Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Middletown makes it easier to reach officials

By Janet C. Wetzel
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — Making a complaint or a request to any city department used to leave Scott Meeker frustrated and weary. Not anymore.

        Now Mr. Meeker knows how to get quick results. He takes his questions, complaints and requests to the new Middletown Citizens Service Center on the first floor of the municipal building.

        “The service center knows exactly who to call and what to do,” said Mr. Meeker, who said he's been pleased with the results of neighborhood problems he took to the city. “The problems were handled quickly. It was wonderful to be able to get help at one place, rather than having to be transferred all over the city.”

        All problems are not resolved immediately, but every one gets attention and Mr. Meeker said he gets regular status updates.

Buck passing
        That wasn't the case before the service center opened in January.

        As with many communities, residents calling for help often got shuffled from one department to another, and frequently never learned whether their complaint was resolved, said Susan Davis, assistant city manager.

        “Now it's all centralized,” Ms. Davis said. When a problem or complaint comes in to any city department, the person who deals with that customer must fill out a report. That form goes to the service center, which tracks it through the system to ensure it doesn't fall through the cracks.

        The center has handled more than 1,500 reports since January, from pothole complaints to tall grass, speeders and drainage problems, said Sarah Cunningham, center supervisor.

        Some problems must be addressed within a specified time period. Others may be technical, complicated and/ or not the city's responsibility. But each one should get proper attention, Ms. Davis said.

        “We have a lot of people stopping just to ask questions. That's part of our function,” Mrs. Cunningham said. “This is the first time in many years that the city has had someone in the city building lobby to direct people where to go to get permits, to find the health department for a birth certificate, court or the bathroom.”

Follow-up important
        An important element of the service is the follow-up phone call, Ms. Davis said. “The service center is the voice and face of the city. We want it to work.”

        The Middletown Citizens Service Center can be reached at 425-7929. The e-mail address is sarahc@ci.middletown.oh.us


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