AZTEC — Now, finding city information or reporting problems to officials is easier than ever.
Last week, the city of Aztec launched its first smart device application to provide residents, businesses and visitors more access to city services.
The free app, available for Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, includes a city directory, a collection of news stories and announcements, a video tour of the city, an events calendar and links to the city's social media sites — Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
A notification tab allows residents to send non-emergency service requests for issues such as potholes, power outages or graffiti. With the app, users can send photos they snap of the problem, along with their contact information.
The city paid $8,400 to Parlant Technology Inc., a firm in Provo, Utah, for the first year of maintenance and support of the app, including start-up costs. Next year, the app will cost $6,906, which will come from the city's annual budget.
City Manager Joshua Ray championed Aztec's entry into mobile technology after he and Mayor Sally Burbridge learned about municipal apps at a conference.
"I think we need to have the most ways to interact with citizens and visitors," Ray said. "We want people to know that we're accessible. The mayor wanted the app. We've been asked by city staff and others about getting one. Price-wise, service-wise — this is what we want. And, lo and behold, it's actually here."
Ray hopes the mobile app will lead to greater engagement and awareness by citizens.
"At this point, if we can get more of our citizens who want to stay updated in the fold, we can push out info quicker, in more ways, that says, for example, there's a street closure, a traffic accident, a high school football game, a Crash Music event tonight, an Amber alert, you name it," Ray said. "You can make a service request, take a picture and send it along right from your phone. You can say, 'Hey, I saw a pothole on Mesa, or a power line down on Apache.' I think that's just phenomenal. The more pictures you can take, the better."
Aztec Information Technology Director Wallace Begay believes the app will get a lot of use.
"Part of what we want to do is to continue adding content to the app, to make it helpful and useful to the end-user," Begay said. "The app is a good conduit for people. It makes the city even more accountable to its citizens. It's also a great way to market the city to our visitors."
Begay said over the next few months he will add complete contact information for city commissioners and city departments. Down the road, he wants to provide video recordings of commission meetings.
For now, Ray wants every citizen with a smart device to download the app and begin using it.
"I'm going to go over to the schools. I want them to know what's going on and check it and let us know how it goes," Ray said. "The beautiful thing about New Mexico is you need to be outside — at the Ruins, hiking out by the arches, fishing near Navajo Dam, in our parks, golfing, you name it. You can't just enjoy the area inside. We want you outside and connected at the same time. That's what we're shooting for. We'll make things happen."
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.