South Bend’s 3-1-1 line to offer streamlined solutions

Have a question about recycling? Want to report a burned-out streetlight? This year, it will be easier than ever to get the city government’s assistance with these and other non-emergency issues.

Following through on his campaign promise to put citizens first, Mayor Pete Buttigieg already has put his team to work on creating a new 3-1-1 line, enabling citizens to get answers to problems by calling one easy-to-remember number. The new 3-1-1 call center will be in place before the end of the year.


“The basic principle underlying the 3-1-1 line is to streamline the way citizens connect with their city government for information and solutions,” says Mike Schmuhl, Mayor Buttigieg’s chief of staff.

The way it works will be simple. Citizens will just call 3-1-1, and the operator receiving the call will take steps to find a swift resolution. If it’s a basic inquiry regarding things such as garbage collection schedules, the operator can provide an answer right on the spot. If it’s a more involved issue, such as getting a pothole filled, the operator will gather information from the caller, create a case and follow through with the appropriate city department to get the issue resolved. Once the job has been completed, the operator can notify the caller that the problem has been solved.

“For us, that’ll be a satisfying call to make — telling 3-1-1 callers ‘Thank you for letting us know about this problem, and we’ve resolved it!’” says Schmuhl. “And the citizens who called the 3-1-1 line will feel good knowing they helped contribute to the quality of life in South Bend.”

The new 3-1-1 line promises to make city government more efficient through time-savings, too.

“Sometimes people don’t understand the inner workings of government and may call the wrong department to get a solution to a problem,” Schmuhl says.

This in turn may generate a series of additional time-consuming calls to find the appropriate department that can help citizens find a solution. In this way, the 3-1-1 line will reduce the number of transferred calls between different city departments, which, in the long run, can take up a lot of employees’ time. It also will help citizens by reducing the time they spend hunting for a solution to a problem.

As Schmuhl sums it up: “We see this as a great customer service and communications tool that will bring residents closer to city officials.”

Publication Date: 
February 2012
Article Type: 
Innovation in Government