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Tuscaloosans have a new option for non-emergency calls

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — A new system designed to take non-emergency calls that can tie up 911 operators who need to help people with real emergencies went online in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.

The city’s new 311-call center is intended to make it easier for residents to request services, report problems and get information. The service can be accessed by any landline phone within the city’s jurisdiction, including the police jurisdiction, and by cell phone throughout the county.

It can handle up to 23 callers at once and will be staffed from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday to help residents who can’t contact City Hall during regular business.

“What makes 311 so remarkable is that it gets to that core belief of open, efficient and accountable government,” said first-term Mayor Walt Maddox, who has pushed to make City Hall more accessible.

Operators are trained to assist callers on a variety of issues and will either address the call firsthand or connect the caller with the proper official or department. The call center’s four representatives have been training and working toward Wednesday’s launch since February.

Tuscaloosa bought the software that powers its system from Mobile for $100,000, a deal Maddox said saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mobile Mayor Sam Jones said the port city implemented the service about a year ago.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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