South Orange, NJ: Using 21st Century Tools to Bring the Community Together

Gaslamps are an important part of the Village of South Orange heritage, and residents take pride in this historic feature of their community. The Village comes together every year to report gaslamp outages and broken fixtures in their neighborhoods, to make sure their streets always remain beautiful, lit up, and safe.

This year, the annual tradition incorporated a new tool – their new mobile app, SOConnect. The app, powered by PublicStuff, allowed residents to report outages and broken lamps on the spot, together with photos, location details, and additional comments where necessary.

The Village saw more than 50 residents, students, and other community members blanket the streets to survey 1,400 gaslamps. At the end of the event, the Village reported 396 gaslamp repairs to the utility company, which, in the past, did not have an easy way of cataloguing these issues.

“We are seeing a better community. As with many other communities throughout New Jersey, we have tighter budgets and smaller staffing levels. This program allows residents who are seeing many issues before our employees, an opportunity to report them to our team. It creates faster responses and a better town.” – Alex Torpey, Village President

Enhancing the resident experience

SOConnect also helps South Orange improve internal efficiency, and elevate the customer experience for its residents everyday. While implementing the new app, South Orange was looking for a way to centralize internal and resident communications in one portal, and cut down on overwhelming email communications on a day-to-day basis.

For example, even though the entire community was out on the streets to report outages and broken lamps, the Village was not burdened by a sudden surge in incoming service requests. Also powered by PublicStuff, the internal workflow system collects service requests in the appropriate department and automatically notifies designated staff, eliminating the need for staff to manually assign requests within their departments. Automating the process of request assignment in this way allows staff to focus on providing the highest quality of resident service.

A long term investment, not just an app

The Village views the new app and workflow system as a long term investment as more and more residents find it useful to fix their daily neighborhood issues. The ability to track and comment on all community concerns in one portal without the hassle of multiple email threads is a particularly big benefit to the Village. Since launch in January, there have been more than 1,500 resident requests through the system, and the Village only expects this number to grow as more of the community learns about the mobile app.

"Providing a better internal workflow is great, but providing more equitable access to reporting issues and getting public services, such that you don't need to know the email address of an elected official to make a complaint, but rather submit your issue through the same portal that everyone else does, is a huge step for a local government, and we're definitely excited for the use of the service to continue to grow" - Alex Torpey, Village President