Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

November 20, 2012

Brownsburg explores smart phone application

Bart Doan

BROWNSBURG — Submitting a building permit? See a street sign knocked over as you drive by? Residents here may soon find that contacting town hall is as easy as pulling over into a parking lot and using their smart phone.

Town officials are exploring the idea of creating a smart phone application that would allow residents to be more informed on town matters, a constant goal of Town Manager Grant Kleinhenz, who gleaned the idea from a conference he attended in Phoenix, Ariz.

“It’s a way I can get information and get our story and message out there,” he said, acknowledging that technology changes prompt different ways of thinking. “I feel like an application would be another means to communicate.”

What it might do ranges from printing off meeting agendas, bill paying, checking out town events, to direct interaction on problems that are noticed by residents to elicit a more immediate response.

“We’re open to whatever potential there is,” Kleinhenz said. “I’d love to see one where people can get info, download press releases, agendas, and also possibly an app that allows them to pay their water and sewer bill, even might allow them to apply for a building permit online and be able to pay for those over their iPhone or Android.”

Kleinhenz said interaction with residents is crucial to making the town better, and this can be a step forward.

“A lot of times people see stuff — a pot hole, a dented curb, a sign run over — and by the time they see it and get home, they’ve forgotten. So if they have their iPhone, it might be a better means for them to go ahead and communicate with the town immediately. We’re looking for an immediate vehicle to communicate with the town.”

Kleinhenz said he will discuss the particulars with a group called My City Mobile that he met during the conference to go over the basics of what types of functions could be had, costs associated, and how it could get done.

“Part of my job as the town manager is to communicate with not only the council and my staff and department heads, but also my bosses — the 21,185 residents in town and the business community,” he said. “I can do that with the iPhone app.”

Kleinhenz said he wants feedback from people who might use it, as a means to decide whether to go forward. He said he’s gotten some feedback that the bill paying mechanism would be useful, and hopes that more people come forward and give their opinions.

“Most of our department heads have smart phones, either an iPhone or an Android, so they’d all be able to receive messages,” he said. “Several also have iPads they use out in the field, filling out reports and such. Almost everyone is wired in some way, shape, or form with a phone, so they could receive it theoretically directly and immediately respond to that.

“We’d probably set it up so if it’s, say, a public works request, we’d create a tree where it goes to myself, the assistant manager, and department head, but they would immediately get that response and that would be my goal. We’re always trying to improve our responsiveness and customer service.”

Early feedback from fellow town managers across the country has been overwhelmingly positive, Kleinhenz said.

“There were a couple of towns in California who were using it, one in North Carolina, and they did all kinds of things,” he said. “The biggest things they got feedback on were graffiti and vandalism in parks. They’d see a broken or torn up trash can or spray paint on a wall and immediately would report it and within 24 to 48 hours, those things could be taken care of. They said that it improved their message getting out. I think everyone that presented or discussed this thought of it as beneficial.”