City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said last night he was willing to review several areas of Council concern in the fiscal year 2011 budget but added he was unwilling to move from his position that the City’s two branch libraries should be closed. Because Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, was unable to attend the special City Council Nov. 15 meeting, aldermen agreed to make no binding decisions that night.

Their questions, however, led Mr. Bobkiewicz to say that he would reconfigure his proposed budget to allow aldermen to revisit proposed cuts in funding for elm-tree injections and proposed elimination or reduction in hours or positions for employees in the forestry division, the Ecology Center, the Noyes Cultural Arts Center and for an inclusion specialist and a zoning administrator.  

Aldermen appeared to be divided about Mr. Bobkiewicz’s proposed 3-1-1 call center, which he proposed to roll out on March 1 of next year (3/1/11). The call center, he said, would replace the present switchboard operation by having “a live person” answer the call and respond to the question. Joe McRae, assistant to the City Manager, who has been working on the project for several months, said he has compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) – and answers to them – for the call-center operators. Each call would be assigned a number, and when a question was not answered immediately, a caller could follow up on line or in person by referring to that number, he said.

At present, said Mr. Bobkiewicz, the City receives about 150 non-emergency calls per day during the week. He proposes that the 3-1-1 center – which would be distinct from the 9-1-1 emergency center – operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the week. Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he did not think the call center would address the problem that the system of delivering City services “is broken.” He also said he did not believe the center need operate after 4:30 p.m.

Aldermen Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said they sometimes receive calls or perceive problems – such as non-working street lights – after 4:30 p.m. and would like to see evening hours of operation, but not necessarily until 11 p.m.

Aldermen are scheduled to discuss Mr. Bobkiewicz’s new proposals, as well as the branch libraries, at their Wednesday night meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. in Council chambers at the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.