Rats? Noise? 'Dormont Delivers' an app for that

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Got rats? Unsightly debris? Too much party rocking?

A new smartphone application in Dormont will allow users to complain about problems like these, then track the fixes step-by-step.

Borough manager Jeffrey Naftal said from the start of his tenure in July that he wanted to improve the borough's digital offerings. Residents have complained Dormont's website is hard to navigate, and he's worked to streamline parts of it.

The goal for the new "Dormont Delivers" app was for residents "not to feel like their requests get buried in a black hole and get lost," Mr. Naftal said.

The borough paid New York City-based online and mobile app developer PublicStuff $1,000 to design the program and will pay the company $1,500 each year to operate it.

It is free and available on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices.

When the borough receives a complaint via phone, it's assigned to the proper department.

But sometimes that process takes awhile, Mr. Naftal said. The app allows users to file complaints in real time, track their own complaints and attach photos, if necessary.

Users can view nearby complaints, monitor that progress by "following" the problems and support problems others support.

"With this application they're able to get on there and actually see the results of what's happening," Mr. Naftal said.

The borough receives two or three complaints a day, sometimes more, such as when street sweeping was at its peak.

Take rats, for example.

If a resident complains about the critters next door, the borough first has to talk to the property owner, followed by a series of other steps.

"It's a process that takes some time," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight."

The app includes a narrative of each step and a progress bar, updated by borough employees.

"All those kinds of stages will be available to the resident without having to worry about whether something's happening or not," he said.

Users also can search complaints in map view.

The app shows that rat and debris complaints have been filed via "Dormont Delivers," though the 6-month-old "party rocking" beef refers to university students in Pittsburgh.

Dormont's is the company's first civic engagement app in the region, and those developers have also talked with Pittsburgh about creating an app for the city.

Anyone with a log-in and password can file a complaint anywhere in the U.S., but no telling if they'll get a response where the app is not official, Mr. Naftal said.

He said young people and business owners in the borough are likely to use the app the most. But its success does not hinge on whether residents use smartphones -- or use them deftly.

As always, residents are welcome to call the borough to submit complaints, and the staff there will file them in an online system, so they'll still be visible to app users.

The app also includes sections for community events, breaking news, a calendar and lists of administration and borough leaders, information available on Dormont's website.

PublicStuff developers were also one-half the team that created Philly311, a service request and mobile app in Philadelphia.

Service requests in Dormont also may be reported through PublicStuff.com and via text message.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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