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City of Richmond’s first app allows residents to snap photos of potholes

on November 27, 2014

Sick of dodging that pothole in front of your house and too busy to call the city?

Come January, all you’ll need to do is snap a photo on your smart phone and punch in a note, and the city will have the complaint.

Officials announced this week that Richmond is about to release its first app ever, CivicTRAK. The app will allow residents who see toppled trees, potholes and other problems to snap a photo with CivicTRAK, write a small note, and tab the submit button.

An issue address will be automatically attached to the report and relevant city departments will get the report and hopefully take care of it, Richmond Information Technology Director Sue Hartman told the City Council at its Tuesday meeting.

“The only complaint I have is that this is going to make council members obsolete,” Councilman Tom Butt said, smiling.

The app took almost a year to develop. The city reviewed different vendor products and decided to work with its current software vendor CRW. The company is also behind the COR Connect system that has long been used for Richmond residents to report issues from their home computers.   

“It makes more sense to have one vendor provide the service than have a lot of different vendors have all their hands to the same software,” Hartman said.

Besides reporting problems, the new app also has features such as places, businesses and recreation. The “Places” feature will give users a list of city parks, public facilities and community services, with GPS coordinates and hours of services. Users can call them directly from the app as well.

The “Businesses” feature will provide a directory of local restaurants, coffee houses and grocery stores. The directory can expand with new businesses added. 

“Recreation” and “Calendar” features will also be available.

The app shows a huge potential to be the central platform to keep Richmond residents updated with the City Hall and community events. 

Butt, who is known to peck at his iPhone incessantly, was particularly enamored wth the new app. He said Richmond residents will soon need only their phone to complain and raise questions. He also suggested adding nonprofit activities and classes to the “Recreation” feature on the app to promote community events.

The app development was funded by a city IT budget, but there will be ongoing maintenance annual charges, Hartman said.

Hartman said a lot of people are using the COR Connect system currently, and based on that, she predicts the new app will also be popular.

The city will do community outreach to spread the word about the new technology.

“We will go to all of the neighborhood services to present this to them, to show them how to use the app and we will be asking for volunteers to help us fine tune it in this December,” Hartman said.

The app will be under community testing in December and a large-scale rollout will take place in January. The app will be available in both iOS and Android version.

Richmond city leaders hope the app catches on. Richmond residents may find that snapping photos of potholes on CivicTRAK can be just as fun as sharing cute puppy pictures on Instagram.

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