211 community service call directory proposed for Placer County

Locals seek to bring resource here via nonprofits, business
By: Richard Simms Journal Correspondent
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Placer County residents may soon have a new resource to access what their community has to offer. During a recent Board of Supervisors meeting a steering committee gave updates concerning their efforts to bring the 211 directory service to Placer County. The cost of the 211 service would be over $200,000 for the startup and then a further $200,000 annually, according to Craig George of the steering committee. George said the cost is needed to contract the Sacramento call center as well as to purchase the necessary software to integrate Placer with 211 directories across the nation. Since public funding for this type of initiative is virtually nonexistent, grants from businesses and nonprofits such as the United Way foundation would be the prime funding sources, according to George. The service could then be used to provide residents with critical information during a natural disaster even if the Sacramento area phone lines are down. The 211 dialing code was set aside in July of 2000 by the Federal Communications Commission to provide information on community resources and referral services. Since then this service has been implemented by counties in 47 states and as of October is available to 260 million Americans, according to “Placer County is the most populous California county that has not implemented a 211 service,” George said. If this service is initiated, Placer County residents could dial 211 and be greeted by a live operator 24 hours a day 7 days a week to provide information on a variety of community services and public offices. These include food banks, employment opportunities, children and senior services, housing information, volunteer opportunities, as well as financial assistance. One resident wondered if a phone number was needed. “With the Internet today there doesn’t seem to be much of a need. It seems a little redundant,” local resident Rick Bradley said. Another local was in support of the directory. “I don’t see anything wrong with it. I would be all for it as long as it doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything,” said Jerry Kopp, owner of Uptown Signs in Auburn. The committee is currently attempting to get letters of endorsement from various organizations to meet Public Utilities Commission requirements. Once the 15 required endorsements are obtained the committee will move onto securing funding for the project.