The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Stafford County government plans 311 call center
BY KATIE THISDELL
In July, if you dial 311 during regular weekday hours in Stafford County, you’ll reach a real live operator in a central call center.
County residents won’t have to figure out which department to call and then be transferred a handful of times before finally talking to the right person.
“We want to put an end to that and help them as soon as they call into the county,” spokeswoman Cathy Vollbrecht told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “We want to help them from beginning to end.”
A 311 phone line is dedicated by the Federal Communications Commission for local government information. Several localities across the United States have 311 lines as one-stop shops for incoming calls, Vollbrecht said.
The number could be activated early next month.
For emergencies, you should still call 911. Vollbrecht cited an easy saying: “For a burning building, dial 911. For a burning question, dial 311.”
A pilot 311 center was approved in the current county budget, and the program got started in February. Three phone numbers for the county Utilities Department were rerouted to the 311 center in the Citizens Assistance Office in the government building, staffed by two current employees.
“We try to handle [the calls] from beginning to end. We transfer them only if we cannot answer their question,” Vollbrecht said.
Since Feb. 1, the center has received 9,264 calls, reducing the calls to the Utilities Department by 40 percent. The fiscal 2013 budget calls for the center to open this summer.
Vollbrecht said the county will provide the service using current employees and trained volunteers. “We did not add new positions for this center.”
Departments that could be added to the main 311 line are parks and recreation and the regional landfill.The county plans to create a database for frequently asked questions to assist call takers, and to record the nature of calls.
GENERAL NUMBER STILL IN USE
Stafford County’s citizens assistance general number is 540/658-8600. The county will continue to use this until the 311 number is activated. The county will make an announcement when the call center is operational in early July.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975