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Long Island county overhauls 311 system to improve non-emergency response times

311 system overhauled to improve response times
311 system overhauled to improve response times 02:12

HAUPPAGUE, N.Y. -- Sweeping changes are being made to one of Long Island's non-emergency lines after years of residents complaining it's more of a headache than a help. 

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, who's been in office less than 4 months, said the county's 311 system needs a big fix. 

"People get frustrated when they call and they have to wait forever. No one picks up or when they pick up, they get bounced all over the county. That's something that we want to put in the rearview mirror," said Romaine. 

Wait times were up to two and a half hours. Half of all callers gave up and hung up. 

"What am I paying them for to be on hold for two hours?" one resident said. 

"Like your time is not valuable. They need to come up with something better," another said. 

Changes include routing calls differently.

Instead of up to 800 daily calls for every agency flooding 311, "Now we have established partnerships within the agencies where people are having to take calls within their own departments as well. And then we assist them so we're not the front line for every department," said Kristen DeSantis, Suffolk's 311 call center manager. 

When Suffolk's 311 system rolled out five years ago, it was a first for a New York suburb and came as a relief to 911 operators for non-emergencies, like potholes, down trees, and heat and food assistance. 

County Legislator Rob Trotta said it never went smoothly. 

"It was happening when the weather was calm, when the weather was nice, when nothing was going on. It just was understaffing and the staff that was there wasn't trained properly," said Trotta. 

Now, call wait times average three minutes, abandoned calls are down to only 10%, and callers have new options. 

"They have the ability to request a callback, they effectively have an opportunity to get an estimate as to how long they'll be waiting," said Hassan Ahmed, with the Suffolk County Department of Information Technology. 

"We don't respond in a timely fashion, we're not doing our mission," said Romaine. 

County officials said there are no new costs involved in the revamped 311. It was a reallocation of staff and use of already-allocated technology upgrades. 

The public can learn more about Suffolk's new and improved 311 system and app at upcoming library and community center information sessions. 

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