City discusses texting alerts
By BRETT CIHON
Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer
May 24, 2012 · Updated 10:00 AM
The City of Port Orchard may soon text your cellphone.
On May 9, Port Orchard’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee discussed a deal in which the city would use iZigg, a cellphone texting service that helps organizations text messages, to people who’ve signed up.
“People can check their phones and see a message from the city,” said iZigg sales representative Bruce Deford. “It’s a positive way for the city to be proactive.”
Similar to email group list, iZigg allows the city to send information, such as road closures, waterline work and upcoming council meetings to cellphone users through a texting program. A basic iConnect plan would cost the city about $1,200 annually.
There are no contracts, and the city could opt out of the service at anytime, Deford said.
Councilmember Jerry Childs, the chair of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, said the committee may take up the texting service at a full council work study session next month.
Childs started off lukewarm on the texting idea, but Deford peaked his interest in his sales pitch by contrasting statistics, such as a claim that 90 percent of city emails sent to the public are not read compared to 83 percent of all text messages being read quickly.
Childs said these numbers made him think that texting could be the most effective way to distribute city information.
“When I started to think about my email inbox I thought he had a point,” Childs said.
Because no contract was necessary to use iZigg, Childs said the city could try out the service for a month or two and see how it performs. A texting network could alert citizens with important information constituents need to see, he said.
“It could become kind of an information network in times of emergency,” Childs said.
Deford said Port Orchard would become the first city in the area to use their texting program. Cities in the midwest, such as East Peoria, Illinois have used the service with great success, he said.
Under a standard plan, an organization can have three different keywords, or notification systems that can be attached to a text. East Peoria keeps three separate Keywords. One for city news, one for police news, and another for fire news.
Deford said local businesses such as Tommy C’s Sports Bar & Grill and the Suquamish Clearwater Casino use iZigg for event marketing. But cities, schools and other institutions are starting to find texting as the best way to distribute information.
“It’s the wave of the future,” he said.
The city could have a tough time building a list of text recipients, Childs said. The city would have to announce the service in the Mayor’s newsletter and on the city’s website, and then wait for citizens to sign up. Whether the city could bring in enough users to the free service was a big question.
“We would have to inform people abut the network,” he said. “The biggest reality is we would have to get our money’s worth.”
Brandy Rinearson, Port Orchard’s Clerk, said the city would also have to be careful not to overwhelm people with a bevy of useless texts. But since the service was free for citizens and available for recipients to cancel at anytime, she thought it was a neat idea. She said the city did not have a current email list for constituents, and a texting service could be an easy way to distribute city information.
Rinearson encouraged individuals interested in receiving city text messages to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer Brett Cihon at email@example.com or 360-876-4414.