Nov. 2-PAC meeting report: 311 calls

The meeting was called to order at 6:17 by Emilie Quast.  16 attendees.

Our speaker was Kimberly Simmonds from  Minneapolis 311.

Minneapolis 311 is the “single point of contact” for the City of Minneapolis.  People can contact 311 by phone, computer, or through the mobile app for information about local government and services, and to be directly connected  to the service provider that can correctly respond to a caller’s inquiry or need.

The program took its first calls on January 4, 2006.  It was originally a Monday-Friday service, 7AM to 11 PM.  That first year, 311 received more than 343,000 calls and more than 14,000 emails.  It entered over 61,000 service requests that year.  In July of 2012, 311 launched a mobile app, which can identify a customer’s exact location, necessary for service requests requiring a specific location. Between July 2012 and October 2015, almost 27,000 cases were sent through the mobile app.

2016 was the 10th anniversary of Minneapolis 311.  That year, 311 reached 3.9 million calls answered.  The service is still growing.  In the first 10 months of 2018,  311 received more than 10,000 mobile cases, 16,000 emails, and over 260,000 phone calls.

Contact this service by dialing 311 if your phone carrier allows or 612.673.3000.  The email address is minneapolis311@minneapolismn.gov  and a mobile app can be downloaded for Androids, iPhones, and Blackberrys.

This year, 311 has launched a texting service. When a customer texts 311, they are texting a knowledge base of information.  The system works well if you can reduce your question to 1 or 2 key terms. This is actually the database 311 operators use when they are searching for information to answer your call.  If you text a query that is too complicated, the system will tell you to call 311 or download the mobile app, because the question you are asking may be too complicated for the system to process.  Thus, “My car is lost.  Where can I find if my car has been towed” probably won’t work.  “Impound lot”  or “towed car” will.  You  may get a link to a search engine that will take you to the area on the City website that has the information you need.  At the end, you may be asked to fill out a survey; the answers will be used to figure out how well the system is actually working so we can figure out what needs to be improved.

Minneapolis 311 can help with most NON-emergency questions and calls for service.  If the operator decides you need an emergency response, they’ll direct you to Minneapolis Police and Fire Dispatch.

311  has contracted with CLI, Certified Languages International, which can translate some 227 languages. The system also has a computer based TTY service for people with hearing impairment or oral communication disorders.

The six most common requests are 1) Impound Lot vehicle lookup, 2) Parking complaints, 3) Questions for recycling and solid waste services, 4) Snow and Ice complaints, 5) Non-emergency police reports, 6) Pothole complaints.

There is a long list of departments that 311 assists.  [EQ: see attachments at the end of this report]   Our 311 agents can, in some instances, help the caller by answering their question immediately. In some instances, we transfer the caller to the resolving department.   In most cases, we will enter a service request for the caller to have the resolving department follow up with them.

QUESTION: CAN THE CITY CALL MY CELL PHONE TO LET ME KNOW OF SNOW EMERGENCIES? OR TO ADVISE ME OF STREET SWEEPING IN MY AREA? ANSWER: If you have a landline or mobile phone, the city can call you to notify you of Snow Emergencies because the Snow Emergency rules are the same across the city and take place at the same time. At this time, the City cannot call your cell phone to notify you of street sweeping in your area. The City will call your landline phone to advise you of street sweeping because it is attached to your physical address. The technology does not yet exist for the City to be able to call your cell phone for street sweeping.

To sign up for phone, text, or email alerts, please visit http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/subscriptions/sign-up to sign up.

QUESTION:  WHAT IF YOU CALL THE WRONG SERVICE?  ANSWER: If 311 deems your call to be an emergency and you are in the City of Minneapolis, we will connect you with Minneapolis Police and Fire Dispatch. If it is an emergency, but the caller is not in Minneapolis, we ask that the caller hang up and dial 911. If the caller requests or reports something that should go to Metro Transit, we can provide the phone number to Metro Transit or transfer the caller over to Metro Transit customer service. Finally, if a caller has a non-emergency request for another city, we will try our best to find the main contact number for that city and provide it the customer or transfer them over.

QUESTION:  WHAT IS THE TIME LIMIT FOR SNOW SHOVELING?  ANSWER: Single family homes and duplexes have 24 hours from the end of snowfall to shovel their walks. Apartments, commercial buildings and all other properties have four daytime hours to remove the snow (daytime hours start at 8am after the end of snowfall). If snow hasn’t been removed after that time has gone by, you can call 311 at that point.  We’re changing  the procedure this year:  Instead of us going out and looking, we’re automatically sending the owner a letter to let them know they are in violation.  Then, after 3 days the inspector goes out.  If the walk isn’t shoveled we authorize someone to clear it and the owner gets charged. This will take seven days off the process.

QUESTION: WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR REPORTING EMERGENCIES LIKE WATER MAIN BREAKS AND THOSE PROBLEMS THAT MIGHT NOT BE AN EMERGENCY, LIKE POTHOLES?  Answer:  We use scripting in a system called Lagan to help us determine what should be called over to a department right after we enter a case. In the case of a water main break, we take as much information as the caller has, enter a case in with all of the pertinent details, and then we call the water department to let them know there’s been a break so that they can get someone out there right away. For potholes, 311 enters in a case for Public Works, and those cases are sent over to the resolving department. Potholes are repaired area by area for greatest efficiency.

QUESTION: IF A STREET HAS NO BOULEVARDS, IT’S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE FOR A HOMEWONER TO KEEP THAT ICE MOUND OFF.  Answer:  Call 311 to let us know what is going on. In most cases, we can enter in a case for our street department or our sidewalk department and let them know that the piled snow from plowing is causing accessibility issues.

One follow up question by EQ.  After I got home and started to celebrate the new procedure for getting walks cleared 7 (!) days quicker, it occurred to me that this would be good for tall weed control also.  I wrote Ms Simmonds, and asked, even though I know that have not had a chance to try out the new procedure on snow removal yet.  She replied very promptly that she had sent my suggestion to housing inspections. (Reference number is 4266088).  So we will see how this new program speeds up snow removal.  If it works better, we have a handle to speed up tall weeds also!

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