BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham’s 311 Call Center operates on a first come first served basis. But, not all requests are equal.

Willie Powell has lived on 4th Avenue West for more than 30 years. However, in the last 5 years he says he has experienced flooding in his basement from a sewer behind his home.

Powell has reported the problem to Birmingham’s call center for non-emergency issues over the years and wonders why has it taken so long for the problem to fixed?

We spoke with the City of Birmingham’s Director of Process Improvement, Alicia Lumpkin, who said “our message is simple–what we want is to make sure is that residents understand and know the expectations and sometimes issues are not as simple as they seem.”

Lumpkin said Birmingham’s 311 Customer Service Center received 4,400 calls in the last 30 days. She said, “a lot of our requests depending on what they are. It can be something as simple as I can pick up your garbage today or it could be something as complex as this is going to cost us $400,000 to complete the issue. So, it’s a wide range and a wide span of requests that come to our doors.”

Lumpkin said it’s important for people who call 311 to leave their contact information when they call.

“There are sometimes that we get residents that call in and they don’t want to leave any contact information and unfortunately that hurts us because we can’t follow up to see that the concern that they wanted to see addressed is addressed.” Lumpkin said, “We will not release information to anybody outside of our organization. It will be kept with us but we want to make sure we are effectively addressing your issues.”

Powell, who lives on 4th Avenue West, said years ago the city did work on a a ditch on Border Street between 4th Avenue West and 4th Court West. Powell said it “was supposed to solve the problem, [but] the problem for me has gotten worse.”

He had severe flooding in his backyard and basement on August 10.

“My big problem right now with the is come unstop this (sewer) to help me from getting flooded out,” Powell said. “The ditch is not even full and my house is flooded.”

The City of Birmingham shared a statement with CBS 42 in response:

“We have looked into Mr. Powell’s 311 request. His issue, however, is an example of how a resident’s concern may seem like a simple one but is actually very complex. Mr. Powell’s home is in a low flat-lying area that experiences flooding. The city is working to address the storm sewer system downstream from his property, which requires funding. Our Division of Capital Projects has added this to their list of upcoming projects and staff have been in regular contact with Mr. Powell. Mr. Powell is asking for his drain pipe to be cleaned to prevent future flooding. As mentioned earlier, his flooding is due to a more systemic issue. Based on the evaluation of the Department of Public Works, cleaning the drain pipe would not stop the flooding, but they have agreed to send a team over to clean out the pipe/drain in the meantime. We will continue to update Mr. Powell as this project progresses and we look forward to its resolution. “

City of Birmingham

CBS 42 reported a follow up story Wednesday at 10 p.m., showing a picture Powell shared of Public Works crews cleaning the sewer in the alley behind his house.