Idaho Falls, ID – New Year’s resolutions are a time to reflect upon the past and, more importantly, look forward and plan for the next year. The City of Idaho Falls has some exciting plans for 2016. Many of these plans focus on improving the customer service experience city-wide, either by offering expanded services, streamlining processes or by launching new software applications – all with the end-user in mind.
BILLING & UTILITIES
The city is offering an extended hour for utility customers to pay their bills. Many residents work the same hours as city utility employees – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon.-Fri. – making the payment of utility bills difficult for some individuals. The utility office inside City Hall will now be open until 6 p.m. on Mondays. Residents can also pay their bill at the payment drop box located in the City Hall parking lot.
“The extended hour is in a trial phase until June, allowing us ample time to get the word out and test the response from the community. If it is determined that we need to make some adjustments in the extended hour, we will notify customers on their utility bill statements, as well as our website and social media pages,” explains Pamela Alexander, director of municipal services.
Since the onset of the holiday season, some very generous community members have made requests to make gift payments toward utility bills for neighbors or family members. Prior payment practices only allowed them to pay on the account holder’s behalf. This has now been changed as well. “Although a Good Samaritan will not have access to account information, they can simply provide us with the name and address of the account holder, and we’d be happy to help,” states Alexander.
The city recently contracted with a municipal and utility company, Cayenta, to provide much-needed upgrades in customer information, utility billing and financial management software. The new Cayenta software offers a robust work management system, user interface, ability for future community communication, increased functionality and extensive Geographic Information System (GIS) integration.
Thane Sparks, chief information & technology officer states, “The first phase of the Cayenta integration will allow for additional billing options including electronic billing. We are also evaluating a pre-payment option.”
Idaho Falls Power would also like to remind the community of the HELP Energy Assistance Program. Administered by Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership (EICAP), project HELP provides a one-time payment to help cover utility expenses for eligible customers through the winter, when utility bills tend to rise in eastern Idaho.
Residents can elect to donate to the program when paying their utility bills each month. Donations are tax-deductible, and all money received is forwarded to EICAP to fund the program. To donate, simply add any amount beyond the “amount due” on your billing statement. Eligibility is based on income limits and is available to individuals with a long-term or emergency medical condition.
“EICAP serves over 1000 City of Idaho Falls households through the Energy Assistance Program every winter, with over $415k in benefits to provide heat and keep seniors, children and families warm,” states Jenn Wilson, community services manager for EICAP. For additional information about the HELP program, contact EICAP at (208) 522-5391.
The city recently hired an Economic Development Coordinator, Dana Briggs, who is charged with marketing the city, strategic planning, community engagement, the development of local education initiatives and infrastructure planning.
Ms. Briggs also serves as the primary point of contact for contractors, developers and business owners thereby streamlining the building and development process. The goal is to offer “one-stop-shopping” for business needs. She will facilitate coordinating efforts with various city departments and state and local partners. Such efforts could include annexation of land, application of state and local development incentives, facilitating building and permitting, securing utilities, defining transportation concerns and helping to acquire workforce talent.
In mid-January, the Community Development Services Department will launch a new permitting and plan review system. The software, called TRAKiT, will allow anyone seeking building permits, site plan approvals, or any other planning or building related projects to submit all materials electronically. Review comments and status updates will be available online. Contractors will also be able to schedule inspections, see inspection results and review histories of all permits in the system via any device connected to the internet.
“The benefits of this system will be seen by all users,” said Brad Cramer, director of Community Development Services. “Contractors will be able to do business with us from their desks and mobile devices instead of taking time out of their day to come to our office.
Likewise, city inspectors will see an increase in efficiency as they will be able to conduct and result inspections while in the field instead of coming back to the office to enter data.”
In addition to the services provided to the development community, members of the public will be able to create a user account for the online portal and look up information on permits and projects that are of interest to them.
The new software will track much more information and data – such as the average time a project spends in the system – allowing staff to identify inefficiencies and make further improvements to provide more accurate and detailed reports.
SPECIAL EVENTS & VOLUNTEER COORDINATION
A special events & volunteer coordinator will be hired in the Parks & Recreation Department in the next couple of months. This position will also provide a “one-stop-shop” for organizing, developing and streamlining special events and volunteer activities.
“Special events and volunteer coordination is a big responsibility within our departments, the city and the community as a whole,” states Director Greg A. Weitzel. “Hiring someone to coordinate all of these efforts will greatly improve the customer service experience and efficiencies city-wide,” adds Weitzel.
“The city’s governance team has always been committed to providing excellent customer service. But software improvements and innovative thinking are sometimes what it takes to really deliver it well,” states Mayor Casper. “Our city employees are great at what they do for our citizens, but in the coming year we will continue to improve as we demonstrate our commitment to improving the Idaho Falls citizen experience,” adds Casper.
“Community collaboration and customer service is an integral part of our city’s success, and we are always looking for ways to improve upon those services. If community members have ideas or suggestions, we encourage them to reach out to us either by contacting city departments or the Mayor’s Office,” states Kerry McCullough, public information officer.
Media Note: For more information or to schedule an interview with city staff, contact Public Information Officer, Kerry McCullough.
About Idaho Falls: Situated along the Snake River at the western edge of the world famous Rocky Mountains, Idaho Falls has all the features of big city living, but embraces a small town charm. Our skyline consists of the majestic Teton Mountain Range, and in our backyard is the world’s most famous national park – Yellowstone. As the regional center for healthcare, science & technology, shopping and entertainment, Idaho Falls is an attractive location for small and large businesses alike. Idaho Falls consistently finds itself listed in the top ten rankings of many prestigious magazines, newspapers and professional community research publications. Learn more on our website.