It may soon be more convenient for Chatham-Kent residents trying to get information on municipal services.
On Monday night, council passed a motion 12-6 to have staff complete a report that would examine the possibility of changing the municipality's current phone number from 519-360-1998 to simply 3-1-1.
3-1-1 is a universal non-emergency phone number used across North America that residents can call to get information on municipal services, make complaints or report problems such as road damage. Currently, 18 cities in Canada use it including Windsor, Toronto and Waterloo.
As of right now, resident's in Chatham-Kent have to dial the seven-digit number to connect to the municipality. The number has been around since amalgamation in 1998 and gets around 400 calls a day.
Councillor Karen Kirkwood-Whyte put forward the request in hopes of making it simpler for citizens to access municipal staff.
"The whole reason behind the motion was to try and make it easier for people to get to the services they need in a way that didn't have to require them looking up [all those] numbers," she said. "There are other communities that are really actively using the three-digit numbers."
When the report is completed, it will detail what the phone number change would cost and the manpower required for it.
Not everyone on council was in favour of the switch, however. Councillor Trevor Thompson referred to it as a "solution looking for a problem" and said he's never heard any complaints about the current number. Councillor Marjorie Crew also questioned the report and the practicality behind the change.
"It's going to require some funding, even though it's just a report, it still costs money to do these reports. I'm looking at the infrastructure that's going to have to happen, let alone the communication part into the community," said Crew.
However, Councillor Melissa Harrigan said she believes a feasibility study is a helpful way for the council to see the costs and savings of bringing in 3-1-1, and to see how the phone number would improve municipal services. Kirkwood-Whyte also said she believes there's no harm in simply looking at the possibilities.
"At this stage right now I'm not asking that anything be implemented," said Kirkwood-Whyte. "I'm asking that we do a bit of research to determine if this would work for us here locally."
The report will also analyze the number and types of calls made to the 9-1-1 emergency number over the last three years. Kirkwood-Whyte is hopeful that if 3-1-1 is implemented and is promoted correctly, it can help cut down on the number of non-emergency calls being placed to emergency dispatchers.
"There are a number of calls that do go to 9-1-1 that are not emergency calls. So people do need to be educated about trying to call a number and get the service that they want," she said. "We don't want to have a lot of calls going to 9-1-1 that are not emergency calls because that just ties up the lines."
Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said it should take around two months for the report to come back to council.