Concerned callers cannot get through city service line | News
(WMC-TV) - From pot holes and public nuisances to abandoned homes and abundant weeds, viewers around the Mid-South are calling the Action News 5 investigators for help.
Over the past several week, the investigators noticed many of these complaints had something in common; callers cannot get through the Memphis mayor's action line. South Memphis resident Brenda Davis is one of those callers.
"It used to be a really nice neighborhood," said Davis.
Davis grew up on Ingle Street. Her mother still lives in the same house, but over the years she says the place has changed.
"The neighborhood just sort of went down ... Drugs, what have you, all kinds of things were going down," said David.
This includes the house next door, which has become a haven for vagrants and wild animals.
"On hot days like this when the wind is blowing just right you can smell the odor. It smells of urine, feces, everything," said Davis.
Davis contacted the Action News Five Investigators after years of seeking help through the "Mayor's Citizens Service Center" hotline.
"The city would board them up and then you'd turn around and look, and they've been unboarded," she said.
She is fed up with temporary fixes, and an Action News 5 investigation shows she is not alone.
In just the past six weeks, the Action News Five Investigators tip line has received dozens of calls from people complaining the "Mayor's Citizens Service Center" is not helping
311 is the new Mayor's Citizens Service Center meaning all city complaints come to one place.
According to Memphis Chief Administrative Officer George Little, the volume of calls can be staggering.
"It can range from hundreds to thousands of calls on a given day, depending on what's going on," said Little.
Currently, only six employees answer those calls.
Little says cities with similar populations to Memphis employee 15 to 30 people to do the work.
"If we're gonna get the system to work we've got to get people in, on the phone, get their issues and move on to the next call," he said. "When we look at cities our same size we have about half the staff size, so we're learning and we're growing."
The city budgeted for eight staffers, but CAO Little says they are holding off on filling those last two positions.
"Because every division of government, even the 311 center, and even though we're not staffed like we'd like to, potentially could at least have some reductions of vacant positions," said little.
A vacancy poses a problem for Brenda Davis who wants permanent action on her neighboring property.
Little says complaints like Davis are common and complicated.
"We have to find out who owns that property, so it's a whole process with enforcement. If it's private property we can't go on that private property and we just can't go on and cut that grass. There are steps to go through," said Little. "We're working to make it more responsive to the citizens, but when you have an infinite number of needs and a very finite number of resources, as much as we'd like to get to every issue immediately we simply can't."
This means Brenda Davis must simply wait.
"A property can be beautiful, and a property can be very, very ugly and right now this property is indescribable," she said.
The best way to get action through calling 311 is to not call at all. Instead submit your complaint online. For more information, click here.
If there's something you want Action News 5 investigate then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can call the Investigators tip line at 866-518-9082.
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