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Screenshot of the Town of Smithtown's mobile app. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Smithtown is bringing its municipal services to the mobile generation.

Town officials launched an app Aug. 14 that allows residents to more easily access government functions such as town department websites and even emergency alerts from public safety. The app, designed by members of the Department of Public Safety, has been available for download since July through iPhone App Store for Apple devices or through Google Play Store on Android phones.

The more people that are on it the better. It has all this town information right at your fingertips.” 

— John Gonzalez

“We’re in a mobile generation, everyone is on the go,” said John Gonzalez, 43, a communications technician in the Department of Public Safety who developed the app. “They can go to Facebook and look it up there, but to have it all at your fingertips is where everybody’s going now.”

The Town of Smithtown Mobile App contains a menu of options that include a mobile-friendly version of the town’s website, links to all town departments in addition to the villages of Head of the Harbor, Village of the Branch and Nissequogue. Other tabs include social media posts from both the town itself and the Smithtown Animal Shelter relating to animal adoptions. It is designed to automatically update if any changes occur to town websites.

The app also contains links to an up-to-date weather forecast in Smithtown, by-the-minute information on power outages from PSEG Long Island’s website and announcements regarding road closures and delays through the Notices tab.

This is a tremendous step in the transparency process …”

— Ed Wehrheim

“This is a tremendous step in the transparency process and we’re so lucky to have the talent in house to develop an app that would normally be a very costly process to design,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “I am extremely grateful for our public safety communications department for taking the initiative and I am excited to hear from the residents after using this app.”

Gonzalez said the original idea had been kicked around the public safety office, but department Chief John Valentine finally set him to the task of sitting down to work on it in March. Gonzalez thought it would take five to six months to develop, but he finished the project in only three.

“I am so impressed with the finished product and I just hope the community feels the same way,” Valentine said.

It did not cost the town money to release the app on Google Play Store. Town spokesperson
Nicole Garguilo said that the town did not have to pay the usual fees for uploading an app because it was done as a government entity. Apple also made uploading an app free for government entities and nonprofits earlier this year.

I am so impressed with the finished product and I just hope the community feels the same way.”

— John Valentine

Gonzalez said he started coding at a young age and created his first program by age 9. After working at the video game company Acclaim Entertainment, which became defunct in 2004, he has kept up to date on current programming languages. He said that this type of app is great for residents who wish to stay updated while moving about the town.

“If there are any emergency announcements, it is another tool for residents to use,” he said. “The more people that are on it the better. It has all this town information right at your fingertips.”

Gonzalez said the public safety department has plans to continue updating the app. First on the list is allowing users to click on public safety notifications to bring them straight to the original location. Gonzalez expects to add more features in the future based on community feedback.

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File photo

Parents of Port Jefferson School District students rejoice.

With the implementation of a new smartphone application for parents in the district called Here Comes the Bus, those waiting to meet their kids when they’re dropped off by the school bus in the afternoon, or waiting to be picked up by the bus in the morning, can now do so within the comfort of their own homes, instead of on a cold street corner.

An image from the Apple version of the app.

The service was kicked off Nov. 1 for high school and middle school bus routes, with availability for parents of elementary students to come at a later date, according to the district. Users of the app can see the location of their child’s bus both before and after school, confirm that their child’s bus has arrived at the bus stop, at school or both, and also can sign up to receive a push notification or email message when the bus is near their stop, has been substituted, or when the district has important information to relay.

“You will have the information you need to send your children to the bus stop at just the right time, helping to protect them from inclement weather and other roadside dangers,” the district said in an email that went out to parents last week. “What’s more, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your children haven’t missed the bus.”

The GPS-tracking technology is currently only available for regular inbound and outbound buses at the beginning and end of the school day at the present time. The Here Comes the Bus app can be downloaded and used for free through Apple’s app store or on Google Play. Before use, the app requires that parents verify they are a parent of a student in the Port Jeff district by entering their student’s school identification number, and a five-digit code provided by the district to ensure buses can’t be tracked by anyone other than parents or the district.

“My kids ride a bus that is sometimes late as it drops the middle school and high school after school activities participants off first,” said Brenda Eimers Batter, a parent in the district, in a Facebook message. “It would be nice to be able to track when they are coming around the bend so I don’t have to stand outside in the rain or cold.”

“My kids walk to the corner for the bus. On rainy/frigid days three to five minutes waiting makes a big difference. Today the bus was later than usual but we could see where it was and knew to walk out later.”

— Laura Dunbar Zimmerman

Another parent who used the service Nov. 6 gave it rave reviews.

“Love it!!” Laura Dunbar Zimmerman said. “My kids walk to the corner for the bus. On rainy/frigid days three to five minutes waiting makes a big difference. Today the bus was later than usual but we could see where it was and knew to walk out later.”

Kathleen Brennan, president of the Port Jeff board of education, said during a phone interview the board was first made aware of the technology through the bus company.

“We thought it would be a benefit for parents and caregivers of students to be able to know when the bus is getting to the neighborhood, and if the bus is delayed they’d be aware of it also,” she said. “I think it’s a great safety feature and a great time saver.”

The application is available in English, Spanish and French. Those with questions about Here Comes the Bus for Port Jeff district can call 631-791-4261 or visit www.help.herecomesthebus.com/en/support/home.