November 12, 2009 10:25:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Residents of Starkville and Oktibbeha County could be the first in the state to dial 311 for non-emergency calls.
Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill on Wednesday said she will ask the Board of Aldermen next week for authorization to petition the state Public Service Commission to allow 311 service in the city and Oktibbeha County.
Residents could call the number for non-emergency issues, such as water leaks, power outages and noise complaints, among other things, instead of dialing 911. It also would serve citizens looking for phone numbers and information on government services and offices.
The city and county already approved an inter-local agreement for the service. Phone provider AT&T also approved the plan to bring 311 service to the county, Spruill said.
City and county officials have worked together on the plan for three years.
"Now we just have to go to the Public Service Commission to authorize the use of 311 for this area," Spruill said. "This seems to be the last hurdle for us, but we''ll get there."
Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley this morning confirmed Starkville and Oktibbeha County will be first in the state to offer the service. The entities were the state''s first applicants for 311.
Spruill and Mayor Parker Wiseman, are excited about the prospect of leading the move.
"So we could be the first in the state at something else," Spruill said.
Starkville was the first municipality in the state to institute a smoking ban in public places -- a move followed quickly by several other cities. Starkville also was the first city to institute a free curbside recycling pickup program.
Wiseman called the prospect of having 311 service "exciting."
"It''s a very exciting development," Wiseman said. "It will serve as a way to place non-emergency calls for government service, and will serve as a way for citizens to access their government with greater ease."
In Oktibbeha County, Board of Supervisors President John Young also is looking forward to the 311 service.
"It''s a very good idea," Young said. "We get a lot of non-emergency calls all the time for this and that. Instead of calling us, citizens can call that number and it goes directly to our people and they''ll dispatch our county work crews. As supervisors, people call us because they know us personally. They''ll probably still call us even after we get that system, but I still think this is good for the city and the county."
Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Britt agreed. The Central Communications Center would handle the 311 calls, he said. And no additional personnel would be needed.
"We''re always looking at ways to improve services for the citizens," Britt said. "A lot of times people have concerns or just need information and certainly they don''t want to dial an emergency number like 911. I think this will help citizens have better access to their government."