By Josh Dulaney Staff Writer
Posted: 02/25/2011 09:15:41 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – The city is moving forward with its efforts to clear out a backlog of service calls that have stretched work crews and left residents frustrated.

The City Council has approved a call center to serve as a one-stop shop for non-emergency requests for service and information.

Tentatively dubbed “SB Direct,” the call center will offer residents one phone number to call for services ranging from pothole fixes to street light repairs.

Officials say the service will be available five days a week and could be up and running in June.

“It’s expected to alleviate phone calls for all departments,” said Heather Gray, city spokeswoman. “We’re trying to offer better customer service, but of course we’ve dealt with layoffs.”Community surveys have shown widespread frustration with the city’s service, which has been hampered by budget cuts in recent years.

The city hopes SB Direct, which will be staffed from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays will reverse the trend and mend the city’s poor reputation for service.

SB Direct will be staffed with city employees who can answer a variety of questions on behalf of most city departments, officials said.

Council members and city staff will be able to pull quality control reports on the service calls.

The city reports that while the Police Department receives more than 1,000 calls a day, other departments combined see roughly 1,500 calls each day.

Officials hope SB Direct can clear out unnecessary calls to the public safety departments and more efficiently deal with non-emergency issues.

“This should centralize a lot of those questions,” Gray said.

The call center is expected to be a division of the City Manager’s Office.

With a call center supervisor, SB Direct is expected to have seven employees.

In exchange for the positions created for SB Direct, six positions will be re-allocated from other departments, and the Water Department will fund one position.

Management will be provided by a position in the City Manager’s Office.

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