A new online tool for tracking non-emergency complaints about common city problems such as overgrown weeds, graffiti, potholes, etc should be available at the end of May, according to Mayor Ann Thane. The service is provided by SeeClickFix and will be called “City of Amsterdam Connects”. On their website, SeeClickFix lists nearly 200 cities as clients, including San Francisco, CA, Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI and Albany, NY.
With the new service, residents will be able to download a GPS enabled app for their smart phone or go to a web page which will allow them to submit reports and pictures of problems to the proper department. Residents will be able to track the progress of their complaint and complaints from others via the app or webpage.
Thane sent information about the new service to members of the Common Council via email at the beginning of March and discussed it further at a committee meeting on March 30.
At the committee meeting, Thane said the service “will allow us to look at when these complaints come up, date time location, photographs can be attached to the complaint. And then the resident can track the complaint on their phone or computer.”
On the city’s side, Thane said, “We can track who has been deployed, what kind of equipment was sent, when was it sent, how long did it take. And it will help us with tightening up the ship on this end. Better tracking, better budgeting and more efficiency, we’re hoping.”
At the same meeting, Alderman Richard Leggiero asked what made the system different from the tracking methods the city already uses.
Thane pointed out the mapping features as one of the most important features. “I can say ‘I want to see all the water leaks’ and it will just focus on those,” said Thane. “And then you can say, ‘on top of the water leaks, I want to see where all the sewer leaks are.’”
“And then maybe you can focus a grant request to a certain area. Right now we’re kind of doing it intuitively,” said Thane. “This just give us much more empirical data to run a tighter ship.”
“I think we ought to be able to understand, when you’re saying ‘identify leaks’ – we ought to be able to say well, this has been done, this one here has been done…” offered Leggiero.
“Exactly,” said Thane, “that’s what it does.”
Thane used Market Street hill as an example of a situation that may appear to be neglected but has been responded to numerous times. Thane said that city crews had been sent out fix potholes on the stretch of road several times in the early morning, but the repairs haven’t lasted through the day.
“This allows more information to be communicated to the residents. And it allows us to do better tracking,” said Thane.
At a committee meeting on Tuesday, Thane said the service will cost approximately $5000 with approximately $1200 coming out of her office’s contractual line this year, and the remainder coming from next year’s budget.
At the meeting, a resolution was introduced that would void the contract with SeeClickFix. According to Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler, Thane should have gotten approval from the Common Council before entering into the contract.
“We’ve already started work, we’ve already got the thing half designed. We were hoping to roll this out at the end of May as a service to our residents,” said Thane, “I don’t understand this at all. This is just petty nonsense, is what this is.”
“I brought it up because you must come to the council to get permission to sign a contract,” said Hatzenbuhler. “But you did not, you signed it without coming to the common council.”
Thane said she cleared the purchase with Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis. DeCusatis said that a resolution was not needed for the purchase under the city’s purchasing policy.
“It is a contract. I’ll let it go, I have no problem with it,” said Alderman Ron Barone. “But I’m just saying it’s a contract. We went to court because you thought I negotiated a contract.”
“Why didn’t you just come to the council, put the resolution up and explain to us?” asked Hatzenbuhler.
“Because I didn’t think it was going to be an issue,” said Thane.
“$5000 is an issue when we don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Hatzenbuhler.
“It was already budgeted. I was taking it from my contractual line. It’s not like I was going to exceed any budgeted number. That’s why. I didn’t think it would be an issue Diane, I honestly didn’t.”
At the end of the discussion, Hatzenbuhler said,“We’ve got so many more important things than this stupid little $5000 SeeClickFix.”
Later, the resolution to void the contract was defeated 2-3, with Hatzenbuhler and Leggiero casting the two yes votes.