NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the city council prepares to kick off days of hearings on Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s proposed 2019 budget, the mayor talked about her plan to merge the 311 and 911 call centers.
When there are medical or other types of emergencies the public is urged to dial 911, and for non-emergencies in New Orleans residents are told to call 311, a system set up in 2012 to handle calls related to complaints like potholes and blight and to get information about city services.
During a one-on-one interview with FOX 8 News Cantrell explained why she believes the proposed merger is in the best interest of the public.
“Well, one it would serve the public better for building in efficiencies, making sure that there is a holistic approach to not only reporting emergencies but non-emergencies as well,” said Mayor Cantrell.
She believes such a merger would save the city $900,000 in general fund dollars.
"It puts us in the right footing as it relates to saving,” said Cantrell. “But also building in those efficiencies as it relates to emergency preparedness as well. Giving our citizens the opportunity to report non-emergency issues and matters as it relates to their quality of life all day, 24/7.”
The 911 operators are housed on City Park Avenue in the Orleans Parish Communications District Facility. The OPCD was created by the state legislature and the 911 operation is funded by fees charged on landline and cell phone bills.
Cantrell’s administration said OPCD’s Board of Commissioners will have to authorize the entity to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with the city to include the 311 operation in the service OPCD provides.
Additionally, the administration said in most cases 311 operators will see an increase in pay, but it is difficult to say exactly how much because it is “individual-based,” and salaries are determined by base pay plus years of service. The mayor said there will be adequate training for both 911 and 311 system employees, so they are equipped to handle the merged duties.
"It also enhances what we believe in cross-training of our employees, so they will be cross-trained and not only 311 but 911, so streamlining government, building in transparency and accountability and also meeting the needs of our residents in real-time I believe is a step in the right direction,” said Cantrell.
The mayor’s office said OPCD board will consider the proposed merger during its Nov. 14 meeting.