Burns Lake council is considering including the subscription to a new messaging software in the village’s 2017 municipal budget.
The village says the new system – called Telmatik messaging software – is a much more effective way of communicating with residents when it comes to municipal emergencies and other issues that may affect them.
With this system, village staff would be able to selected a certain geographical area or the entire municipality and send out bulk texts, e-mails, or electronically recorded phone calls.
“The system would be extraordinarily beneficial during water shutoffs, repaving projects, municipal emergencies, fire and rescue responses, annual street flushing, and many other issues that the village encounters throughout the year,” says village staff. “It would also be very helpful during public hearing and rezoning initiatives during which residents within a certain radius of a change must be notified.”
Currently, the village uses its website and Facebook to communicate with the public. Although the village says that these channels have worked well, they don’t allow information to be effectively targeted.
“All of the channels that are currently used are distributed to the entire area,” explains village staff. “In instances such as the Fourth Avenue repaving project, staff have no means of isolating these bulk messages to one area or another.”
Additionally, the village says the current channels don’t provide immediate contact with the public.
“They are required to check their Facebook page or other channels in order to receive our message, and may not notice it when they do.”
If implemented, the plan would cost $2575 annually plus a one-time implementation cost of $500. In addition, considerable staff time would be required during the first few months of implementation. Staff estimates suggest roughly four hours per week during the first six months would be required.
If council decides to move ahead with this plan, residents will be able to go online or contact the village office to be signed up. When their contact information is put into the system, they are sorted by address into a database that staff can access.
“Staff have been given assurances by the service provider of strict resident confidentiality,” says village staff. “We have confirmed that the servers storing the information are housed within Canada so as not to violate any freedom of information and protection of privacy act laws.”
Subscription to the service would be completely voluntary for residents – they could add themselves or be removed at any time. The village adds that this service would be used sparingly so as not to overwhelm residents with messages.
The decision will be made in January 2017.