ComNet Helps Neighborhoods Track Problems
Tuesday, Apr 15, 2008

By Jennifer Turk
Durham Reporter
NBC17.com

DURHAM, N.C.-Durham residents can now become a second set of eyes for the city by monitoring what needs to be done to improve streets, vacant buildings and other eye sores around their community.

A new technology called computerized neighborhood environment tracking, ComNet, is a handheld device that allows neighborhoods to track the problems they feel are most crucial in their neighborhood.

“With this survey area we get to see a lot more that you might see just by driving by,” said Julie Brenman, director of strategic planning. “We can record the information and put it in a city wide database so the city can work with the community to prioritize the issues.”

ComNet was developed by the Center on Municipal Government Performance at the Fund for the City of New York. The start up cost for this program was approximately $20,000, which included training and materials, handheld computers and annual service agreement. The annual cost will be $5,000 for the service agreement plus any additional handheld computers. Each individual computer costs $800 per unit.

Resident James Chavis says the cost is worth it. Chavis has been a volunteer with the city of Durham since he was a young child.

“It shows what we really need for our improvements for our different communities,” Chavis said. “It shows different communities and what they need to improve it.”

Neighbors can sign up to walk their streets and record the problems they see. According to the city, volunteers must attend a two hour surveyor training class to learn how to use the handheld computers.

If you would like more information on how you could have a ComNet conducted in your neighborhood, contact Jay Reinstein at Jay.Reinstein@durhamnc.gov.