City aims to better its service

It might seem a non-issue that Altoona officials will be making it easier for the public to present concerns and other comments to the various municipal departments.

But the move is in fact an issue, because many municipalities do not have a contact-friendly means for the public to access the top officials and other human resources bestowed with the power, ability and authorization to address problems and other matters.

Beyond that, there are companies and stores that similarly lack a simple, organized approach for dealing with questions, concerns and perceived wrongs, errors or inconveniences.

Perhaps what is happening amid Altoona’s city government will inspire some others to imitate what this city is attempting to do.

A May 12 Mirror article, “City webpage set to route concerns,” reported on a protocol for the city government website that “will direct residents’ complaints to departments that can best handle them, allowing residents to track the progress of corrective action while enabling staff to avoid duplication of effort caused when residents make multiple calls.”

The article in question said Mayor Matt Pacifico, in his “state of the city” address, indicated that “implementation of the ‘Citizens Request for Action Module’ will increase efficiencies, eliminate redundancy and improve transparency for, and responsiveness to, the public.”

Victor Curfman, the city’s information technology director, has pointed out that the protocol is part of the city’s new Management Information System.

For city residents, it is important to know how the protocol will be more workable and productive for them, by way of an online form. However, it is important for them also to know that the protocol will not be confined to major issues or problems — that it may be accessed for nagging-but-not-earthshaking problems such as potholes, blight conditions, high grass, trash, animals and non-working streetlights.

At one time or another, many Altoona residents have encountered an item that they purchased that either did not work, did not perform up to expectations or had some other kind of flaw, but getting the matter resolved was more difficult and time-consuming than they ever imagined — especially when the company being dealt with was a non-local business.

In such situations, it does not take long for patience to evolve into frustration and then anger.

Unfortunately, there are municipalities that either do not address problems quickly or are lacking in skills to evaluate problems and concerns efficiently.

Altoona residents like to think that their city government is better than that, and in most cases that observation is correct.

But even for Altoona residents who have never had to bring problems or concerns to the attention of some official or employee of the city, it should be encouraging to know that there will be an efficient process in effect to receive and deal with comments, complaints or suggestions, if they ever need to get in touch with the city government.

According to Curfman, the status of a complaint or other issue, and information regarding who is working to resolve it, will be able to be tracked by staff.

Staff members will be able then to better communicate with complainants without an inordinate amount of delay, if they provide their contact information.

Altoona leaders merit plaudits for deciding to embark on this improved service for residents.