Mayor Berke answers 311 calls
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Chattanoogans can call 311 for a number things such as public works requests and questions about city court or billing.
The city provides this free service, and thousands of people take advantage of it every week.
That's why Mayor Andy Berke said he wanted to see first hand what happens behind the scenes.
Eight operators typically take all of those calls, but Thursday a few 311 callers got quite the surprise when Mayor Berke answered the phone.
You wouldn't know it by standing in the quiet call center, but 311 operators answer about 5,000 calls each week.
Thursday afternoon, a different voice answered the phone.
"Thanks for calling the city of Chattanooga, this is Andy Berke, mayor of the city, how can I help you?" Berke said as he answered a 311 call.
He said he was surprised to learn about the high call volume, so he put on a headset to check things out for himself.
"One of the things you want to know is what do employees do every day, so it's great to spend a few minutes with them," he said.
Berke took questions about speeding tickets, and he heard a caller's concern about people hanging out in the street. He also took the call center's most popular request, and that's bulky item collection.
"All right, well we're going to send somebody out there to pick it up," he said to caller Terri Wilkinson.
She said she was shocked at who picked up.
"I didn't think I heard correctly, and then I thought I must have dialed the wrong number. How did I get the mayor's number?" Wilkinson said.
She said she's used 311 before, and she thinks it's a great city service.
With hundreds of people using that service each day, 311 operators said it's important for the mayor to hear what's going on.
"Unless you're in here and you hear the calls and talk to the people, you don't realize what all comes through the city," said Liz Henley, 311 Call Center manager.
Berke said it was quite the experience.
"Constituent service is really important. We've got to pick up the brush and make sure that people are safe, and 311 is essential to doing that," he said.
the 311 Call Center can have a problem solved in anywhere from a day to a week depending on the urgency.
Mayor Berke said we can expect to see him visit more city departments like 311 in the near future so he can better create new policy and the new budget.
Right now the city is operating under a temporary budget. The Berke Administration is expected to have a full budget proposal ready by July 31st.