The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) hopes to fill the gaps in its customer service offerings using online software technology known as the Civic Platform.
At its Jan. 26 meeting, council authorized staff to begin contract negotiations with New Westminster-based Avocette Technologies in regards to the implementation of the software, which was developed by Accela Inc out of California.
"The Civic Platform is an online mobile and software solution designed specifically to connect citizens and government," explained Kerry Ing, manager of information technology services for the RMOW.
Once implemented, Whistlerites will be able to inform the RMOW of deficiencies — like say, a pothole or malfunctioning street light — or even submit a Freedom of Information request with just a few taps on their smartphone or tablet.
The requests are sent electronically to the appropriate department and staff is alerted immediately.
When the pothole is filled, the citizen receives an email informing them the job is done.
The program also allows for archival and management of customer service data, which will allow for future cost savings within the municipality.
All departments at the RMOW will eventually use the Civic Platform, but in rolling it out, "we're going to walk before we run. We are going to be very, very deliberate," Ing told mayor and council.
"It will be complex, so I would suggest the first year we'll probably have three or four departments on board."
The first iteration could be in place before the end of the year.
The system the RMOW currently uses for service requests is phone and paper-based, Ing said.
"We do ask customers to come into our offices to submit requests, and at times they are playing a game of chase in terms of finding the right individual to speak to regarding a particular service request and the fulfillment of a particular work order," he said.
"Long story short, we're asking clients and customers to do business on our terms. We're not leveraging applications, nor are we leveraging technology to start allowing customers to do business on their terms."
By making the switch, the RMOW estimates it will save more than $1 million in the first five years by finding efficiencies in all departments and extending the life of infrastructure assets.
The data management aspect of the software also helps reduce the risks of major incidences such as sewer line breakage.
When the city of Westminster, Colo., put the Civic Platform in place, it saw a reduction of annual sewer overflow incidents from three to zero, and a reduction in water main breaks from 163 to 38.
"The Civic Platform has given significant benefits to municipal governments in terms of operational efficiencies, where they've seen significant reductions in things such as water main breaks and sewer mains... all of which have significant cost saving perspectives," Ing said.
"What it allows us to do is avoid unpredicted or unforecasted failures, and those failures are more expensive."
After the presentation, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was "thrilled" to see the RMOW moving forward with implementing the software.
"I think it's going to make a significant difference to both our customer service activities with our community but also the internal efficiencies," she said.
"It's something that's been on our council work plan since early 2012 so I'm really, really pleased to see this."
Expenditures associated with implementing the software will be included in the 2016 proposed municipal budget and subject to approval by council in coming public meetings.