Hempstead launching village call help center

Office Aid Erica Lopez demonstrates the use of

Office Aid Erica Lopez demonstrates the use of Hempstead Village's new 311-like system called Village Line in the mayor's office at Village Hall in Hempstead. (Feb. 27, 2013) (Credit: Barry Sloan)

A new era in modern communications arrives in Hempstead Village tomorrow with the launch of its 311-style municipal call center and website.

The Village Line system will allow residents to get village government information, request nonemergency services, file complaints and report crime anonymously with a click, tap or call.

It will be accessible 24 hours a day through the village website, villageofhempstead.org, and iPhone and Android mobile phone applications, or by calling 516-478-6333 on weekdays, officials said.


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Officials said the system is in response to some complaints from residents about rude responses or incomplete follow-up from village employees.

"We will be able to track complaints and requests from the beginning to the end," said Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr., adding the village acquired the technology after it recorded a $2.3 million surplus in the last fiscal year. "This would make all of us more efficient."

Community activist Carlos Canales, with the Salvadoran Civic Committee, welcomed the new tool. Canales criticized Hall last week for failing to act on building-code violations that he said might have led to a Feb. 9 fire on St. Paul's Road North that claimed the lives of two residents and temporarily displaced 250 residents from an apartment complex. The new system, he said, will allow residents to report violations.

"I think it is going to be an innovative system, but we have to see if it is practical and how it would really function," Canales said.

A trained operator will be assigned Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. to field residents' calls and enter requests and complaints into the Internet-based system. The call taker will route inquiries to appropriate village departments. Staff members will respond and log any action taken. Callers who provide email addresses will be notified about the village's response.

Website and mobile app users also will be able to upload images or files, review status of issues reported, and receive email notifications on activities and resolution. Hall said he will push residents to use the app.

"It is a way for residents to report various issues such as repairs that they need or information they are looking for," said Lael A. Von Elm, superintendent of the village's Fire Alarm and Street Lighting Department, who is overseeing the system.

The village board approved in October a one-year contract for $15,000 with QScend Technologies Inc., based in Waterbury, Conn., to install the system and provide training. The village will pay $1,000 a month until November for maintenance, support, hosting and management. Village officials have an option to renew the contract for another year, Von Elm said.

"If it turns out that this won't work out for us, we can abandon it at any time," Von Elm said. "Something tells me that once we get this into practice, we will hold on to it."

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