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Provo residents can dial 311 for utility questions, report non-emergencies

Published: Thursday, Jan. 2 2014 5:35 p.m. MST

Provo residents have a one-stop call option by dialing 311 for their utility questions, business licensing and to report non-emergencies in the city.

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PROVO — Residents have a one-stop call option by dialing 311 for their utility questions, business licensing and to report non-emergencies in Provo.

"The purpose is trying to eliminate calls to the specific departments and being able to call simplified, abbreviated dialing here so that we can answer and assist you," said Karen Larsen, Provo's director of customer service.

By dialing 311, Provo residents can call the center to report city issues and non-emergencies, Larsen said, but about 90 percent of the calls are about utilities.

"The non-utility calls that are coming in are things such as such snow removal, pot holes, graffiti, things like that," she said.

The center also gets calls about recycling, sanitation and container issues, Larsen said.

In the two years since Provo 311 was officially adopted, the number of incoming calls has increased to about 500 per day, she said. The center also gets calls from residents with general questions, such as details about holiday events.

The energy department originally opened in 2002 as a 24-hour utility billing customer service call center. But Larsen said the operation developed the ability to take other municipal calls.

"When we went officially to the 311 center two years ago, it wasn't foreign to us to take those calls when we came over here," she said. "It was just a matter of the dialing code and the features and advertising it as an abbreviated dialing option form and really take on additional services."

Ruth Bermudez, who works at the call center, said she enjoys her job.

Bermudez said many Provo residents use the call center and generally find it helpful.

“I personally think they do (find 311 helpful) because I try to help them 100 percent (of the time),” she said. “If I don’t know the answer, then I make sure I get someone who does know the answer.”

The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. If a resident calls after hours, the call is transferred to the energy department's 24/7 operation so the city could still send a service request, Larsen said.

The call center saw more growth last year when it became a walk-in facility, she said, taking over electronic fingerprinting, as well as business, dog and bicycle licensing.

Larsen said she expects the center to help with park reservations and recreation center memberships as well.

She said there is also talk of working with Utah Transit Authority to sell tickets or give routing information.

"Most (311 centers) are just a call center," Larsen said. "We're able to be a really one-stop shop for a lot of (residents) out there."

She said Provo is the first to do a full-service 311 operation, but Salt Lake County is also working to develop a similar service.

"It's been successful," Larsen said, despite some calls from Comcast landline owners being unable to access the line.

"For the most part, 311 dialing has worked great," she said.

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com

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