The Ringgold City Council recently discussed making IT software available to the public that would allow residents the opportunity to connect with city staff to address immediate issues.
During the most recent council meeting on Dec. 11, Councilman Larry Black introduced the system and the possibility of it helping get community feedback to city staff quicker.
"It's an IT solution called iWorQ's Citizen Engagement software. ... What it is is an IT solution app that allows our citizens to report maintenance-type issues 24/7 by way of their computer, iPhone, iPad, whatever," Black said. "It's for our residents and also our businesses. The way we would use it in the city, it would give us an IT method or solution to where if we had issues of fallen trees or broken water lines, or potholes, or anything our citizens saw out there or spotted, it'd be a quick way for them to relay that information to us 24/7."
Black explained that the system is computer-based and would offer a link on the city website, or residents could download an app.
"They would fill out the information and we would get the notification and respond to that," Black said.
Black says there is a cost involved for the software, but that it could make for a more efficient way of fielding complaints from the public.
"The estimated cost to implement something like that is about $900 per year," Black explained. "I just wanted to introduce it so y'all could research it. I looked at it today, and you have the information here if you want to look at exactly how it works. I definitely think it's something we should consider."
The system agreement does offer short-term annual contracts, meaning the city could take a trial run for a year and then evaluate it later to see if it's something it wanted to continue using.
Councilwoman Sara Clark wonders how many older residents would be inclined to use such software.
"My only question about this and every other IT thing that comes down the pike, ... are there are a lot of citizens in Ringgold that don't have that ability or if they have that ability, they need very clear layman's instructions to do it?" Clark said.
Clark's main concern is implementing such a system and then having a large portion of the city's population not be able to understand how to use it.
"I think we will always have both," Black replied. "There are those that are computer-proficient, but you would also have those who would rather just call City Hall and make the complaint personally."
Mayor Nick Millwood is of the opinion that most people would be able to navigate the app just fine.
"I would just say, anybody in my generation wouldn't have an issue downloading the app...you just take a picture and probably put a message...they make these things incredibly user-friendly,"
City Manager Dan Wright says one of the biggest pros for the system is that it would sync up with the iWorQ software the city already uses for work orders.
"It would be a seamless transition for us," Wright said. "If I entered a pothole request as a citizen, once that request is filled, then it should tell me, 'hey, that's been fixed'. The reason we proposed this particular one is because we use iWorQs currently to manage all of our work orders."
Wright pointed out that the system could streamline the city being informed about issues through the photo documentation rather than explaining it to city staff over the phone, and could benefit those who aren't able to drive to City Hall when the first notice the issue.
"The time saver I think we may see is when we have people calling in," Wright said. "If one of the ladies up front is trying to take the information, that can sometimes be very vague. If they (residents) take a picture, then we sort of know where we're going. They can submit online now, but then we have to take all that and enter it into our work order system anyway."
Wright added that he believes the system would also help sewer customers who live outside the city limits.
"It's not real handy to drive from Indian Springs to City Hall," he said.
Ultimately, no action was taken on the matter, however, it was included for the next meeting agenda scheduled for Jan. 8, giving the Council more time to research the pros and cons of the endeavor in a more in-depth fashion.
More information about iWorQ Systems can be found at their website http://www.iworq.com.