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Online problem reporting helps speed up city response time

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POSTED November 27, 2009 1:09 a.m.
Seven street lights were out for as long as six months on the southern end of Spreckels Avenue.

City workers, though, had no way of knowing until they were alerted by a Manteca resident using the on-line reporting system.

Once alerted, Public Works Director Mark Houghton notified the firm under contract to service municipal street lights. The found the problem and the lights were back on within a week.

The resident told the city the lights were out for about six months but hadn’t bothered to say anything until she became aware of the online reporting. On top of that, the city pays PG&E a flat rate per month for power per street light which means the city could easily have paid over $400 for power for the street lights without having them on.

“People (in the area) probably got use to the lights not being on and didn’t bother to report it,” Houghton said.

Houghton noted city workers can’t see everything that is a problem when it comes to streets, sidewalks, pot holes, missing or downed street signs, and even traffic lights with issues. While Manteca Police typically alert public works to malfunctioning street lights, when it is simply a light out or damaged done to the signal boxes or even pedestrian push buttons it is a citizen that alerts the city to the problem.

There are 4,800 street lights, 193 linear miles of street, and 16,397 city maintained trees among other things that the city’s street division workers help look after.

Houghton said it is impossible for city crews to inspect all of that to look for problems plus do maintenance.

“It is even more critical now that we have cutbacks and less staff,” Houghton said.

Residents can still call city hall or – if they want – drop by and report a problem. Houghton, though, said the online reporting is a lot easier for residents and holds the city more accountable.

“A lot of people work out of town or are too busy to call during the day,” he said. “This way they can go online even at 3 o’clock in the morning and report a problem.”

The online reporting creates an electronic paper trail that allows department managers to monitor response times to make sure they meet city goals of being responsive. Those making a report can follow up and are often times sent messages confirming the problem they point out is in the process of being corrected.

Often times when phone messages are taken or even voice mails are left follow up isn’t as consistent.

The online reporting form is accessed by going to www.ci.manteca.ca.us then clicking on public works and go to report a problem at the top of the menu on the left hand side of the public works page. The online reporting page has a lot of options plus allows you to provide additional details.

If you prefer to call, the public works page as the contact numbers of the various divisions such as streets sewer, sidewalks, flooding, street lights, traffic lights, and water for help with problems.
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