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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

Toledo is simplifying nonemergency phone calls

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Finkbeiner, left. Finkbeiner, left.
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Beginning New Year's Day, anyone with a question at 3 a.m. about services like trash pickup or who has spotted a broken water main won't have to wait for normal business hours to contact the city of Toledo.

A search through the telephone book's "blue pages" listing of government offices won't be necessary beforehand, either.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced yesterday that city residents will be able to call 24 hours a day for all nonemergency city services, using a single telephone number: 419-936-2020.

"It's an opportunity for our citizens, and I said I wanted to listen to citizens in the town hall forums," Mr. Finkbeiner said during a news conference yesterday. "If we could have afforded it, we would have gone with a three-digit number, but that would have cost an additional $2.5 million."

Many cities, including Akron and New York, have three-digit numbers for residents to call. Mr. Finkbeiner said he hopes Toledo's new number, while longer, will cut back on the number of nonemergency calls citizens make to 911.

Six operators will work in three shifts around the clock, seven days a week, taking phone calls.

Toledo Safety Director David Moebius said there would be no additional cost for the city other than relocating the employees to the water distribution building at 401 South Erie St., where the call center will be housed.

Mr. Moebius noted that the new service could be valuable for people who work overnight shifts.

The mayor said the operators have been trained and will be able to answer questions, take complaints, or put the caller in contact with the correct person.

Toledo area residents already can use United Way 2-1-1, a nationwide program begun in Atlanta in 1997, which is a 24-hour phone service that provides free access to social service information, referrals, and volunteer opportunities.

More than 20,000 calls to 211 have been made from Lucas and Ottawa counties so far this year. Requests range from help paying heating bills to finding out where one can volunteer to deliver meals to the elderly.

It has been available in Lucas and Ottawa counties since March, 2005, and was expanded recently for Wood County residents.



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