PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – If you’ve ever wandered around Providence City Hall searching for the tax collector’s office or played a game of phone tag with the city over potholes or snow removal, Mayor Jorge Elorza has a message for you:
Those days are (mostly) over.
Elorza held a press conference Tuesday to unveil his new center for city services, a first floor office in City Hall designed to improve responsiveness to residents across the city. The goal of the new department is to be a more centralized – and focused – version of what was formerly known as the office of neighborhood services.
“This is about being responsive to the needs and to the complaints of our residents so they see that the city is working for them,” Elorza told reporters.
So what noticeable differences will residents see in the new department?
For one, Elorza said, every time a constituent calls in with a complaint, a case file is opened and the city guarantees the person will receive a return phone call to update them on how their problem is being addressed. Even if the city can’t help – city employees aren’t willing to mow private lawns, for example – the goal is to always provide a response.
When he entered office in January, Elorza said the city faced a backload of more than 3,000 complaints from city residents. He said the entire caseload has now been closed and his office has responded to another 5,000 calls during his first seven months in City Hall.
Those complaints vary from season to season, ranging from snow removal in the winter to potholes in the spring and now trash removal in recent months, according to Adolfo Bailon, who heads up the center for city services. Even during Elorza’s press conference, employees in the office were taking phone calls from residents.
Walking into City Hall is also a different experience. At a new desk next to the stairs on the first floor sits a city employee that will assist constituents with their needs. Signs now point to key offices, such as the tax collector or the mayor’s desk.
It’s all part of a “culture of continuous improvement” Elorza said he’s trying to create in City Hall. He has previously said he’s committed to improving efficiency in city government.
Elorza said a key part of the revamped office focuses on working with all city departments so constituent calls aren’t just recorded in a database, but also receive the necessary follow up.
“Folks pay a lot in taxes here in the city and for what you pay, I want people to believe that they’re getting a higher level or service,” Elorza said.
The mayor’s center for city services can be reached at 421-2489.