2017-07-21 / Front Page

Fix-It app puts town hall on call

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Rotting playground material at Springbrook Sports Complex was one of the issues the public has reported using SeeClickFix, a new app that allows individuals to report issues they see across town using their phones. (Michael Kelley photo) Rotting playground material at Springbrook Sports Complex was one of the issues the public has reported using SeeClickFix, a new app that allows individuals to report issues they see across town using their phones. (Michael Kelley photo) There used to be a time when the best way for a resident to report an issue or file a complaint with a municipality would be to find the closest landline phone and call the appropriate town department.

Scarborough town leaders still field calls from residents about things going on in town in that manner, but a recent technology app will bring issues to the town’s attention in a whole new way.

Last week, Scarborough launched Scarborough Fix-It, an application in which residents can report non-emergency issues directly to town departments.

The free application can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Residents can also access it and file issues at http://www.scarboroughmaine.org/fixit.

Residents can use the app to report issues related to graffiti, litter, noise, parking, potholes, street signs and traffic signals, beach issues, tree maintenance and building violations. A photo or video can be attached and residents can pinpoint the exact place of concern using the application’s map of town, something Public Works Director Mike Shaw said is useful in order for town departments to figure out where the issue is that needs to be addressed.

Since the app was launched, town staff have fielded concerns about things like beach access at Avenue 5 in Pine Point; sight restriction at the corner of Fogg Road and Pleasant Hill Avenue; congestion and traffic signals near Oak Hill; dogs barking early in the morning on Asselyn Drive; a streetlight out on Saratoga Lane; illegal fireworks use on Pleasant Hill Road; litter on Jasper Street; paving on Pine Point Road; road striping on Eastern Road; the need for a duck crossing sign near Smiling Hill Farm on Route 22 and plow damage to a properties on Logmad Avenue and Holmes Road.

The app is designed for non-emergency issues. Residents should still call 911 in the event of an emergency.

“I am very excited about this new tool for our citizens. We have worked hard over the past few years to provide more transparency and responsiveness in all that we do within the municipal government – Scarborough Fix-It gives our constituents direct contact with our service departments,” Town Manager Tom Hall said in a press release announcing the launch of the app. “We expect this tool will streamline communications and with Scarborough Fix- It’s robust reporting, we hope to create efficiencies through improved asset and resource management.”

Director of Technology and Information Systems Jenn Lim said the app, which is powered by SeeClickFix, is an off-shoot of a program the public works department uses to manage the vehicle maintenance requests for the other communities the department provides maintenance services to.

Lim said the app is aimed at creating a better working relationship between the town and its residents.

“This is just an additional way … to increase transparency and increased communication. Those are the things that pushed us and prompted us to offer this,” she said.

Lim and other staff from Scarborough attended a national conference about SeeClickFix and connected with leaders in other communities.

“We talked about the benefits that could be gained from this. It provides transparency for our community. People can go in and report an issue with trash by the side of the road or trash on the beach and see how many other people have put that in as an issue, so maybe they don’t have to,” Lim said. “People can also go back in and see what the response has been.”

That response back to the public is critical, said Community Services Director Todd Souza.

“Everyone will get the same response. That is going to be a great help,” Souza said.

Since being launched in 2008, SeeClickFix has helped to resolve more than 3 million issues in more than 25,000 communities all across the country and the world, including in places as close as Portland.

“The feedback we got was positive,” Lim said of the response from Portland, which launched its version of SeeClickFix in January 2015. “One of the members of our staff lives in Portland and has used SeeClickFix quite a bit and they loved it. So far, so good.”

Jessica Grondin, the city’s director of communications, said since the launch, Portland users have logged close to 10,000 issues through the application covering a wide variety of topics. Trash/ recycling issues have been the most reported concern, followed by potholes and street/sidewalk concerns. The concerns, she noted vary by season, with snow removal and plowing being a top concern in the winter months.

Lim said the app will also help staff track issues going on in town. To that end, staff will be able to pull things like where pot holes are an issue, where trash is piling up, where signage or traffic signals may been to be tweaked.

“Now when we begin budgeting and go before the town council with requests, all of sudden, the hope is, we have this quantitative data instead of qualitative data,” Lim said.

Souza said the app provides a way for the department to gauge whether it needs to change the way services are offered. An example, he said, could be if one of the department’s 200 outdoor trash barrels keeps getting full, the department may need to add an additional barrel or change the collection schedule.

Shaw said an app like Scarborough Fix-It can be utilized to log issues and service requests at any time.

“It’s handy to use after hours. If people are out for a walk and see something they can report it right then and there,” he said.

The application is already paying dividends. As a result of receiving a bicycle signage concern in the Dunstan area, Shaw had a conversation with Town Engineer Angela Blanchette and the concern has been passed on to the town’s transportation committee to deal with.

“It gives us instantaneous information. We are down right now working at Springbrook (Sports Complex). We noticed during our mowing process the railroad ties that are at the playground were rotting,” Souza said. “The next day, it popped up on SeeClickFix.”

A prompt response from the town, Shaw said, is the key to making Scarborough Fix-It work.

“We have to hold our end of the bargain up and make sure we are responding in a timely manner to folks so they continue to want to use it,” Shaw said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarbroughleader.com.

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