Council Tables Mobile App To Do More Research

Resolution 150-16, which was going to approve a contract to have Divigner, LLC out of Rahway (link) design a municipal mobile app, was tabled at the June 16th Mayor & Council meeting until some councilmembers could do some more research on it.

Roselle Park resident David Robertson first brought the issue to light publicly when he spoke during the public comment portion of that June meeting. He referred to Divigner as well as PublicStuff, an online community-based service that allows individuals to notify their municipality, in real-time, of problems and issues that need to be fixed. In September of last year, PublicStuff did a presentation during a Mayor & Council meeting to demonstrate their service.

Mr. Robertson went on to discuss the differences he encountered in using Divigner’s app and PublicStuff’s app. He used Cranford, which uses Divigner, and Roselle, which uses PublicStuff in his comparison.

He elaborated, “The main thing that I saw with PublicStuff is its public empowerment, allowing the public to have an interface with the borough in terms of reporting potholes, code violations, [and] other things. Also, when you do a complaint, you can attach a photo. Looking at the Cranford application, it’s basically just a rehash of their regular internet web site.”

Mr. Robertson added that when he tried to send a message for a pothole or other issue, there was no ability to attach a photograph in the Cranford app.

Roselle Park News downloaded the municipal apps for Cranford and Rahway, which use Divigner, as well as ones for Carteret and Roselle, which utilize PublicStuff.

Rahway’s mobile app had a ‘Report’ section 18 links down in the menu that is an online form that submits an e-mail without being able to attach a photo.

The app for Cranford did have a ‘Citizen Request Portal’ which led the user to an external website – SDL Portal from Spatial Design Logic (link). Once in the portal, the user would have no opportunity to submit anything since the SDL portal does not allow a complaint type to be chosen and the user cannot proceed without entering the required complaint type that does not exist.

By comparison, in using the PublicStuff apps for Carteret and Roselle, the first options for both are ‘New Request’. That option allows for numerous types of issues that could be reported on which allows for the taking of a photograph from a smartphone or tablet as well as automatically giving the location of the issue. The option to report the problem publicly allows for the monitoring of the issue in four stages: Submitted, Received, In Progress, and Completed. No such feature is available for the Cranford of Rahway apps.

MyCarteret has report sections such as Streets & Roads, Public Property Repairs, Code Enforcement, Neighborhood Watch, and Trees.

Roselle’s mobile app has a somewhat different template with sections that are noted as Service Requests but they still allow for including photographs and location of the issue along with a description.

Divigner’s contract is in the amount of $1,800 for a set-up fee and a $300 monthly fee. The total for the first year would be $5,400. The second year would cost $3,600. According to PublicStuff, they stated their annual fee would be $5,000.

Third Ward Councilman Ryan Kelly, who spearheaded the use of hands-on technology, responded to Mr. Robertson. Without giving details, the councilman stated, “I did sit down on a conference call and actually, I guess a webinar, with the company [Divigner] going through their capabilities in comparison with PublicStuff . . . In my opinion, from the perspective of the capabilities or options that Roselle Park would most likely use the most and have a high adoption rate in the community, Divigner is completely capable of doing and they have demonstrated success locally with Cranford [and] Rahway so they are extremely capable.”

“The success of either program will have to do in terms of how the borough advertises it and gets it out in the community,” said Mr. Robertson.

“I agree,” replied Councilman Kelly, “Regardless of which one we do or don’t go with . . . as far as adoption usage, it’s going to be how much of a priority we make it to make this app successful, how well we get that word out to the community, and then if the community decides if it’s something that they’re wiling to adopt and utilize.”

Later in the meeting, Fifth Ward Councilman Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley pulled the resolution from a consent vote to discuss the proposal. He stated, “This product, to my knowledge as a council, we’ve not vetted it or talked about its uses or what we’re going to do with it so I’d like some time to compare the two and have some more discussion about this before we just up and use this company. I know nothing about them except for what I read which doesn’t say a whole lot and . . . PublicStuff had some really specific uses to it as opposed to having to develop them.”

With that, Councilman Shipley moved to table the resolution. Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey seconded the motion, adding, “I would like to have more time to look at them and compare them in terms of the points that were brought up today . . . And actually to consider whether we still need this. Is this something we could be doing on the website and put off spending such an amount of money? I mean, we’re not even doing that on the website now.”

Councilman Kelly commented, “I do understand if we’re going to be spending money we want to make sure we’re as thorough as possible so since there’s no harm in tabling it, I vote yes.”

The vote was unanimous to table the resolution until councilmembers could find out more regarding the pros and cons of each app provider in what they offer as it relates to the needs of the residents.

Jae McKinney, Founder and CEO of Divigner, when reached for comment, stated that his company would provide a customized mobile app for the municipality. As far as having the SDL Portal as part of the contract, Mr. McKinney stated that the municipality would need to obtain a separate license agreement with SDL and then Divigner would provide the access to the mobile version of the portal allow people to report issues. Mr. McKinney did state that Divigner would be able to work on a possible configuration that would include SeeClickFix (link) or some comparable municipal interactive reporting site but that would require additional commitment from the municipality.

The next Mayor & Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 18th, starting at 7 p.m. in council chambers of the Roselle Park Municipal Complex.