Citizens will soon be able to text City Hall

 Waycross residents will soon have a new way to interact with city government through a phone application. The city will soon purchase the program TextMyGov following a webinar presentation by representatives of the platform to city commissioners last week at its planning and information session.

Improving the transfer of information between citizens and City Hall has been a key target for new City Manager Ulysses Rayford since assuming his post in early March. Rayford believes the portal is well worth its $8,000 cost for a one-year trial. “This will allow us to increase communication with citizens, reduce phone calls and traffic (in City Hall) and streamline the process of transferring information,” Rayford said before the presentation. He said he’d checked with a handful of other cities that were using the platform and all offered positive feedback. TextMyGov is designed specifically for local governments that offers ease of use on both ends. The platform is internet based so the city won’t need to purchase a phone number. It will allow citizens to receive alerts, ease the access of information, report issues with all departments in city government.

During the presentation, Commissioner Henry Strickland followed the direction of the person conducting the demonstration by downloading the text contact form and following the prompts to file a request for help from a department. He said from start to finish the entire process took less than two minutes. The platform offers data analysis of interactions with citizens and their issues, and the time frames from initial contact to resolution of the issue. “Right now, we don’t have a method to track things accurately and in a timely manner,” Rayford said. He said all commissioners will have access at any time to the data from their districts. The information can be categorized to a specific time frame or issue.

The communication platform was one of two presentations Rayford had as part of his report to the commission. The other was for a series of videos from CGI Digital to aid in “branding” the city, which from Rayford’s recent research, is pretty much non-existent. “Branding (online) for the city, it’s just not there,” he said. CGI Digital offers a video program for muncipalities with a handful of short videos on any aspect of the city at no cost. The series normally begins with an introduction/welcome to the city, often offered by the mayor, and is followed with others with a variety of targets like recreation, education, business, healthcare, etc. “We’re very much in control of the process,” Rayford said. While the company is in the city to shoot videos, it solicits businesses and organizations on creating a branding video for those entities to accompany the ones on the city. Rayford said Douglas recently had participated in the program.

The Coffee County city is one of more than 30 places in Georgia that have aligned with CGI, he said. Once videos are shot, it takes another 30 days in editing to ready them for posting. “This is a win-win to me,” Rayford said. “I think this is something that’s much needed right now, especially with the growth we’re trying to foster in the city.”

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