If you see something not quite right in Peculiar, there’s a direct line to city government to find a remedy. The city’s app, Fix It Peculiar, allows residents to report problems and get an immediate response, as well as follow-ups during the resolution process.
The app now has 121 registered users.
“We had a website, and we put everything in the world on our website. We put out a newsletter every quarter, (but) the reality came that still people weren’t thinking that we care,” said Brad Ratliff, city administrator for Peculiar. “What I found with our tech today is that a lot of people with smartphones don’t really type in websites anymore. They’re always looking for an app.”
Ratliff, along with a city IT employee, researched the idea and connected with the company SeeClickFix to create an app for Peculiar.
One of the problems Ratliff wanted to fix was that people would contact the city about a pothole or an unmowed yard but didn’t understand the time it took for the city to go through the due process to change it.
“The best feature of the app is that if they have a concern or a complaint — let’s just say it’s a pothole — they can take a picture of the pothole, identify the location, and they get a response that we received it and what staff member had been assigned to it,” Ratliff said.
He’s also able to let people know when their complaints should be addressed to the county instead of the city. So far, they’ve had 284 issues reported by the public that they’ve been able to resolve.
“I’m a big stat guy. I like making sure my staff are meeting the needs of residents (and) to know how quickly our staff are acknowledging those requests and how long it’s taking to respond to them,” Ratliff said.
Their average response time to resolve an issue is five days.
Having the information compiled electronically also helps Ratliff use the statistics to plan for city budgets and lets aldermen get a better picture of what concerns are in each of their wards.
The top three complaint categories have been streets, tall grass and trash pick-up, but it varies by the area of the city.
In Ward 1, streets was a big issue. In Ward 2, it was trash pickup, Ratliff said.
SeeClickFix has been making apps like this for municipal governments across the United States and Canada for 11 years. Peculiar is one of 360 locations to use one of the apps.
“SeeClickFix really allows cities to do more faster,” said Steve Machesney, director of marketing for SeeClickFix. “They become better stewards of the tax dollars, and they become more responsive.”
One way Fix It Peculiar does this is by allowing people to take a photo of a pothole and send it in through the app.
“The photos are geo-coded (with) the x-y coordinate of where that problem is. The city spends a lot less time trying to find the issues,” Machesney said.
Sometimes, the city knows about a problem and is taking steps to fix it, but the community just doesn’t know it.
“There was a resident, and … she was telling on the app how terrible her street was. Unbeknownst to her, her street was already on our plan,” Ratliff said.
As it happened, the road crew was actually scheduled to be in her area the day after her complaint.
“The next day, she got a response from the public works director, and she wrote back, ‘Wow, this app really works, because I complained about my street and in 24 hours I had a whole new street,’” Ratliff said.