When Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm briefed the city council on proposed budget cuts in May, she all but left the 311 Customer Service Center untouched: $1,398,060 was proposed in order to fund 92 full-time employees who answer those pesky non-emergency service requests. Noted the May briefing, "The City is projected to receive 740,000 calls to 311 and 400,000 calls to Water Customer Service in 2009." One month later, 311 moved its head from a comfy pillow to the chopping block: Suhm's team recommended cutting funding to $917,470 and firing five full-timers. Not only that, but the city manager recommended reducing 311's hours of operation -- from 24 hours a day seven days a week to 7 a.m.-7 p.m Monday through Friday only -- and having Dallas Police dispatch handle all emergency calls, including "water main breaks, major potholes, downed trees, traffic light outages, etc."
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But over the weekend, City Hall sent out a press release offering this intriguing solution to the cut in 311 services: an SUV. Sorry: "the 311 Mobile Squad." The point of which is? Says the press release: "This vehicle will give Dallas residents direct access to 3-1-1 City services at town hall meetings, city events, community cleanups and safety fairs in their neighborhoods. The mobile squad will also support neighborhood sweeps in council districts. Onsite 3-1-1 agents can enter service requests and provide confirmation and status of service requests already made." I had more questions this morning and tried calling several folks in Strategic Customer Services, but after a few rings, the line always went dead. Admit it: You feel better already.