So it’s February and there you are driving down First Avenue in Riverside when suddenly you have to swerve to avoid hitting a huge pothole that’s opened up.
“That thing’s gonna cause an accident,” you think to yourself. “Someone oughta do something about it.”
That someone, it turns out, can now be you.
Earlier this month the village of Riverside unveiled a mobile app, called Riverside Responds, where users can notify village officials of myriad issues, from property maintenance and commuter parking meter problems to sewer backups, fallen tree limbs and dead animals in the roadway.
The app is the result of about a year’s worth of work, said Kevin Kuratko, who was appointed to represent Riverside during the app development process. The GIS Consortium, of which Riverside is a member, spearheaded the effort after several communities it serves expressed interest in creating a tool where citizens could better communicate with officials in the towns where they lived.
Kuratko, who serves as both a battalion chief for the Riverside Fire Department and an employee of the village’s public works department, rolled out the app at the Riverside Village Board meeting on Aug. 18.
“We realized we needed a better way to allow the residents to let us know about issues out on the street, out in the field,” Kuratko said.
The GIS Consortium tapped a firm called PublicStuff, which develops branded resident-engagement apps for municipalities, among other things. PublicStuff is owned by Accela, a California-based firm that provides “cloud-based civic engagement solutions for government,” according to the firm’s website.
According to Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances, seven other communities also agreed to be part of the GIS Consortium’s app development effort, including Buffalo Grove, Des Plaines, Downers Grove, Elk Grove Village, Lincolnwood, Mount Prospect and Norridge.
Riverside will pay Accela $3,800 per year to offer the app-based request system to its residents. The village’s previous online platform, allowing residents to flag problems and make requests, cost $4,800 annually to offer.
Riverside Responds is available for free download from the App Store for iPhones and from Google Play for Android devices.
When residents login to the app, they can use a menu of options to alert the village about specific issues, pinpoint the problem location on a map and even upload a photo of the problem.
Once the request for service has been filed using the app, the resident can track the response to the problem in real time and get status reports.
“What we all want these days is that I want to know I’m being heard right away,” Kuratko said.
Anyone making a report will receive an immediate text message or email notification confirming the request and follow-up texts or emails regarding the status of the request. There’s also the ability to make a problem report public, so others who run into the issue can, if they’re using the app, see that it’s already been flagged.
Requests also get sent to the village employee best able to respond to the problem, not to a general email box. Reports of fallen tree limbs will be routed to the village forester, police matters will be sent to the police chief, while property maintenance issues will go to the community development department.
“It’s automatically going to go to the proper department,” Kuratko said.
The app is not intended for residents to report emergency situations. In the event of an emergency, residents are requested to call 911.
For anyone who doesn’t have a mobile device or doesn’t have it handy at all times, there’s also a website for Riverside Responds. A link can be found on the home page of the village of Riverside’s website (www.riverside.il.us).
The village of Riverside is phasing out its “eFlash” email alerts and other communications platforms (like Nixle and Code Red) that it’s been using to notify residents of police activity, weather emergencies, road closures and other events in favor of a new Riverside Alert System where all of that information can be delivered.
Residents can sign up for the Riverside Alert System by clicking on the link posted on the homepage of the village website. Once residents create accounts they can tailor the types of information they’ll receive through the system.
Among the information available are notices of community events, recreation notices, police information and fire department alerts. If you want, you can receive everything from village press releases to village meeting notices. Or if you just want emergency notifications, you can set up your account for just those.
Residents can also choose how they’ll receive those alerts — by text message, email, phone or a combination of those choices.
The system will also allow the village to send more focused emergency alerts to residents who request them. For example, if power is out in a certain area, a notice can be sent to people who live in that specific neighborhood.