311 helping decrease non-emergency calls to 911

The mayor and city commissioners celebrate the opening of 311 in September of 2009 / Ashley Knight

311 has come a long way--going from answering 14 calls on their first day to now over 160 calls in a day. The call center was meant to make life easier, both for citizens and departments fielding calls that had nothing to do with that department.

"People don't know what departments do. They know about trash, they know about weed lots, they know about things. So we've set all our information systems up on that," says Assistant City Manager Wes Smith.

A very comprehensive system, they also get 300 hits a month on their website,

"I personally have made a point of going in the online service and have been very pleased personally. I got actually more than I expected, so I feel like I know our customers are getting that," added Smith.

And 311 has become more efficient in those years in decreasing the number of non-emergency calls to the 911 call center. Deputy Director of the Albany-Dougherty EMA, Jim Vaught says they used to get all kinds of calls.

"Utility bills, the ambulance payments, just things that they didn't know where to really call so 911 was available to them," says Vaught.

Comparing the number of calls in August 2011 to the same month last year, Vaught says they've decreased by about 800. Freeing up the operators to do their job more efficiently.

"Being able to spend more time helping the actual agencies respond to an incident instead of answering questions about how to get my pothole fixed," says Vaught.

Currently the 311 center receives about 3,000 calls a month.