Montevallo approves Text My Gov messaging system contract

Published 1:39 pm Monday, September 20, 2021

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MONTEVALLO – The city is moving forward with implementing smart texting technology services as an additional method of communication with its residents.

After tabling the matter in August, the Montevallo City Council on Sept. 13 approved the purchase of Text My Gov services, which will allow the city to inform citizens of city meetings and issues, and citizens to message City Hall with concerns and matters of public importance.

The two-year agreement will cost the city $3,800 annually, and City Clerk and Treasurer Steve Gilbert said the city could pay for the service with American Rescue Act funds pending the council’s approval.

Text My Gov will allow the city to send alerts and other notifications directly to residents who sign up to participate, and the system’s smart texting technology will identify keywords in citizens’ messages to the city and provide timely responses to their inquiries.

“It’s another method by which people can communicate with us,” Gilbert said during the City Council’s Aug. 23 meeting. “It’s also an automated way to do some of that. It’s also a way for us to send out alerts and information.

“For example, once we get our storm shelter up, we can go through this system and set up a response that automatically sends out a message to anyone that has subscribed to the system that says, ‘Storm shelters are open at these locations currently,’” he continued. “That, to me, is a point of value also, being able to push out information.”

The city will receive a media kit and widget for its website from Text My Gov to let citizens know how they may utilize the system.

Councilmember Lelia Mitchell asked if 50,000 text messages per year would be sufficient, and Gilbert said he thought it was a “fair amount,” noting the system has safeguards in place to combat excessive messaging.

“That (number) was based on what their average usage has been with the system,” he said. “We can purchase additional messaging should it be required. It’s not going to shut the system down if it goes over that count.”

Gilbert said the system will provide another avenue of communication between city leaders and residents.

“It’s not intended to replace anything that we’re currently doing,” Gilbert said. “I think it’s an additional tool to work with. The majority of people out there have a cell phone and have accessibility to text messaging, so I think it would cover us on those situations where people don’t use social media to get information.”

Gilbert said residents who would like to use Text My Gov will need to sign up once online access opens.

“I think the buy-in is what’s going to be critical in the very beginning,” he added. “I think we’re going to have to be very diligent to get people aware of what the system is capable of doing.”

In other business, the council approved a site development plan for a commercial building and a commercial rezoning request after holding public hearings for each matter.

First, the council approved a request from Scott Lovelady for a site development plan for Montevallo Commons Lot 16, a general commercial building.

The 0.89-acre property is zoned B-2, General Business District and is located in the Montevallo Commons Commercial Subdivision, south of Alabama 25 across from Industrial Park Road at 104 Montevallo Commons Parkway.

Shelby County Principal Planner Kristine Goddard said the Planning and Zoning Board approved the request on the condition that the applicant get his landscape plan reviewed and certified by a landscape architect as required for Montevallo’s zoning regulations.

“The Arbor and Beautification Board did review the plans and determined that they meet the criteria of the landscape materials and installation as shown,” Goddard said. “They just did not have it prepared by a landscape architect or stamped as such per the requirement of the ordinance.”

The council approved the request with the condition the applicant complete the necessary landscape architect review and certification.

The council also approved a request from Joan Vick regarding a change in the zone district boundaries from A-R, Agricultural-Residential District and M-1, Light Industrial District to B-2, General Business District for nearly 9.3 acres of property to market for sale under a single commercial zoning district.

The property is located at 3560 Alabama 25.

Goddard said the Planning and Zoning Board reviewed the request and took into account that the property was shown as potential industrial with regard to the city’s newly adopted comprehensive plan.

They felt it was a better transition as a B-2 property, as it is the last property as you’re going south on (Alabama) 25 into Wilton,” she said, adding the property owner said she currently has no tenants looking to purchase the property and no real plan for a layout. “She wanted to be flexible in her marketing approach with it as a commercial property.”