Iowa City App Will Allow Complaints By Smartphone

By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Want to file a complaint with the city after your neighbors trashed their yard during a party?

There's an app for that – at least there soon will be in Iowa City.

The city on Monday is rolling out a service for iPhone and Android phones, and a web-based version that can be accessed with a computer, that allows people to contact the city over issues generally related to nuisance control. That would include problems like trash and debris in yards, abandoned cars, snow-covered sidewalks, graffiti and apartments over occupancy, according to a news release.

Stan Laverman, the city's senior housing inspector, said the goal of the app, called ICgovXpress, is to improve communication over the current complaint system, which primarily involves leaving a message on the city's website that then gets routed to the appropriate department.

"It does not allow for a lot of communication back and forth between the complainant and the city, especially if people want to remain anonymous," he said.

The new service will let the city update the complainant on what's happening, he said. It will be free to use. The city paid $5,000 for the app developed by California company Government Outreach.

Laverman said the driving factor for starting the service was neighborhood stabilization, which is a priority of the City Council. A video the city put on YouTube shows parties, particularly college students, are a focus.

The public service announcement stars Adam Bentley, who in real life is the administrative assistant in the City Manager's Office, as a party-goer who looks like he had a rough night and is on a lawn strewn with beer cups, an empty refrigerator, a trailer and even a garbage cart up in a tree.

"I have not seen a trash can in a tree," Laverman said. "I have seen a bike. Multiple bikes."

Laverman said the city eventually wants to expand the app to services citywide. For example, taxicab violations or a problem with a bike trail could be submitted in real time with a smartphone.

The public is invited to an open house to learn more about the new system from 12:30-1:30 p.m. April 15 at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St.
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