The City of Laval, Que. is giving its residents a sizeable gift for its 40th birthday this year: a 311 phone information system.

The system will enable the city’s 365,000 residents to call a single number for any city service. Negotiations with Bell Canada are under way and the service is expected

to be available next year.

Last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the use of 311 dialing for municipal services. Several municipalities argued a 311 service would help reduce the number of non-emergency calls, such as complaints about road conditions, water main breaks and sewer problems, to 911 operators.

Laval’s 311 project is part of the city’s two-pronged approach to overhauling its IT infrastructure. The first stage of the project is on the front end, a citizen interaction centre, due this spring. On the back end is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software built on Oracle EBusiness 11i to eliminate silos and consolidate data in various departmental systems.

Eight full-time CGI Group employees are working on the project, along with 20 city employees from four departments.

Paul Martel, the city’s IT director, said in an e-mail interview the municipality is undertaking the work because it had too many systems to maintain with too few employees. The number of systems has grown from 32 in 1990 to 170 in 2004. Maintenance was expensive, he said, and it was extremely difficult to make the systems in each of the city’s department connect.

The city currently has about 50 Sun Solaris servers, which are being replaced with to HP-Linux machines. Other changes that have taken place over the past few years include the implementation of fibre optic cables throughout the city’s territory, the extension of its VPN links, migration from standard PCs to a centralized Citrix thin-client environment, and the implementation of a storage area network.

Martel says the city wants to eliminate duplication of the work being done by the various departments and to shift the current workloads around — and to reduce the time it takes to finish jobs.

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