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Friday, August 1, 2014

Late Trash Pickup and Suggestions For Improvement



I hope this suggestion might help facilitate communication and ease the level of dissatisfaction that occasionally occurs in our town. This idea occurred to me this week when we didn't get trash pickup on our normal Wednesday schedule. To make a long story short, Thursday, I tried to call the service department to inquire about the problem, and, well ... I eventually discovered a merry-go-round.

A person working for a message service told me the phone lines to the service department had been down for a week, so I couldn't call directly. I left a message with the "message service" and received no return call. Later, I called the same number and was told my message had been relayed to the department and on Wednesday, "a truck was broken down" and the trash would be picked up late Thursday afternoon.

Then, I received another call from a city rep. This person told me they had called the service department about the problem. The phone line was working (no idea about a message service). And, the reason for the delay was "a shortage of manpower." My trash was picked up sometime after 5:00 P.M. on Thursday.

As far as the mixed messages, your guess is as good as mine. I'm scratching my old head repeatedly.

How about Portsmouth city government coming of age? I have an idea to expedite information.

The Portsmouth Public Services Office is part of the site http://portsmouthoh.org/about . It has the following address: http://portsmouthoh.org/departments/public-services/sanitation. Click on them here to add them to your "favorites list."

Online information reveals the following represents various goals, values, and commitments of the Public Services Office:

Vision

Our vision is to create and maintain a quality public service that will provide a sustainable community with a clean, safe, and pleasant environment that the citizens and employees of the City will be proud of, and will help the City maintain a strong sense of community into the future.

Values

In order to accomplish our mission and make our vision a reality, we must make these shared values fundamental:
  • Integrity
  • Professionalism
  • Commitment
  • Accountability
  • Compassion
  • Responsiveness
  • Initiative
  • Efficiency

Commitments

  • Assume a positive intent
  • Listen - seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • Look for the lesson when mistakes are made
  • Be trusting, trustworthy, and accountable
  • Treat others as they would like to be treated
  • Be tough on the issues, tender on people


In order to facilitate better the mission of the department, timely online announcements about changes 
in paid services could be made.

* For example, when a trash collection truck breaks down or manpower is short and regular service will be delayed, the office could judiciously post prudent information on the site to inform the taxpayers of the interruption and to explain their solution to the problem.

Part of "being tough on the issues" requires changes that improve the image of the city. Quite frankly, being responsive is paramount to "treating others as they would like to be treated." Despite the minor inconvenience of experiencing problems with services and other guaranteed environmental duties, public service workers must foremost help and be responsive to citizens whether it be with local parks, streets, cemeteries, or sanitation.

An increased level of frustration that stems from budget cuts and internal conflicts is not something that public servants should ever level at consumers. Granted, our problems may be small compared to overall complications. But, now, at times, we, the taxpayers, become discouraged when we reach message machines, leave pertinent information, and fail to receive return calls. I happen to believe that transparency, not avoidance and cloaking issues, usually suffices to calm discontented residents.

Lastly, public servants are attendants of the public above all else. Although each servant has a job title that specifies a level of expertise for a particular set of skills, successfully dealing with the public is Job #1. Our small town of Portsmouth makes this obligation so very important. When the citizens hear different excuses and arguments about "what's wrong" and "how things should be," they don't understand that rationale for being treated like second-class citizens.

I honestly believe if you work as a public servant, you surely do toil with a "full plate"; however, the "territory" you entered requires you to earn your decent pay and promise to keep improving to satisfy those who write your checks. Stagnation and indifference are commonplace in depressed, struggling towns, and, God knows, Portsmouth, Ohio, fits the description of Appalachian depression. A service that seeks to change a sour image will accomplish this goal; one that skirts and defends prolongs negativity.

The "get back" and the "inside politics" are two problems that have crippled our town in the past. Some of the insistent refusal to work together to serve the public is so, so old and very irritating. The spiteful attitudes filter into all segments of community life and into all ages of our population.

We have few jobs available in the area, granted. Yet, is this the only reason droves of high school seniors sit balanced on tenterhooks, so poised to leave this town? Is it time for a concerted effort to improve the image that lives up to the motto of Portsmouth -- "Where Southern Hospitality Begins"?

One little change suggested? Use the http://portsmouthoh.org/departments/public-services/sanitation site to inform us promptly of changes. And, maybe this might help accountability as well as accomplish "looking for the lesson when mistakes are made."


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