St. Charles residents now have the ability to carry a city ombudsman right in their pockets. City officials announced the availability of St. Charles Connect this week as free phone application available on all user platforms.
St. Charles Connect uses a system already in place in San Francisco to provide a real time method of allowing citizens to connect with city services no matter where they are in the city. The application takes advantage of modern phone technology to provide more information than any single dialed-in phone complaint.
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For instance, a city resident could use the application to notify city staff about a new pothole on a city street that needs repair. By using the phone application, the resident could submit a photo taken by the phone along with the complaint. And, if the phone's GPS system is enabled, city officials will have an immediate and exact location of the pothole to perform a follow-up investigation. The complaint will then show up as a pin on a citywide map. The application would also provide city staff workers with better awareness of emerging issues trending in various parts of the city as complaints are logged on the map.
Peggy Forster, the city's director of information systems, said she expects St. Charles Connect to become the preferred method for residents to communicate issues with city staff. She said 20 percent of the people who visit the city's website already do so via a mobile device. That's double what it was just one year ago. Forster said experts predict up to 50 percent of web traffic may come from mobile devices in the next few years.
"This allows us to have more direct contact to the citizens," Forster said. "And it puts direct access to the city right in the palm of their hands."
The application should not be used for reporting emergencies to the police or fire departments. Dialing 911 is still the correct method for handling those situations.
The phone application is available for free download right now on iPhone and Android platforms. It will be available on Windows and Blackberry phones soon, Forster said.