Tupelo kicks off new program to aid residents
By Philip Moulden
Tupelo officials Tuesday unveiled a new program designed to bring city government closer to its citizens and improve response time to requests and complaints.
Labeled “Government Involvement for Tupelo (GIFT),” the program will designate six team members from each of six city departments to provide personal service to citizens.
The program is also devised to improve communications between city council members and city departments.
“As we grow, services and input may appear to move further away from the people,” city officials said in a policy statement. “In an effort to improve our quality of life and provide better services to our citizens, we are initiating a program that will enhance city services, improve response time and … receive input from the taxpayers on ways we may assist them. …”
The city has been divided into seven districts for team operations. District boundaries follow neighborhood lines rather than ward lines. Team members assigned to specific neighborhoods reside in those areas, giving them greater insight into the needs of those citizens.
Team members are scheduled this week to begin house-to-house delivery of program information, including magnetic cards listing team captains and door hangers listing neighborhood contacts for major departments. Delivery should be completed no later than Feb. 10, city spokeswoman Debbie Stauffer said.
Administration officials have set a goal of responding to all inquiries within 24 hours.
Teams will be drawn from Planning and Community Development, Water and Light, Public Services, Parks and Recreation, Police, and Fire departments. Representatives will also be appointed from smaller departments to sit on an overall coordinating team that will basically oversee the program.
Team members will conduct regular meetings to detail the status of inquiries and projects.
The program will also provide cross-training for city employees in order to prepare them to deal directly and quickly with citizens while avoiding time-consuming transfers to other departments to find informed officials.
“Our goal is to improve efficiency by improved communications,” the policy statement said.
Team members have already spent about three months in planning and training, officials said. Team captains have been selected and action plans developed.
Program costs were estimated at $7,000 for the first year. Members will not be removed from their regular duties.
Similar programs are under way in Meridian and Hattiesburg and have produced very good results, Stauffer said.