By Tim McNicholas

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GARY, Ind. (CBS) — The city’s 311 service is causing confusion for some residents because dialing the number doesn’t connect you to anything.

Davi Welch-McNish tried to call last week after he found a pile of trash dumped in his alley.

“The number is not a working number,” Welch-McNish said. “If it’s a possibility to have a 311 working number, then I would welcome it.”

CBS 2 called 311 from Gary after hearing McNish’s story.

The message?

“Welcome to Verizon Wireless. We’re unable to complete your call.”

When CBS 2 searched Google for “Gary 311” and the first result, a link from the city, said “Website Coming Soon.”

“We just started a new administration last month,” Welch-McNish said. “I’m sure that they’re working on it and I hope it’ll be even better than it was before.”

Gary’s budget includes a $56 million general fund.

It’s unclear how much Gary invests in its 311 services because the 2020 budget is not posted online. The most recent budget posted is from 2018.

John Allen is a Gary business owner who says he tried dialing 311 from both his cell phone and land line but couldn’t get through.

“I’m optimistic about it getting corrected and I hope that they do something about it,” Allen said.

Residents can report problems via the city’s 311 app.

Mayor Jerome Prince’s spokesperson, Michael Gonzalez, said the city is still getting service requests.

“Dialing 311 is not the actual number. That’s the name of the app and the service that we provide,” Gonzalez said. “If they want to dial the number–if they want reach us by landline–they should dial 219-881-1311.”

“A lot of older people don’t even have apps,” Welch-McNish said. “They don’t even know what an app is. So having a working 311 number would help.”

Welch-McNish never got through to the city about the trash last week. He said someone–maybe the people who put it there–cleaned up some of the trash last week.

“They came out and cleaned up after themselves,” he said.

This week, there is still a punching bag, a broken desk and a tire just on the vacant property behind his house.

If you want to report it, you can’t dial 311.

CBS 2 asked the city if there was ever a time when people in Gary could dial 311 and connect to the city. Gonzalez said he is looking into it and will get back to us.

He also said Mayor Prince will be taking a closer look at 311 services and any possible improvements at a meeting next week.

A tech consultant tells CBS 2 that it can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 for a city to set up a 311 number.

There are also costs associated with each call. The expert said, while its rare for a city with 311 services to not use the phone number ‘311,’ many cities are encouraging people to use mobile apps because it is more cost-effective.

Tim McNicholas