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Hempstead Town creates new office to handle complaints

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and other Hempstead council

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and other Hempstead council members Thursday announce the new Office of Residents' Concerns. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead officials plan to revamp the town’s helpline by creating a new Office of Residents’ Concerns to centrally track homeowner requests and complaints.

Town council members, led by Republican Majority Leader Erin King Sweeney, announced the plan Thursday on Leslie Lane in Merrick, which was undergoing paving repairs requested by residents.

Board members said the new office replaces the current supervisor’s helpline into a centralized phone system. Council members said they plan to develop a mobile app to route inquiries to each town’s department with a tracking number to monitor the status of a report and a performance evaluation of town staff and services.

“This moves the helpline into the future,” King Sweeney said. “As infrastructure gets older and dealing with Sandy and more weather events, we need more resources and better technology. We have to find a better system to answer their inquiries.”

The supervisor’s hotline budget was transferred to council members in the proposed 2019 budget. The council’s proposed 2019 budget calls on moving the helpline’s $355,000 budget from the supervisor’s office to the council majority’s overview and hiring a $95,000 director. The current helpline staff will carry over.

The department will be led by King Sweeney’s assistant, Alex Vassallo, to make sure complaints are not lost in a “bureaucratic vortex.”

“This is all about efficient services to residents,” Vassallo said. “The town has 800,000 residents and they deserve to go to one place and make sure they don’t fall through the cracks.”

Supervisor Laura Gillen announced a similar mobile app earlier this year to make reports to the town. Gillen is also proposing a 311 emergency system and construction of a $282,000 emergency communications center in an existing building in Hempstead Village that would serve as a 311 call center for daily and emergency situations. Funding was approved by the council in the five-year capital plan.

“The supervisor is pleased to see the council has embraced her 311 initiative,” Gillen’s chief of staff, Jim LaCarrubba, said. “311 should be in a townwide department. Calls into the town right now are not centralized, and callers may not get the right department. The helpline and 311 would have experts to direct residents correctly and deal with that intake.”

The town’s helpline is 516-489-6000 .

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