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New app intended to streamline Carroll County resident concerns, make life easier for county staff

A mobile app that will allow residents to report infrastructure issues such as potholes and overgrown grass to Carroll County is designed to make lives easier for government employees and citizens alike.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved the purchase and integration of SeeClickFix software for $82,500. The three-year contract with SeeClickFix Inc., based in Connecticut, is included in the county budget and will not require additional funding, according to county documents. The software can be used as a mobile app and a website tool.

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“It’d be very much a public-facing, interactive software,” Department of Public Works project manager Scott Graff said.

Doug Brown, Department of Public Works deputy director, said the software will funnel complaints and questions into one place and ensure they are forwarded to the appropriate person. This would eliminate the middleman and consolidate the emails, phone calls, spreadsheets, sticky notes, and other means of tracking infrastructure and abatement issues, thus eliminating the worry that a concern will get lost in the shuffle, Brown said.

“Our No. 1 priority is customer satisfaction and this is going to help us to do that,” Brown said. “This is going to help us to organize electronically everything we deal with in-house.”

SeeClickFix will start with an internal soft launch in about 90 days, according to Graff. County staff will be the first to try out the new system and will upload active issues. When citizens contact the county with concerns, staff will be able to search the database to find out if someone is already working on the problem and for how long, or to enter a new concern, Brown said. The software is planned to go public about six months after the soft launch, according to Brown.

“When we turn it on to the public we want to make sure we’ve got any and all bugs worked out,” Brown said.

When the software is ready to be launched across the county there will be a “media blitz” and live demonstration showing users how to operate it, according to Brown. The app can also be renamed to make it unique to Carroll, he said.

Although citizens will report issues electronically, Public Works won’t lose its personal touch. Employees will still call citizens to follow up and visit sites in person, according to Brown.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the purchase and integration of SeeClickFix. Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, was absent because he was attending an event for Maryland Association of Counties on behalf of the Board of Commissioners.

“I like the fact that you’ll have a central collection data point for the history of any case,” said Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4.

“It’s an opportunity for quicker responsiveness,” said Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5.

Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties, as well as Baltimore city, also use the system, Graff said.

Other decisions

In other business, the commissioners approved the application and acceptance of a grant to assist the Special Victims Unit of the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The domestic violence prosecutor’s salary is supported in part by the Violence Against Women Act grant, according to county documents. The grant itself will provide $55,453, plus the county match of $79,920, totaling $135,373 for the prosecutor’s salary and benefits, according to county documents. The county match is already provided for in the budget.

“Our unit addresses the challenges of prosecuting domestic violence and sexual crimes and working with victims of those crimes,” Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Pamer said. “We handle between 350 and 450 cases a year.”

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The unit includes three prosecutors and a victim advocate, Pamer said.

The Special Victims Unit has been receiving the grant for more than 20 years and the number has remained stable the past few years, according to Pamer. If the county does not receive the grant, then the commissioners would be asked to fund the domestic violence prosecutor position.

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