hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

January 17, 2013

City issue? There's an app for that

Can send information, photos of potholes, other problems and city will track solution

By Mike LaBella

---- — If you see a pothole, graffiti or other quality of life issue in the city, reporting it will soon be as easy as hitting a couple of buttons on your smart phone.

The city has received a grant that will allow residents to use their smart phones to take photos of issues around the city and report them to City Hall.

The new application, which will be available for free downloading this spring, is called Commonwealth Connect and is fully paid for by the state. Last month, the state and the city of Boston launched the Commonwealth Connect app, which was based on Citizens Connect, a mobile app launched in 2009 in Boston by Mayor Thomas Menino.

Mayor James Fiorentini said Haverhill applied for and received a grant to implement the smart phone app, which will allow residents to immediately report issues such as potholes, missing street signs and graffiti. After downloading the app to your smart phone, all you have to do is take a picture of a problem such as a pothole, email it to the city, and you will receive a tracking number to see when the issue has been resolved. The $5,000 grant pays for three years use of the app, which will be free to download.

“This new application will allow residents to report issues immediately and see when the problem has been corrected,” Fiorentini said. “I want to thank the Patrick-Murray Administration and Mayor Menino for their commitment to share innovative ideas with other municipalities.”

Two years ago, Haverhill announced the availability of a new iPhone app called “Haverhill” that could be downloaded from the Apple store. The app, which is still in place, allows residents to take a picture of a pothole and send it, along with its coordinates, to the Highway Department. A copy also went to the mayor. The city offers other ways of reporting potholes. You can call the Highway Department at 978-374-2360, send an image of a pothole to pothole@cityofhaverhill.com, along with the location of the pothole, or you can fill out a pothole report online at www.ci.haverhill.ma.us.

The Patrick-Murray Administration announced the launch of the new Commonwealth Connect app on Dec. 17. Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray said the app is an innovative opportunity to collaborate, regionalize and help maintain local services that will be delivered more effectively and efficiently.

According to the governor’s office, today, 20 percent of all quality of life requests that Boston receives from its residents comes from the Citizens Connect app, resulting in more than 35,000 improvements to Boston neighborhoods. Residents can report issues using the same app in any of the 35 communities that participate in the program. In addition to a mobile app, participating communities will also receive a web-based app that can be used on desktop computers and a work order management system to handle the requests.

Through the grant, these products will be provided to each community for three years for free.

Participating cities and towns include Ayer, Barnstable, Braintree, Brookfield, Chicopee, Clarksburg, Easton, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Halifax, Haverhill, Holliston, Lexington, Malden, Medway, Melrose, Middleborough, Nantucket, New Bedford, Newton, North Adams, Northampton, Orange, Revere, Somerville, Taunton, Wakefield, Watertown, West Boylston, Westborough, Whitman and Woburn.

According to the governor’s office, Commonwealth Connect is being developed in partnership between the City of Boston & See Click Fix. Based in New Haven, CT, See Click Fix is one of the pioneers of apps and services that allow residents to act on issues they see in their neighborhoods.