The East Hills Village Hall is shown in this May...

The East Hills Village Hall is shown in this May 29, 2013 file photo. Credit: JC Cherubini

Ask a question in East Hills and get a very quick answer.

Make a suggestion and have it heard right away.

Village officials are launching a contest to call attention to its Instant Access computer program, which lets people submit questions 24/7 and get answers directly from the mayor or village attorney.

The contest seeks residents' suggestions for improving the village and requires them to submit the ideas through Instant Access, which was started in 2009 and has logged 2,802 inquiries.

"It's about transparency, open government and responsiveness -- everything at its best," Village Attorney William Burton said.

Ideas submitted in the contest "could be to modernize and update the village theater or to suggest that the village answering system has a different message," Burton said. "It could be anything."

East Hills encompasses 2.27 square miles in the Town of North Hempstead and is home to 7,059 people, according to 2013 data from the U.S. Census.

Resident Cliff Lewisohn said he used Instant Access to raise a variety of concerns.

"I've posted something at 11 [p.m.] and gotten an answer by midnight," Lewisohn said.

Users log on to the home page of the East Hills website -- -- scroll down to the Instant Access section on the right side of the page, and submit questions. Answers are emailed to the sender by Mayor Michael Koblenz or Burton.

"I know of no other village that does this," Koblenz said. "Before, people would call and leave messages, and you didn't have the detail" about what they wanted, Koblenz said. Sometimes, those messages weren't relayed to him, Koblenz said, adding that with Instant Access, "I get the email automatically."

Burton and Koblenz answer questions at all hours and aren't paid extra for the work outside normal business hours.

"We do this because I'm dedicated to the village, said Koblenz, who has been mayor for 20 years. "It's great that people can get their complaints out, but sometimes we get compliments. We get questions and comments at all times of the day and night."

Burton, a hockey fan, said he was at an April 21 New York Islanders playoff game at Nassau Coliseum when he got an email from a resident asking about the hours and days construction could be undertaken on village homes.

"I researched it online and emailed him back the statute," Burton said. "After I sent it back I was curious as to what type of contractors were included in that, so I continued to do more research. I think I missed like 10 minutes of the beginning of the game because people raise interesting questions."

Village resident Stephen Mighdoll called Instant Access "fantastic," adding that the first time he used it was when it started. He wanted to discuss a traffic issue and Burton "got back to me within five minutes, and the mayor probably a half-hour later.

"You may not always get what you want, but you know you'll get an answer," Mighdoll said.

Burton said that nonresidents sometimes ask questions -- and get responses, too.

"Everyone deserves an answer," he said, noting that the first person to use Instant Access was a Glen Cove resident.

Contest entries should be submitted only through Instant Access and are due by July 4. Koblenz is to announce the winner during the village's fireworks event that night. The winner will receive a $500 gift certificate from a La Bottega restaurant.Top topics for residents' online questions to the East Hills village attorney and mayor:

* Neighbor-to-neighbor issues

* Traffic

* Zoning

* Sanitation

* Village programs

Source: East Hills Village

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