Will council take call on new 311 service?

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Why roll out a 311 information line for London city services when a new city phone number was introduced just months ago?

One city councillor doesn’t see the point, as a staff report heads to city politicians outlining options for a central 311 phone service.

“I have no real interest in pushing for a 311 number right now,” Coun. Jared Zaifman said.

A staff report on adding a 311 number to access non-emergency city information and services will be presented today to city council’s strategic priorities and policy committee meeting.

The city began the transition to a new phone number, 519-661-CITY, to combine its old lines in October. The change was completed in April.

“Given the fact that we are just really rolling (the 519-661-CITY number) out now and it’s finally getting officially launched and really growing, it makes sense to continue on with that right now,” Zaifman said.

Coun. Josh Morgan, who voted in favour of the 519-661-CITY number and was one of the council members who requested a ­311 service, said he doesn’t see why the two numbers can’t coexist.

“I’m not sure you can’t have both. Some people are used to the 519-661-CITY number.

“Adding 311 as an option. I’m not sure they’re mutually exclusive,” he said.

The report outlines three ways a 311 service could be adopted in a way that limits its use to within city limits.

The first, at no cost, is to allow calls based on the call-routing infrastructure through which the call is switched.

A more precise alternative would be to allow 311 calls based on caller postal codes, but that’s only possible with callers using Bell land lines and could cost $2,500 to set up and as much as $35,000 a year.

A hybrid model is also suggested in the staff report, which includes going ahead with both options.

The report estimates that adopting a 311 phone number would take up to 18 months.

It’s been estimated the cost to the city every time someone enters city hall for service is $9, compared to $5 when they phone and 50 cents when the service is provided online.



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