At the Town Council meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, Town Manager Austin Faison shared updates on two issues impacting Winthrop and its citizens: the town’s new online work order system and a new initiative to evaluate public opinion.
Faison reported that between 400 and 500 resident-reported infrastructure concerns in Winthrop have been addressed since DPW rolled out its SeeClickFix system last week. The website allows residents to easily submit work orders on issues like potholes, sidewalk cracks, broken streetlights and more.
Residents can access the system by going to SeeClickFix.com and searching for Winthrop. They can also download the app, which will automatically register their location. Every time a resident submits a work order via SeeClickFix, they create an electronic ticket and will receive updates on any actions taken on the issue.
“We want people to feel like they can be in contact with our department heads 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Faison. “We want to give people the confidence that their work order has been submitted.”
Residents can still call into the Town Manager’s office and the DPW to report issues over the phone, but the app is meant to expedite any necessary repairs and to ensure accountability.
“If it’s successful, we’re going to look for other opportunities to interact with this system,” said Faison. “We think this can be a part of our communication system with the community.”
DPW Director Steven Calla said that his department had to undergo extensive training to bring the program on board, and that it will take some getting used to.
“So far it’s been great software to use,” he said. “We think it will be useful for the community.”
Residents are encouraged to be as specific as possible and to submit photos along with any work orders.
Faison also updated Council on Winthrop’s involvement with ZenCity, a company that collects public data from a town’s social media platforms, news channels and 311 calls and uses it to inform local governments about what concerns are most pertinent to residents. It claims to be able to measure public support for specific town projects.
For example, if the town were planning a park restoration, ZenCity would analyze public discussion threads on Facebook and generate reports for town officials on how residents feel about the project.
Faison feels this will be especially useful to gauge public opinion outside of the public commentary period at the Council meetings.
“Not everyone can come out on a Tuesday night,” he said.
Faison told the Transcript that his office is dedicated to “incorporating as many viewpoints as possible” when debating new projects.
“The point of this tool is for my office to understand what’s happening in [public] online conversations,” he said. “I want them to be part of the larger conversation.”
Residents do not have to opt in for their voices to be included in ZenCity’s analyses, as its data is all gathered from public sources.