New Brighton to unveil new report a problem web app

Starting in early April New Brighton residents will be able to utilize a new mobile web application to report issues like potholes, graffiti or a broken traffic light. The city plans to make the new Fix 311 web app available to the public starting on Saturday, April 6, when the city will debut the new technology at its 36th Annual Town Hall Meeting.

New Brighton City Manager Dean Lotter said the city has had plans in place for a report a problem type web app for some time.

“We wanted to make sure we had the right vendor and had ironed out any kinks before making it available to the public,” Lotter said.

Fix 311 will allow New Brighton residents to inform city staff about problems or concerns they may encounter 24 hours a day using a smart phone.

Lotter said Fix 311 is designed to automatically notify the right department when a problem arises. If someone encounters a pothole and notifies the city using the app, it will instantly be reported to the public works department, for example. The new phone technology will pin point locations using GPS coordinates. Users can then check the status of a reported issue by using a searchable Fix 311 tool available on the city’s recently updated website.

“We’re using this technology to enhance communication and accountability,” Lotter said. “When something is being done to fix a problem you will know about it through updates on the website,” he said.

Fix 311 uses will be somewhat limited at first, according to Lotter. He said when the application is first launched its functions will be limited to reporting and responding to vandalism, potholes, city parks and code enforcement issues.

“We want to see how the public responds to the report a problem app and based on the response we will expand its features accordingly,” Lotter said.

Users will be able to download Fix 311 through iTunes and on the city of New Brighton webpage. The app will be available to users on just about any smart phone or handheld gadget, whether it is an iPhone, iPad, Android or other device.

Several neighboring cities are either looking to implement similar technology or have it in place already.

Mounds View City Administrator Jim Ericson said Mounds View implemented a similar web app last year called My Mounds View, which allows users to submit requests to fix a pothole or tow away a junk vehicle.

“We’ve gotten some pretty good response from it,” Ericson said. “Cell phones have become such a pervasive part of our culture. We thought for convenience sake we should offer this opportunity for residents to communicate with city government.” 

Roseville’s Communications Specialist Tim Pratt said Roseville does not currently have a report a problem type app, but has been looking around at some vendors.

“As city staff we can see the value to that type of technology,” Pratt said. “I think what’s really interesting is some of the companies who provide this technology have made it so the app has an ability to work with a city’s asset management software.”

Pratt said certain apps could be used for cost analysis. The software could be used to determine how much time is used to fill a pothole, as well as the amount of material used to come up with a total cost for the project, Pratt explained.

“Putting this technology in place would require some spending and ultimately it’s up to the city council to decide how they want to spend the city’s money,” Pratt said.

Pratt said city staff members are meeting with the city council to discuss the possibility of launching a 311-style app on April 15.

Shoreview City Manager Terry Schwerm said Shoreview is currently not looking at implementing a web application such as Fix 311 and are instead focusing on updating the city website.

“Once we get that in place we will look into adding new forms of technology,” Schwerm said.

He said they are designing the new site to be more user friendly, organized, streamlined and with more features. Schewrm said they hope to have the new site running by sometime in July.  

Additionally, both Minneapolis and St. Paul have launched app’s much like Fix 311.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at  jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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