Online guides, QR codes build upon city’s tech outreach

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 30, 2015


Residents want information quickly, and Sterling Heights has created tools to make it possible, according to a recent city presentation.

At a Dec. 15 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Development Director Denice Gerstenberg said city officials have taken fresh steps to improve customer service and build strong relationships with the taxpaying customer base. And Sterling Heights is using technology to achieve this goal, she said.

Gerstenberg explained that the City Development Department handles building, code enforcement, planning, engineering and facilities maintenance. She said the city has focused this year on implementing ways to make city guidelines on building matters more understandable to the general public.

One method is creating new online how-to guides on everything from installing concrete and fences to garages, sheds, pools and decks. Gerstenberg said the trade inspectors first worked on an initial draft, and then the directions were edited into common language. For instance, a guide to pools and hot tubs is in a concise checklist format, she explained.

Since the department began implementing its strategy last spring, the city has received a lot of positive responses from both residents and inspectors, Gerstenberg said.

“These specific instructions that we’ve given, we’ve found that people are downloading these from the Internet,” she said. “They’re all available on our new website. They’re following the directions. They’re not calling the department or coming in with as many questions. … So we’ve had a really good, positive response.”

In addition, adding quick response codes, or QR codes, to building permit paperwork will make it easier for residents to schedule online inspections or access general permit information, Gerstenberg said. She described the QR code as a sort of barcode, and a smartphone equipped with a proper app can scan the QR code and directly bring up a website.

“It’s a big thing in the technology world right now,” she said. “These QR codes are now printed on all of your building permits, so the customer can take their phone, scan in the permit. … It’s right at the customer’s fingertips, and it’s easily accessible.”

The presentation on the use of QR codes on city paperwork follows a year of announcements concerning technology upgrades for the city, including the revamping of its website and the expansion of its social media presence online.

At the meeting, Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool called the introduction of the QR codes a “really exciting new technology that we’re debuting” and credited city officials for making it possible.

“You can see that we’re making great use of technology, and it’s thanks in large part to strong leadership from all of our directors, including Denice,” the city manager said.

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