After a back-and-forth discussion between Mahwah township council members and the mayor at a meeting Thursday night about the ‘Mahwah Delivers’ App, the council remained divided on whether or not the App should continue through 2014. But, they did agree the service should continue until they make a final decision on it.
At the meeting, Mayor Bill Laforet gave an update on the App, which he rolled out to the community at Mahwah Day in September. Since then, Laforet said 769 residents have downloaded the App, which allows users to submit requests or concerns about issues in town like potholes and hazardous conditions, as well as non-emergency tips to the Mahwah Police Department. Requests are then routed to the appropriate township department, and residents receive answers to their requests through the App.
“This has grown to become a very valuable tool,” Laforet said.
"Issues are being taken care of in a timely fashion. Residents really like it."
Of the 769 downloads, 94 users have registered with accounts on the App, and 62 have submitted requests or concerns through it, he said. Council members had differing opinions on the statistics.
“I am not totally impressed with the number of requests,” Councilman Steve Sbarra said. He also questioned whether or not residents are “tech savvy enough” to download and use the App.
Councilman Harry Williams disagreed, saying he felt the numbers were a positive indication of the App’s potential.
“I think this is pretty impressive,” he said.
“This came out at Mahwah Day, and [has not been marketed] since…If we all decide to support this and take it to the next level, get it out there and show it to the people…I see the potential for this to grow.”
Council President John Roth said he supported the use of more technology in the township, but asked to see a trajectory of anticipated downloads. At this point, “it sure as hell isn’t cost effective,” he said, but noted that he’d be interested to see its growth potential.
Last year, Laforet agreed to an about $3,000 contract for six months of service from PublicStuff, the company that operates the App. If the council decides to renew the service, it would cost about $6,000 for an entire year of service, township officials said.
Since its introduction, the App has been a contentious issue amongst council members because Laforet purchased it without their consent. Thursday night, Councilman Rob Hermansen questioned why Laforet agreed to allow PublicStuff to extend the service for free until a decision is made on the App, without first consulting the council. He also questioned who paid for Facebook ads promoting the App, and who approved the payments.
Laforet said that PublicStuff paid for the ads, and that he approved that.
“Is this a dictatorship?” he asked Laforet during the discussion.
“I see seven other people sitting up here. You do not make every decision in this town.”
After a lengthy debate, the council decided to agree to PublicStuff’s temporary extension of the App. Laforet said the company has said it will allow the service to continue for free until the council makes a final decision on whether or not to keep it, which they say
will happen during budget hearings over the next few months.
No matter the final vote on the App, Laforet said the town will not get a bill for the service that has been continued since the original contract lapsed on Dec. 31.
The five council members at the meeting Thursday agreed unanimously to the temporary extension in a straw poll. The township attorney is expected to draw up a resolution reflecting the extension for the next meeting.
Have you used the Mahwah Delivers App? If so, tell us your thoughts on it in the comments section below. Think the council should vote to keep it for good?