Residents can access plethora of Chesco data on electronic devices
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Wondering how to find to the county’s archives? Curious about the cleanliness of that county restaurant you’ve wanted to try? Interested in a job as a county library assistant or a corrections officer? Eager to learn the ropes of county jury duty? There’s an app for that.
The new Chester County Government mobile app – called ChescoCONNECT – made its debut at the Chester County Commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, March 18. It is available in the Apple iStore and Google Play Store by searching for “Chesco.”
During a presentation by county employees Rebecca Brain and Frank Cipriano, the audience learned that mobile traffic on the county’s web site –www.chesco.org – has been on the upswing, increasing by nearly 30 percent in the second half of 2013. The county saw an even bigger surge in February when the seemingly interminable storms caused widespread, extended power outages. Brain said that February showed a 211 percent increase in mobile users over the previous month.
The app features 16 categories that represent a combination of some of the most frequently visited pages on the web site – which has seen 1.9 million visits since its 2012 launch – and overall general information of interest to Chester County citizens.
Brain and Cipriano offered a detailed breakdown of each of the features:
County News – a two-week listing of news information that has been posted on the “news center” of the county website.
Jobs – a list of all current Chester County job postings, with the option to select individual categories for future postings.
County Calendar – with a two-week window of upcoming events in areas relating to county government.
FAQs – a listing of many county departments with answers to the most frequently asked questions, such as what it means to register a will.
Parks – information on the many parks programs, youth summer camps and special events, as well as links to each county park, trail, information for renting a pavilion, fishing, camping etc.
Department Directory – an alphabetical listing of all Chester County departments, with provisions to provide directions and contact information.
Search – function as per the website.
Social Media – this functionality breaks down into the various forms of social media where some county departments currently have a presence – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest;
County YouTube channel is also highlighted, where county departments can place training videos, public service videos, promotional videos etc.
Emergency Alerts – direct link to ReadyNotify PA, Southeast Pennsylvania region.
Health Clinics – Clinic calendar, information on adult and childhood immunizations, flu vaccine clinic, immunization fees etc. Some of this information is also translated into Spanish, per the web site.
Courts – a representation of the home page on chesco.org, with prompts for all court-related services and departments, the judicial calendar, legal calendar. etc.
Social Services – directly links to ReferWeb, the Human Services interactive directory…research and testing of ReferWeb’s own mobile application underway that could replace the full web pages.
Land Use Planning – representation of Chester County Planning Commission/Landscapes2 web pages with latest news, online resources like the Ride Guide, and a mobile-friendly menu for Landscapes2.
Restaurant Inspections – a function unique to Chester County that highlights one of the tasks of the Health Department. Search a restaurant, and find out the results of its latest health inspection, with a link to the Pennsylvania Food Safety System web site, where more detailed information is given on the inspection comments, and follow-up results; also contains an option to submit a complaint to the Health Department, and to read up on food protection advice.
Feedback – like the “contact us” section on chesco.org, ChescoCONNECT has a citizen feedback form, with the option to contact Chester County with concerns or questions. Compliments are also welcome.
Brain said that the app will be a work in progress and that other features can be added. For example, a Voter Services/Election Results option is in the works for May and November. She expressed thanks to the county’s web site administrators, who continuously keep their sites up-to- date and informational. She singled out
Sue Morris from the Health Department and Carolyn Oakley from the Planning Commission, who helped create some of the app’s interactive features, such as the restaurant inspections option.
“Tell your friends; tell your family,” urged Brain. “We’re really excited about it.”
The commissioners were equally enthusiastic. Commissioner Terence Farrell called Chester County “a real powerhouse” when it comes to social media, and Commissioners’ Vice-Chair Kathi Cozzone predicted “it would enhance our ability to communicate.”
Calling the innovation “Chester County C-Span at your fingertips,” Commissioners’ Chairman Ryan Costello did make one tongue-in-cheek observation. He questioned the fairness of inviting residents to file complaints about restaurants but only register “concerns” about the county.