Suffolk County to implement 311 call system

Suffolk County is set to adopt the 311 call system as a way for the government to improve the relationship with its nearly 1.5 million residents.

"We saw Mayor O'Malley introduce the concept in Baltimore, incredibly successful, and close to home, Mayor Bloomberg in New York City," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Over the next few weeks, staff will test new software that will ultimately transform the way county government utilizes data to make important decisions.

Residents who have nonemergency inquiries can dial 311 instead of 911.

Bellone hopes the move will reduce the burden on emergency call operators who answer nearly a million calls a year, including tens of thousands of non-emergency calls.

"We do social services, health services, parks, in the summertime ticks are an issue, people will call about potholes, quality of life issues, concerns in the neighborhood, zombie homes, all things that impact the daily lives of our residents," Bellone said.

There's not just going to be a call in number. Over time the county hopes to roll out a 311 website, app and social media platform for its residents.  

But Legislator Tom Cilmi called the move unrealistic especially when he says the county is literally broke.

"Spending half a million dollars or a million dollars on a new way to communicate when we have 18 members of the legislature that folks can, do and should communicate with is not a good way to spend the county's very limited resources," Cilmi said.

The system is expected to go live by the end of May. To start, the county plans to run the call center Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Depending on call volume, they will explore around-the-clock options in the future.