Victor Diniak had a vision. As Director of the Department of Public Works (DPW) in the Town of Hanover, he wanted to further streamline town operations by allowing residents and building users to report facility issues using their smartphones.
Hanover had already achieved impressive efficiencies: Stewardship of all municipal facilities, including schools, was consolidated into a single centralized maintenance organization on July 1, 2012. Management of facilities became the purview of a restructured Department of Public Works, which became responsible for maintaining all town assets, maintenance of vehicles and equipment, management of all custodial, maintenance, and public works personnel, and related administrative tasks.
The question was how to fund the town of Hanover’s vision. And the answer was the Patrick Administration’s Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) grant program. The Patrick Administration has worked closely with municipal managers and local planners to deliver the resources they need to develop cost-saving measures and reforms for critical local services like public health, education and public safety. The CIC program provides seed money and one-time transition costs to thoughtful proposals that have the potential to positively impact the ways that municipal governments provide core services to residents. Projects like this allow municipalities to utilize technology to help communities maintain local services that will be delivered more effectively and efficiently to taxpayers.
Taking the Administration’s challenge, the town applied for and received a $46,000 CIC grant in Fiscal Year 2012 to create a smartphone-enabled system to increase efficiencies, such as the expansion of capabilities of the existing computerized maintenance management systems. Additionally, the grant allowed the town to enhance its level of customer service by using technology to develop strong relationships between residents and those who utilize town owned facilities.
The smartphone-enabled system gave the residents and building users the ability to report facility issues using their mobile devices. The enhanced system would allow facilities managers to download these issues onto mobile devices and to utilize these smartphones to enter status data regarding the completion of facility repairs.
Prior to receiving the grant, the Town implemented a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) for “vertical” assets (buildings and immediate surroundings) and a separate CMMS for “horizontal” assets (roads, bridges, etc.). The grant sought to extend the use of these products and to develop tools to extract data automatically for use by the public. In the first year of the program, 4,059 work order requests were submitted through the program.
The CMMS for vertical assets provided a simple web-based ability to accept maintenance requests from facility users, but it did not include the ability to capture GPS positioning of requests and link to geographic information systems (GIS). The town created custom software and webpages which connected the CMMS to a new mobile app (“Your Gov”), which also included the desired GPS capabilities. The custom work included procuring hardware and software, configuring and deploying mobile products, implementing website changes to foster communication with residents and testing the effectiveness of the new web tools.
To utilize the Your Gov mobile app, users in Hanover download it for free in the iTunes store or Android Market. Once downloaded, a user can open the app and follow on-screen instructions to submit a request. Usually, locations are preselected from the GPS location services on a phone, and users will also select an issue and enter a description of the problem. Additionally, the app allows users to take a picture of the problem. Once submitted, the request is automatically inserted into the Town’s request database and handled as a normal work order request. In the first three active months of use, 662 work order requests were submitted through this mobile app.
Merging departments within municipalities is a difficult decision, but one that several communities are considering, especially given challenging fiscal constraints. Often, decreasing levels of customer service is a major concern for communities seeking to merge departments. Through the Patrick Administration’s CIC grant, Hanover was able to utilize technology to enhance the level of customer service provided to residents through the newly reconfigured DPW.