ICgovXpress smartphone app launches


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With the help of the nearly $5,000 city-sponsored smartphone app ICgovXpress that launched Monday, Iowa City officials hope the all too common after-party stress of cleaning up can be alleviated with instant communication between property owners and renters.

The broader goal, they say, is to improve upon neighborhood-stabilization efforts — a top priority under the current Iowa City Strategic Plan. 

Stan Laverman, Iowa City senior housing inspector, said the purpose of having Government Outreach of Pleasanton, Calif., develop the app was to provide a convenient way for residents to communicate with the city while looking for an easier way to track complaints.

“We don’t have the staff to patrol neighborhoods for code violations like small nuisances,” he said. “One of the things that happen is that people see something walking around, but they forget to report it. With this choice, you can do it 24/7; you don’t have to go back to your house to make a call.”

The free app, available for Android, iPhone, and iPad, coupled with a web-based version, allows residents to contact the city regarding nuisance control and general concerns such as yard debris, snow-covered sidewalks, uninhabited vehicles, over-occupancy of apartment buildings, and graffiti.

Laverman said approximately 2,000 complaints are made in Iowa City each year, 95 percent of which occur in the residential areas. The two most commonly reported grievances are overgrown grass and weeds and snow removal. Trash and debris follow as the third-largest concern.  

“People who live in the neighborhood become our eyes and ears,” said Doug Boothroy, the director of Iowa City Housing and Inspection Services. “As we move forward, we will fine-tune and making this more available and user friendly; it’s about choice, convenience, simplicity.”

Adam Bentley, administrative assistant in the City Manager’s Office, starred in a promotional video for ICgovXpress as a dazed party-goer, who after a long, shenanigan-filled evening surrounded by copious amounts of red cups, a large refrigerator, and trash cans randomly placed in trees, offers viewers insight into the benefits of the application.

Public Access TV channel 18 provided the in-house video production work for ICgovXpress at no extra charge.

As the application garners further popularity, Bentley said he anticipates an overall economic development boon to the surrounding area.

“I think the downtown has a lot to benefit from this,” he said. “Imagine our downtown Ped Mall, the cleanliness and safety of the area. A lot of the customers downtown are also students, and they’re pretty apt to learning. It’s just as much about economic development as it is about neighborhood stabilization.” 

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