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‘FresGO’ touted as digital route to a better city

Trash spills over into an alley north of McKenzie Street in the city's poverty-stricken central core. The city of Fresno unveiled a new smartphone app that would allow city residents to report city code violations, potholes, trash and other problems.
Trash spills over into an alley north of McKenzie Street in the city's poverty-stricken central core. The city of Fresno unveiled a new smartphone app that would allow city residents to report city code violations, potholes, trash and other problems. Fresno Bee Staff Photo

Fresno City Hall is touting a free digital tool to help residents improve their city with speed and ease.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin and three City Council members on Tuesday unveiled an app called FresGO that in essence allows people to file public-nuisance complaints in a swift and timely manner.

The headline on the city’s FresGO website says it all: “See. Snap. Send. Take control of your neighborhood.”

City officials expect to soon be on the receiving end of thousands of digital requests for service, most accompanied by a photo of the offending object snapped by the sender herself. Gaping potholes, broken sidewalks, failed traffic lights and felled trees are just a few of the problems to be handled by FresGO.

The app in the coming weeks will expand to include such consumer favorites as graffiti removal, missed trash pickup, illegal dumping and code enforcement violations.

The city has a desktop version where users can log in and report issues. Smartphone apps are available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android phones.

“Intuitively, we would hope folks would just download the app,” Communications Director Mark Standriff said.

Although the city’s desktop site has icons for both Apple and Android, those icons are not linked to the city’s app. The app can be found at both sites by searching for “FresGO”.

FresGO in one way or another will tackle just about everything even remotely tied to city code and the habit of urban life to be less than perfect.

Complaints, photos and locations will arrive on the city’s network from smartphone or computer. City officials said this will set in motion a corrective action of unprecedented efficiency: Notification of the appropriate division, dispatch of city workers, appropriate level of labor, update of records, closed case.

The concerned citizen can keep track digitally every step of the way.

“The need for government to improve customer service and embrace new technology has never been more important,” Swearengin said. “Thanks to FresGO, our citizens are now better connected to the city and can see the results in their neighborhood in real time. It’s their mobile front door to City Hall.”

Council Member Sal Quintero, now in his fourth term on the council dais, recalled the days when citizen service requests started with the proverbial paper form (in triplicate) and embarked on an often-fruitless journey in the bureaucratic maze.

The miracle of FresGo is “long overdue,” Quintero said.

Council Member Paul Caprioglio, who never met a darkened street light he didn’t want to immediately fix, said FresGO will handle complaints “quickly and efficiently.”

Council Member Esmeralda Soria said FresGO will make city government “more transparent.”

The app supports 17 languages through its One Voice Translation feature. City officials said design of the app cost less than $50,000.

People can access the FresGO platform at www.fresno.gov/fresgo. Those without Internet access can still make their service requests by calling 621-CITY (2489).

Tuesday’s news conference had its moments of humor.

“We are all set,” Swearengin said as she approached the microphone, “and have our technology working.”

Standriff, the city’s communications director, proved the mayor a woman of her word when his demonstration of FresGO’s potential went without a hitch.

Swearengin ended things with a touch of humility. No one is sure how FresGO will reverberate through City Hall and the city.

For starters, it’s not clear exactly how the old way of filing a citizen complaint came up short. No one at City Hall would go so far as to say the current array of city workers doesn’t have enough to keep it busy. How the same-sized workforce will handle an onslaught of additional service requests, each now faithfully tracked online by the complaining party, remains a hurdle to be cleared.

Swearengin said she doesn’t expect the city to go on a hiring spree. At the same time, FresGO’s revolutionary nature figures to be felt by many city employees.

“I do think there will be a bit of a change in the culture,” Swearengin said.

George Hostetter: 559-441-6272, @GeorgeHostetter

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