Prince George's officials, in an attempt to reduce the number of calls to the county's 911 system, are reviewing a proposal to set up a countywide 311 center to answer non-emergency calls.
Charles W. Wilson, director of the Office of Information Technology and Communications, this week briefed the County Council on the proposed call center. He said it would not only alleviate some of the strain on the 911 system, but also would streamline the bureaucracy, promoting better delivery of government services.
Wilson said he would like to have the first phase of the project set up before the end of the year. It would cost an estimated $700,000 to buy software, change data and train 15 employees to run the center. The staff would consist of current employees from various county agencies that take calls from the public.
Wilson said 911 received 1.3 million calls last year. He said at least 130,000 calls a year would probably be made to 311 when the first phase of the system is in place. Eventually, he said, the call center would probably take a half million calls annually.
Similar systems are in place in the District, Baltimore and Harford County.
But not everyone is sold on the 311 idea.
Council member Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) said she thinks that the county should fix the problems with its 911 system, which is under pressure and understaffed, before it considers opening another call center.
"I'm not seeing a benefit, and I need to see that for me to be on board," Exum said.
Pamela H. Piper, the deputy chief administrative officer responsible for the Office of Information Technology, said the county would be making a "grave mistake" if it held off on moving forward with the 311 call center until it fixes the 911 system.
Council member Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) questioned whether the 311 call center would wind up with some of the same problems as the 911 system, such as placing callers on hold, listening to a recording.
"We're not trying to reinvent what is already a problem," Piper said.
There's Always the Bus
Brian K. Shivers, president of the Seat Pleasant Town Council, apparently really wanted to make it to Ocean City last week for the Maryland Municipal League conference.
So much so, according to police, that he drove a car that was unregistered and had no insurance and no license plate until he "borrowed the license plate from a friend," said Officer Barry Neeb, a spokesman for the Ocean City Police Department.
Was it mentioned that he did not have a license? Shivers's license was suspended 17 months ago, on Feb. 10, 2004, according to police.
Shivers was pulled over in his gold Mercedes station wagon at 1:33 a.m. on June 27. The police ran a check on the plates and found that they had been reported stolen in Prince George's.
Shivers told police he "needed to have a vehicle to come to Ocean City with because he was in town for a political convention," according to the police report. Neeb said Shivers also said that the Mercedes was normally parked in his yard and his other car was in the garage being repaired.
Shivers, who was elected by his colleagues on the seven-member board to serve as president, did not return a call for comment.
Neeb said Shivers was arrested for driving with a suspended license. The Mercedes was impounded. Shivers was later released. It remains unclear how much of the four-day conference he eventually attended.
Doing the Happy Dance
Theresa Dudley is not one to contain herself.
As a community activist, union leader and political candidate, she's been known to make a commotion.
Tune in to "The Price Is Right" on Oct. 3 and you'll see what happens when a "community activist makes a fool out of herself," Dudley said.
Dudley did what every other contestant who is told to "come on down" has done.
She jumped up and down. And then she jumped some more.
"When you watch the show, you think the people are faking it, but you know what, you just get crazy," said Dudley, who won a home surround-sound stereo system. "I just lost my mind."
After winning the stereo, Dudley went on to spin the wheel in the showcase showdown. It stopped on 95 cents. And anyone who watches knows that the contestant who spins closest to $1 without going over goes to the showcase. Dudley's 95 cents was enough. And she jumped some more.
Ultimately, Dudley missed winning a camper and a car. "But that's okay, I had so much fun."
Dudley was in California for the annual meeting of the National Education Association. She said she tacked a few weeks of vacation onto her trip. When the meeting started, she said, her luck continued. "I won a $200 gift certificate for BestBuy.com," she said. "I guess I can use that to buy a TV to go with the stereo system."
CHARLES W. WILSON