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If it sounds questionable, check it out on city's Web site

By DAVID TEWES
Oct. 24, 2010 at 5:24 a.m.

O.C. Garza

RUMOR CENTRALTo access "Rumor Central," go to victoriatx.org and look for it on the right side of the page.

To submit a question about a rumor, e-mail it to pio@victoriatx.org or call 361-485-3110.

Did you know the post office on Victoria's Sam Houston Drive will be closed for months while the street is under reconstruction?

Or how about utility company plans to cut off power to the city when a hurricane threatens in order to force people to evacuate? Then there's the traffic median the city will install on Main Street at Conti Lane.

These are all stories that were circulated by the public in recent months. The problem is, they aren't true.

That's why the city has added a service to its website called "Rumor Central" to answer questions or to set the record straight about issues related to city government.

"You don't know where that information comes from," said O.C. Garza, the city's public information officer. "Somebody says it and I guess they think it's correct."

He said with texting, Facebook and other forms of instant messaging available, those rumors spread faster than ever. "Rumor Central" and the city's Facebook page allow officials to deal with the false information quickly, Garza said.

The idea for "Rumor Central" grew out of a conversation Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Polasek had about how to deal with rumors. Garza said he researched it on the Internet and found another city that has a similar service and used it as a template for Victoria.

How well is it working?

"I can't tell yet," Council Member Tom Halepaska said. "It's difficult to ascertain if anybody is using it."

The website has potential if more people know about it and begin using it, Halepaska said. He's passed along some of the rumors he's heard so they could be dispelled.

One of those was the rumor about the post office being closed.

"That rumor grew legs and it was not even a very intelligent rumor," he said. "Everybody was upset about something that is not even happening."

Garza said oddly enough, the first topic he tackled on the "Rumor Central" page was true. It was a question about the city closing the Victoria Public Library early on Wednesdays because of budget cuts.

He said in some cases, it's easy to see how people can be confused. He said there's an overlap sometimes of services provided by such agencies as the city, the Texas Department of Transportation and the school district.

"Unless you're really familiar with those entities, it can be confusing out there," he said.

The city welcomes inquiries from residents about things they don't think sound quite right or if they hear something that's difficult to believe, Garza said.

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