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Jerry Jones, city manager of Bridge City, shows a sign advertising LUKE, an app designed to let citizens connect quickly with and send photos to the city regarding non-emergency problems such as potholes, streetlights, etc.

By Dave Rogers

For The Record

Luke? Luke what? Luke Skywalker?

What are these “Luke” signs popping up all around Bridge City trying to tell us?

Well, like Luke Skywalker when he popped up on movie screens 40 years ago in the original “Star Wars,” this Luke is pretty space-aged.

Who back in the late 1970s could have imagined that today pretty much all of us would be carrying around hand-sized computers capable of connecting us instantly to people around the world – and beyond?

And those computers can also be used to phone your city hall when a road sign is knocked down, a nasty pothole takes a bite out of your car, or a streetlight is out.

LUKE is actually an acronym for Let Us Know Everything and it’s a 3-1-1 mobile tool that is web-based for smart phones. It will go on line in Bridge City “within a week or two,” city manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday.

The city voted last November to pay $5,000 up front and $300 per month for the service, which is provided by Houston-based LJA Engineering, Inc. The contract states the city can opt out with 30 days notice.

Emergency calls should still be made to 9-1-1. LUKE is for non-emergency issues.

“If people have a problem, they can actually take a picture and just send it in. It’ll come to us on the internet, and we’ll send it to the proper department head,” Jones said.

“Then, after our guys fix the problem, they’ll take a picture of what they’ve done and send it back.

“This way, we’ll be able to see areas of town we’re not in every day. Hopefully, it’ll work for both sides.”

Part of the service the city opted for was to have the people behind LUKE sort the citizens’ problems to make sure they go to the right jurisdiction.

“If it’s a problem on Texas Avenue [also known as Texas Highway 87], it goes to the highway department,” Jones said. “If it’s outside of city limits, the information goes to the county.”

This sorting allows the City of Bridge City to react quicker.

“It enables us to find problems quicker,” Jones said. “Maybe we can respond a little quicker.”

More information about the system can be found at www.getluke311.com . Smart phone users may download the app, though Bridge City is not online yet.

George Culver, vice president of LUKE Applications, told council members that the program will not only let residents know that their messages to LUKE were received, but allow them to track the progress.

Residents without smart phones will not be able to use LUKE.

“You can still call city hall with problems,” Jones said. “We still have the same work order system we’ve had.

“People don’t have to use this [LUKE] system. It’s just an additional tool. But if you do have a cell phone, you can take a photo and we’ll respond back the same way.”

The $5,000 payment by the city included training for city staff, which is not quite complete, Jones said.

“We’ve still got to have more training in the office. But we’re getting close,” Jones said. “Hopefully, within a week, we’ll have everything in and be going.”