Allentown, PA, USA, Dec 29, 2016 -- Allentown will create a centralized call center in 2018 to handle non-emergency concerns from city residents, Mayor Ed Pawlowski said Thursday.
The 311 call center, to be housed in Allentown's current 911 center, will have full-time operators who will take calls and dispatch city employees for issues related to health, building standards, streets, snow removal and more.
Currently, each department has its own operator, and the burden is on city residents to figure out which department to call based on phone numbers on the city's website, Pawlowski said. The new consolidated center will have cross-trained operators who will know how to handle all kinds of city complaints and direct staff from the necessary department.
Pawlowski said the call center will make the city more efficient and customer-friendly. Callers will now receive a follow-up call or email to tell them how their issue has been handled, he said.
Allentown has been exploring the possibility of a 311 system as a use for its existing 911 center, which is scheduled to be decommissioned by June 2019. State lawmakers have ordered the consolidation of 911 centers across the state to increase efficiency.
Allentown and Bethlehem have the last two city-run 911 centers in the state. A study has recommended consolidating Allentown's center with Lehigh County's. Bethlehem would be merged with Northampton County.
Allentown's existing 911 center was built on city park land and has deed restrictions, making it difficult to sell, Pawlowski said. The city would like to continue to use it as a call center as it was designed.
Pawlowski said he expects the 311 center to have nine full-time employees, about four of which would be moved from other departments. The rest of the center could be staffed by current 911 operators, he said. Lehigh County officials have not yet announced how much of the city's 911 staff that they plan to hire.
Allentown plans to release next year a request for proposals for vendors and consultants.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Date Posted: Monday, January 2, 2017
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