City will phone you to announce snow emergencies

Following St. Paul's lead, the city of Minneapolis plans to dial up residents with a short, prerecorded message to alert them to snow emergencies.

The City Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee Nov. 23 approved negotiations with SwiftReach Networks, Inc., the same firm St. Paul chose. Minneapolis city staff estimated the system would cost at most $90,000 a year. The committee added a contract condition that the company could not sell any phone lists to telemarketers.

SwitchReach would create and manage the phone list, according to a memo from Mike Kennedy, Public Works director of winter operations. SwitchReach could develop its own phone list, or the city could work with Qwest to develop the call list. At best, the list would be 80 percent to 85 percent complete.

People would have the opportunity to opt on the list, or get on a do-not-call list, Kennedy said.

Minneapolis did not seek independent proposals. City staff reviewed the city of St. Paul's selection process and decided it was open, fair, rigorous and complete, and recommended the Council choose the same vendor.

The recorded message would be 30 seconds or less, and direct listeners where to look for additional information. The city could also use the phone system in the event of a public health emergency or significant emergency response.

The City Council will vote on the contract Friday, Dec. 10, Kennedy said. Public Works already is developing the contract in anticipation of a favorable Council vote. If it passes, the department hopes to have the system in place this month before the first snow emergency.