BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Revamping the city’s website, adding a customer advocate, making physical changes to City Hall, and offering another action-packed Citizen’s Academy are all ways the City of Daytona Beach is improving the communication and service for residents.
“We are constantly seeking ways to be better with our service delivery and customer experience,” said Susan Cerbone, spokesperson for the City of Daytona Beach. “The city is addressing customer service at many levels and several significant actions have been taken recently that are a good indication of the city’s commitment.”
Counts named ombudsman
One such example is the addition of an ombudsman to help citizens and developers navigate the city’s permitting process, Cerbone said. Emory Counts, the city’s economic and community development director and fair housing coordinator, is the new ombudsman.
As part of his duties, he will help facilitate communication between interested parties and staff. Additionally, he is available to answer development questions, provide support and help streamline the process of obtaining approvals and permits.
“Typically when people run into problems, they give me a call. I get involved and see if it is a matter of semantics or what the problem may be,” Counts told the Daytona Times.
Counts will provide residents and business owners with an identifiable point of contact to help resolve utility problems and code enforcement issues that have failed to be addressed through traditional channels.
Additionally, the customer advocate is tasked with identifying problems on behalf of residents and taking concerns to involved parties – from front-line workers up to department heads, Cerbone added.
“He investigates the city’s response and determines where breakdowns in communication or service are occurring.”
In addition to the customer advocate, Mayor Derrick Henry shared that another communication option has been implemented for citizens. “We have created a drop box in City Hall that enables residents to write and inform us of their experiences in City Hall or let us know how we’re doing,” he said. “Additionally, our charter review commission is holding town hall meetings, the first of which was held last night at the Midtown community center.”
Technology tracks complaints
Improved technology also is making a positive difference for those doing business with the city.
The city’s website – www.codb.us – has been revamped, making more information available and easier to obtain. In addition, software for an internal tracking system has been introduced to improve accountability and ensure complaints and requests are routed to the appropriate department and needed follow-up action is being taken.
Physical changes also are under way at City Hall with the intent of becoming more customer-friendly. A main lobby receptionist has been added so those coming into City Hall are now able to receive assistance with information requests or locate a desired office.
The Building and Permits office also has undergone remodeling. New counters and work areas allow a more personable interaction with customers.
“While we are pleased with the results so far, we will continue to introduce new ways to implement our customer service improvement initiative.”
Citizens Academy begins
For residents wanting to become more familiar with their city’s role in everyday activities, the City of Daytona Beach offers a citizens academy program. The latest installment of the class began March 4 with an overwhelming amount of applications.
“We have chiropractors, real estate agents, retirees,” Betty Goodman, Assistant City Manager and facilitator of the citizen’s academy relayed. “It is a very diverse class both race wise and gender. Our first class started on Tuesday and we meet every week for nine weeks. Everyone seems very excited about it. Because the class was so full, we had to put a hold on accepting more applications.”
Goodman says the overwhelming response was a good thing and has already begun planning this fall’s academy, which will he held in September.
The only cost is a commitment of time.
Throughout the interactive weekly sessions, participants will get an in-depth overview of the structure and various functions and services provided by the city.
Counts also suggested those who have not attended the Daytona Beach Citizen’s Academy to attend the class.
“Forty people have already signed up and are going to classes right now. I would urge people, if they really would like to know how the city functions and all of the many things that are involved in it, to come through the Citizens Academy. I think they would really start to appreciate government and how it works.”