Miami-Dade County, Fla., launched its 311 Answer Center in 2005 to provide more than 2.5 million residents with quick, convenient access to local government services. In 2011, County Commissioner Lynda Bell inquired about also establishing a "one stop" center to provide services to residents in the South Dade community. County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez took the original request a step further by opening three 311 Services Centers, strategically located throughout the county, offering residents an in-person choice for accessing information and services.

Fiscal responsibility was key. Staff first located available space within existing county facilities that offered high foot traffic. "When identifying these locations, we understood the importance of finding sites that would provide maximum accessibility to our residents, while keeping costs low," says Henry Sorí, director of Community Information and Outreach. To further reduce expenses, each office was staffed with existing 311 personnel.

Through collaborative efforts with the Animal Services Department (ASD), Miami-Dade Transit and the Tax Collector's Office, the Service Centers provide information, referrals and select direct services to customers. In-person assistance is offered for the sale of baby stroller parking permits and dog tag licenses, the issuance of transit passes to seniors and veterans, and guidance in using online payment options.

While the primary function of the Service Centers is to serve walk-in customers, staff can remotely access the same telephony and applications used at 311 to perform functions as if working at the Answer Center. This maximizes efficiency and significantly lowers operating costs for the Service Centers.

During the first year of operation, the Service Centers assisted more than 43,000 customers, processed 8,000 applications for free senior citizens transit passes, sold 500 dog tags generating more than $17,000 in revenue on behalf of ASD, and completed 40,000 311-related assignments that were handled during business hours while there were no walk-in customers.

"We are very excited by the success of the Service Centers and look forward to expanding the variety of services offered in the years to come," Sorí says.