Got questions? 311 has answers

Cindy Tiernan

The Dougherty County 311 Call Center, which turns one-year-old this month.

311 was established to give the public a full-service, one-call-shop for government information.

"If you wanted to find out information about a gun permit, for example, then we can tell you what department you need to go to, what form of payment you need to have, as well as what type of ID you would need to bring," said Cindy Tiernan, Call Supervisor for 311.

311 received about 20,000 calls and combined hits on its website in 2009 â" the ultimate goal is 50,000.

During that same period, non-emergency calls to 911 â" which had been on the rise â" began to level off.

"Whether we can fully attribute that to 311, I can't guarantee but we think we've clearly had some effect, which allows them to be more effective in what they do," said Wes Smith, Assistant City Manager for Albany, Georgia.

According to 311 managers, one of the reasons for the program's success is its employees. They're all part-time so they work full work flexible schedules and say they're genuinely interested in helping members of the community find the answers they need.

"We've got really good people who know how to work the system and if you need something and you don't know where to go, call 311 and we'll help," said Smith.

"They help each other out on every single phone call and so they're really not speaking to one person, they're talking to seven," said Tiernan.

The call center is open 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday.