BE City connecting with residents
Council approves using new app called GoGov for citizens to use
Some say there is an app for everything nowadays. What if that app existed for every administrator’s nemesis: paperwork? On Monday evening, June 21, the Blue Earth City Council discussed the possibility of adopting an app to improve communication between Blue Earth and its citizens.
The app, called GoGov, allows city administrators to share essential announcements with citizens through a variety of mediums. It also allows citizens to register requests with the city with just a touch here, and a swipe there.
“GoGov will be another form of communication,” explained city administrator Mary Kennedy. “Citizens can subscribe to be informed if something comes up.”
“The app can streamline processes and make less administrative work,” added Kennedy.
Before discussing whether they would like to implement the app, the council participated in a training session with GoGov employee Kevin Strauss.
Strauss first shared the different functions of GoGov, which offers three modules. The first allows the city to distribute important announcements efficiently to citizens.
“You can send announcements right away or you can choose to send them at a later date. You can also send them through the app, or through email, Facebook, or Twitter,” said Strauss.
Strauss also demonstrated a citizens request module, which allows citizens to submit requests and complaints to the city.
“Citizens can choose a topic to report, like a pothole in the street,” Strauss explained. Following this, the person filing the report will be prompted to attach other information such as photographs of the issue and the location. When the report is completed it can be sent to a pre-selected city administrator.
“Members can select issues that they want to be informed of right away and escalate problems that need to be dealt with,” added Strauss. This allows administrators to ensure they are immediately informed of the issues that concern them most.
Strauss emphasized opportunities GoGov provides for administrators to increase the quality of service they provide for citizens.
“The reporting process shines a positive light on all the work the staff is doing,” explained Strauss. “Citizens can check the status of their report and receive prompt updates from the city as their report is processed.”
Strauss also demonstrated other uses for GoGov, such as code enforcement, facilitating internal requests from staff, and data organization.
The council discussed their concerns about GoGov before voting to implement it.
Council member John Huisman asked, “How can we deal with excessive or petty complaints from a citizen?” However, Strauss assured the council that a user can be muted, or banned from the app, if necessary.
Kennedy added requests take long enough to fill out that citizens will hesitate to submit them flippantly.
“The requests take a little bit of work. You have to fill them out completely,” explained Kennedy.
Kennedy further explained, “We won’t market GoGov as a complaint form.” This, she hoped, will further encourage citizens not to file excessive requests.
The city typically conducts a “summer sweep” during which city officials sweep Blue Earth for code and ordinance violations that need to be addressed. The council debated whether a modified sweep of the city will be necessary if they adopt GoGov.
Kennedy presented a plan to assign city office specialist Tammy Davis to spend an hour a day sweeping the city for violations, which, along with the implementation of GoGov, would negate the need for a full summer sweep.
“Tammy could use an hour per day to see what issues can be addressed proactively instead of reactively,” explained Kennedy.
Davis was receptive to the plan. “This system will be so much smoother,” she said.
Following this discussion, council member Glenn Gaylord also lent his support to the app.
“I think we should try this if it’s going to be a win-win situation for everyone, and it sounds like it would be,” Gaylord said.
Eventually, the council passed a motion to implement the GoGov program without a modified sweep of the city.
The council also discussed the following at Monday night’s meeting:
• Whether they should allocate funds to Kato Roofing to make recommended fixes to public buildings, or hire someone internally to perform routine maintenance to the roofs. The council voted to increase the maintenance budget to hire someone to perform necessary roof maintenance.
• Updates from city engineer Wes Brown, of Bolton and Menk, regarding the Safe Routes to Schools project. Brown received a low bid from Ulland Brothers, Inc. and recommended them as contractor for the project. After some discussion, the council voted to accept Brown’s recommendation.
Brown also requested a change order for materials for the construction on Walnut Street and Nicollet Street. He presented cost-saving, but effective alternative materials which will decrease the cost of the project by $54,955. The council voted to approve the change order.
• Authorizing the issuance and sale of $6.39 million general obligation bonds. As the city received a very good interest rate on the bonds, 1.48 percent, the council voted to approve the sale unanimously.
• The results of VISTA representative Hanna Haggarty’s equity and inclusion survey. Haggarty explained survey results show a need for increased inclusivity at community events. The council discussed the possibility of a committee whose sole focus is inclusion and diversity. They also discussed examining policy language to improve clarity regarding how the council should respond to the needs of those who do not feel included within the community.
• The purchase of the Greenfield Property, where the council hopes a memorial for veterans can be built. City attorney David Frundt shared concerns about possible soil contamination. He was not comfortable recommending the council take possession of the property, as they could be liable for any contamination that is discovered.
The council discussed testing for contamination and the potential costs if contamination is found. Mayor Rick Scholtes decided further research should be done to determine whether state funds could cover the disposal of contaminated soil. The council would then be more informed when they revisit the issue at a later date.