Canstar Community News - ONLINE EDITION

Putting a human face on a civic service

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Some Winnipeggers have been left with a disruption to their water service for the second time in a year. Last summer, people had brown water flowing out of their taps; this spring, thousands have no water at all.

As a result, the city responded by opening ‘citizen resource centers’ in three locations across the city. One of them is in Fort Rouge.

And it is being put to good use.

"It’s been fairly consistent," said a 311 employee, who preferred not to be named, working in a small room at the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre. The employee said most people come at expected times — before and after regular work hours.

Despite the hassle, the employee said people are being appeased.

"I find that people are actually happy," the clerk said. "They feel like they’re getting some human interaction."

In an already frustrating situation, nobody wants to wait on hold while a person is answering a torrent of phone calls. The clerk working at the Fort Rouge Leisure Center is a 311 employee spending workdays tending to people’s concerns in person. By making use of its regular communicative channels, and increasing face-to-face service, the city is able to adequately satisfy its citizens.

The proof is in the results. The frequency of new callers inquiring about interrupted water service is in a steady decline. People also have the access to clean water for drinking and sanitation they expect, even if it isn’t as convenient as they are used to.

No one can control the weather, and human error can occur causing the disruption of regular civic services.

Frozen water pipes obviously pale in comparison to other crises around the world, and some Manitobans in remote northern communities have no indoor plumbing whatsoever.

What’s important is the way these circumstances are responded to.

Increasing the available avenues for people to inquire and collect services was both necessary and appropriate.

Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.

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