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City app helps residents resolve issues like weedy lots, junk cars

October 5, 2018

HARLINGEN — A new mobile app is changing the way City Hall handles residents’ complaints.

Since its February launch, 769 residents have downloaded the Harlingen City App to send 297 requests to city departments.

So far, residents’ complaints have ranged from weedy lots and junk cars to code violations.

“It’s great the public is starting to learn about it,” Mayor Chris Boswell said after the city’s technology department presented an update of the app during a Wednesday meeting.

Within an average of four to six hours, departments usually make their first responses to complaints, according to Sergio Mujica, the city’s management information specialist who has compiled data surrounding the app’s use.

Then within nine to 12 days, departments tend to resolve the problem, he said.

“These response times are very impressive as well,” Boswell said.

The app

Developed by E-Gov Link, the Harlingen City App came with a price tag of $2,500 along with a $1,000 annual maintenance fee.

Residents can download the free app at the Google play store, where it is available for use with Androids and iPhones.

In cities across the country, such apps are changing the way residents send complaints to City Hall.

“It’s something that’s becoming very popular,” Mujica said. “It’s a great advantage to do it online. You can send a picture and it maps the location and you can remain anonymous.”

How it works

Now, instead of calling a switchboard or automated answering system, residents can pick up their cell phones, type descriptions of the nature of their complaints and send them to City Hall.

The app allows residents to send photographs of the sources of their complaints, from potholes to weedy lots and dead animals.

Then, the app maps the geographic locations of the complaints’ sources.

At City Hall, the app assigns residents’ requests to the departments overseeing their complaints.

Meanwhile, it also allows residents to request emailed responses to their complaints and requests.

If complaints are not taken care of within three days, the app sends residents’ requests to department supervisors.

“The system automatically alerts for requests that have not been resolved yet,” Mujica said. “We made a lot of emphasis to the departments to respond as soon as possible.”

Learning tool

At City Hall, the app is helping department heads compile information that is helping them better determine the biggest sources of complaints.

“It’s a good measuring tool,” Mujica said. “It gives a better view of what kind of services are required. In the long run, we’ll determine where we have the most problems so we can take a proactive approach to problems that become more and more frequent.”

Other uses

The app includes several other features aimed at streamlining communications between residents and City Hall.

While offering information on city job openings, the app also accepts online payments of municipal court fines and even allows residents to check out books at the Harlingen Public Library.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com

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