Archive for Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fix-It Form’ opens online avenue to City Hall

February 24, 2005, 12:00 a.m.

Updated: February 24, 2005, 10:37 a.m.

A city of Lansing program that incorporates the Internet is helping officials to spot and correct problems around town more quickly and opening up the lines of communication between the public and City Hall, the city administrator says.

The city began offering its online "Fix-It Form" on the Lansing Web site (lansing.ks.us) in the fall.

By clicking on the link, residents can submit a form that details their concerns, whether it's potholes, downed tree limbs, barking dogs, overgrown weeds or a streetlight that needs repair.

Since the program's inception, City Administrator Mike Smith said, about a dozen forms have been submitted - with all different sorts of problems.

"They're the type of thing we wouldn't catch for about a week or two, unless someone had told about them," Smith said.

Submitted forms go directly from the city's Web master to Smith, who promises action.

"The forms come directly to me, not a department head; that way, I can keep up on it."

Smith said that once he received a form, he would contact the affected department to dispatch a crew to the problem site. Often, Smith accompanies them. The crew determines what's required to correct the problem and how long it will require. Smith, then, relays the news to the reporting party.

"I'll tell the person what we're going to do and when we're going to do it," he said.

Thus far, Smith said, the city is batting 1.000 in correcting problems brought to its attention from residents here.

"There hasn't been anything we haven't been able to do yet," he said. "I'm sure there's going to be something we can't fix. It may be it'll be something we can't do right away but have to budget for later down the line."

Smith said he got the idea for the form at a meeting of the International City/ County Management Association. A city in Texas had used a similar form on its Web site. Smith liked what he saw and asked the city's Web master to incorporate it on Lansing's site.

The idea wasn't universally accepted by the city department heads, at least initially.

"One of them said, 'Mike, we're gonna get a million of these,'" Smith recalled. "I said, 'Well, then we'll have to answer a million of them.'"

In addition to getting problems solved in a more timely fashion, Smith said he saw another benefit from the forms: hearing from members of the public about their city.

"This might be the one thing that starts the dialogue," he said. "We may wind up talking about the mill levy, schools, whatever. : It's a good way for me to get to know people in the community and stay in touch."

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