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City enhances Web connection

Ben Godar

A new feature on the city of Burbank’s Web site aims to connect

citizens with the officials they need to reach to get problems

resolved -- even if they don’t know who those officials are.

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By clicking on Connect with Burbank from the city’s home page

(www.ci.Burbank.ca.us), citizens can send feedback directly to a

particular department and report everything from parking problems to

downed tree limbs.

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The Connect with Burbank feature became available to the public

this week, but officials are still testing it and tweaking the

interface. They hope to have any bugs worked out of the system by

September.

In the past, all comments submitted through the city’s Web site

went to Webmaster Cinda Cates, who would forward them to the

appropriate depart- ment. That often meant delays in getting the 5 to

10 e-mails that would come in each day into the right hands, Cates

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said.

By allowing citizens simply to select the problem they are having,

Cates said the program connects them directly with the right

department, even if they don’t know what that department is.

“If there’s potholes in the street, they don’t have to know if

it’s Public Works or [Burbank Water and Power] who handles that,” she

said.

Penny Forbes, an administrative analyst in the Public Works

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Department, said they are already receiving about four e-mails a day

through the system.

When a citizen submits a message through the system, they receive

an e-mail notifying them that it has been received. Public Works also

informs the citizen that their query will be answered within four

days, Forbes said.

The system allows citizens to specify if they would like their

response to come via phone or e-mail. The status of a message can

also be tracked as it goes through the system.

The software Connect with Burbank runs on was created by San

Francisco-based Comcate Inc., and Cates said Burbank is one of the

first cities in the country to offer the service.

Forbes said by making it easier for people to communicate with the

city, she thinks more people will choose to do so.

“Some people don’t feel comfortable picking up the phone to ask a

question, make a complaint or even a compliment,” she said.

In the future, Cates said the city might use Connect with Burbank

for other things, such as taking surveys.

“We’re looking to make as much information as possible accessible

online,” she said.


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