Thursday, June 27, 2013

Customer Service Counters Mobilized in less than 24 Hours

Mayor Nenshi paying taxes at Rose Kohn Arena
The Calgary Municipal Building was damaged in the flood, cutting off the means to provide many services to citizens.  As teams of City staff have worked to return the Municipal Building to habitable condition, dozens of other staff mobilized behind the scenes to bring City public services out of the downtown core and into communities where citizens could access them.

On Tuesday, June 25, The City opened four temporary customer services counters, one in each quadrant, to assist Calgarians while the Municipal Building is closed.

The City knew that many development and building services and tax payments are important to Calgarians and decided to get these services back up as soon as possible. Thanks to the epic efforts of dozens of City staff, the four temporary customer service counters were created and opened for business in less than 24 hours.

To achieve this, City locations had to be found that were not already being used for flood relief and had the technology to run the specialized computers to provide the necessary information. These locations were wired for technology and equipped with furniture, computers and staffed to be open for business early Tuesday morning.

 This could only have happened thanks to the dedicated and tireless efforts of a core team from multiple business units who toiled into the early hours of the morning Tuesday to make sure Calgarians could get access to critical services.

Cindy Stegmeier, Corporate Properties & Buildings (CPB), worked with a team of people from across The Corporation to find locations, obtain computers, printers and other office necessities, and set up the four temporary service counters. The sites were chosen strategically to allow accessibility for citizens while keeping them out of the downtown core.

“We struggled to find locations as there were so many other groups trying to find space for other emergency operations,” says Stegmeier. “Originally, we were just working on one location. Because of all the traffic in the city and people having a hard time getting around, we really wanted to have a service counter in each quadrant to make it easier for people in all areas of the city.”

The decision to mobilize temporary service counters was made late Sunday, June 23, and by that evening a team of organizers was in place. By mid-afternoon Monday, all four locations were identified and work had begun to open all four by Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.

A process that normally takes weeks – and includes site visits, electrical drawings, numerous designs and approvals – was completed in only 24 hours.

The four service counters are in operation temporarily until the Municipal Building is operational once again. Addresses and details regarding which services are available at each location are available at

 Led by Corporate Properties & Buildings, this initiative involved dozens of people from Information Technology, Development & Building Approvals, Finance and Corporate Security.   Recreation, Community & Neighbourhood Services and City Clerk’s Office worked to provide the space in their buildings for the temporary counters.

 “Getting the computers to run the specialized systems was a challenge,” commented Stegmeier. “IT had to build new computers because we couldn’t get into the municipal building to get computers and other equipment we needed. People were out buying cables and we had to buy printers. There were dozens of people working on this.”

During one installation, there wasn’t enough cabling in the wall for all 15 computers and a technician had to be brought in. At another location, six computers initially failed and Information Technology staff worked until 3 a.m. to get the service counter up and running for 8 a.m.

“I was just so thankful that they were committed to making this happen,” said Stegmeier.  “Many of these folks had been working long shifts already, but no one said “I’m going home, I need to sleep.”

 “This was really a team effort and a huge success!” beamed Stegmeier.