Data on how many people have downloaded the app so far will be available in the coming days, Foley said.

There are about 3,000 contacts in the city's Blackboard system right now, but Foley said that does not mean that 3,000 residents use it since the system counts each phone number and email address as a separate contact even if they belong to the same person.

©2022 the San Antonio Express-News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.