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No satisfaction after 13 calls to 311

Resident says public works never called back

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/2/2015 (1604 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A St. Vital man says he believes city officials are using 311 to avoid dealing with public complaints.

Roland Marion said he called 311 13 times over a five-month period, from mid-June to mid-November, to request the city grade his gravel back lane, which was filled with potholes, ruts and poor drainage.

Marion said the 311 operators were always professional and polite and assured him he would be contacted by someone from the public works department -- but he never was.

"The back lane never did get graded," Marion said. "I received no phone calls from anyone in public works, and the situation was never addressed."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/2/2015 (1604 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A St. Vital man says he believes city officials are using 311 to avoid dealing with public complaints.

Roland Marion said he called 311 13 times over a five-month period, from mid-June to mid-November, to request the city grade his gravel back lane, which was filled with potholes, ruts and poor drainage.

Winnipeg 311 operators answer calls. A St. Vital man says they were always polite, but that didn't solve his problem.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg 311 operators answer calls. A St. Vital man says they were always polite, but that didn't solve his problem.

Marion said the 311 operators were always professional and polite and assured him he would be contacted by someone from the public works department — but he never was.

"The back lane never did get graded," Marion said. "I received no phone calls from anyone in public works, and the situation was never addressed."

Marion said he was given five reference numbers by the 311 operators, which are used by the civic bureaucracy to track caller complaints.

"After 13 calls to 311 in five months, and many promises that my situation would be looked into, I have lost much confidence in the system that was created to assist citizens and not create barriers," Marion said.

A civic spokeswoman told the Free Press the repeated failure of public works to contact the St. Vital resident was caused by "an oversight" and said public works would contact him shortly.

"You know, that's exactly what they told me a couple of times," Marion said, adding there were no voice mail or email messages from public works waiting for him when he returned home from work Monday afternoon.

"It's just more of the same."

No one from public works was willing to be interviewed for the story.

The spokeswoman said Marion's calls were forwarded to the public works department for a followup, but she could not explain why his requests were overlooked.

Ward Coun. Brian Mayes said he is dismayed at how Marion was treated by city staff. "It's a good example of why we need to change the culture at city hall," Mayes said.

Mayes said he has known Marion for 30 years, but said his friend never called him to get an extra advantage.

"It angers me... This guy tried to go through the system, and no one ever got back to him," Mayes said.

"You just can't say it's 'an oversight' when you promised him multiple times you were going to call him."

Mayes, who has been pushing for back-lane upgrades since being elected to council in 2011, said Marion's back lane is in need of grading, but it's also typical of many of the back lanes in his ward.

Mayes said if public works staff concluded Marion's laneway could wait, they should have told him that.

"It's just a sign of how we need to get a new attitude from public works about being more open with the public and doing a better job of communicating."

Marion said he reached out to the Free Press because of a news report last week detailing the recommendations of an audit on the 311 service, which found the department unable to reach its service goals because of inadequate staffing and a system clogged by a large number of calls from transit riders.

The audit recommended the 311 department hire 20 additional staff per shift and technology be employed to redirect transit queries, which account for 44 per cent of all calls to 311.

"On every occasion that I called, the 311 operators were courteous and helpful, and sometimes very frustrated by the lack of response from the managers working in public works," Marion said. "I would still appreciate hearing from a bureaucrat in public works to discuss their inaction, but it appears that I may never have that opportunity."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

What have your experiences been with calling 311? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

Read full biography

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History

Updated on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 8:10 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds question for discussion

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