Augusta Cares handles city's questions, gripes

Martha King has a job most people wouldn't volunteer for: listening to complaints.

Ms. King, coordinator of the Augusta Cares service, says that it's not as bad as all that.

"I try to remember to use a word other than 'complaint,' " she admitted. " 'Issues' or 'requests' is better."

Whatever you call them, Ms. King stays busy answering up to 125 calls daily about garbage pickup, overgrown grass and other things that bother Augusta dwellers.

The system was introduced to Augusta in 1996 by City Administrator Randy Oliver. It works as a clearinghouse for residents to voice concerns or get information on topics ranging from death certificates to spraying for mosquitoes.

Before Augusta Cares was created, most people would call the mayor's office or their city commissioner with such issues, tying up phone lines and taking up time.

"We're here to take some of the workload off of other city administrators, such as the mayor or city commissioners," Ms. King said.

After Ms. King receives a call, she takes the citizen's name, phone number and address and enters them with the complaint into the Augusta Cares database. She then decides which city department to assign the question.

The department will issue a work order and let Ms. King know when the problem has been dealt with and how. She, in turn, notifies the original caller how and when the issue is taken care of.

Callers to Augusta Cares can make Ms. King's job easier by having specific information about their request.

For instance, if a caller is concerned about overgrown grass on a highway median, it would help greatly for the caller to have an exact location.

Augusta Cares processed 6,646 requests and 9,200 questions for information in 2008.

TOP FIVE ISSUES

1. Property maintenance

2. Streets and drains

3. Garbage

4. County trees and branches

5. Water and sewage

To contact Augusta Cares, call (706) 821-2300

Source: Martha King