Ten tech tools that connect you to city gov

Engaging with City government should be easy as 1-2-3, so the City of Asheville is always looking for ways that tech can help keep up the connection, make life easier and create community opportunity.computer

Here are 10 ways you can use tech to connect with your city government:

Pay-by-phone parking – Launched as a pilot program in 2012 and expanded to all city metered spaces the next year, Pay-By-Phone parking continues to provide convenient and change-free parking options on the streets of Asheville. Thousands of people use the service each month, 7,000 in October alone! To try it out, just follow the instructions on the parking meter!

NextBus – When’s the next bus coming to your stop? That question has gotten easier to answer since the city’s Transit Division launched the NextBus service over the summer. From your phone, just text “nextART” and the number on your bus stop to “41411” or go to www.nextbus.com/art on your smart phone to find out just when the next bus will be there. You can also call (828) 253-5691 x5 and enter the number on your bus stop to hear when your bus will arrive. Signs are at all Ride the ART stops; look for the green and blue circle. Or use your home computer if you already know your stop number and avoid a long wait at the stop!

Asheville App – The Asheville App works on the idea that, when it comes to spotting areas of the city that need attention, more eyes are better than few. You spot it, we fix it. From potholes to overgrown lots to damaged street signs, the app allows residents to report problems, upload pictures and track our progress on fixing the issue. Users can access the Asheville App from their computer or smartphone, and anyone can see what is being reported and how city personnel respond.

Online Development Portal – Time equals money, especially in the world of development, and this online tool is a real time saver. Pull construction related permits, make payments and track permit progress all online. For many basic permit types, no more in-person visits are needed. You can use the portal to schedule inspections 24 hours a day, receive confirmation of scheduling and see inspections results.

Online City Council meetings, both live and on-demand (psst…you can also search Council minutes here)

Graffiti Dashboard – When the City of Asheville began its 123 Graffiti Free removal assistance program, we knew it would be important for the public to track our progress. The dashboard shows the number of requests for cleanup assistance, how many have been completed, and how much of the money allocated by City Council has been spent. The dashboard’s design and ease of use earned it a place among the finalists for the North Carolina Technology Association’s 2014 Tech Awards.

Crime Mapper – Safety and quality of life means knowing what is going on in your neighborhood. The Crime Mapper on mapAsheville is updated with current calls for service from both the Asheville Police Department and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office and can zoom in on specific areas or sort crime info by neighborhood.

TreeMapper – Crowd-sourced tree info! Customized by the city’s Information Technology Services and the Tree Commission from open source software, the online map is designed to increase knowledge of trees in the area, highlight their benefits to the community and enhance the way we think about trees.

Online picnic shelter reservations and recreation program registration. – You don’t have to jump through hoops to sign up for one of Asheville Parks and Recreation’s many programs, or to reserve a picnic shelter for that birthday party or family reunion. Just sign up online!

Email utility bills and automatic bill payment – Green and easy! You don’t need to get a paper utility bill. By signing up, you can receive your bill by email and even choose to have an automatic draft when the bills come out.

Leave a Comment November 18, 2014

Neighborhood Profile: Grove Park/Sunset Mountain Neighborhood

This is the latest in a series of profiles highlighting the City of Asheville’s vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. The City of Asheville maintains a list of neighborhoods who have registered as official organizations. Each month we will invite one of these to tell you a little more about the place they call home. If you are not sure if your neighborhood is on our listing, please contact Neighborhood Coordinator Marsha Stickford at mstickford@ashevillenc.gov.

Name of group: Grove Park/Sunset Mountain Neighborhood Association
Formed when: 1973

What qualities make your neighborhood unique?

The Grove Park neighborhood is an excellent intact example of an early twentieth century planned suburban residential development, featuring a wide array of revival and eclectic domestic architecture in an appropriately landscaped setting. The Grove Park plan was the first in Asheville to abandon the typical grid street layout and to provide curvilinear streets, parks, and trees in a naturalistic setting.

Who are the people that make up your neighborhood?

The Grove Park Community is an active one with many of the residents often being seen on a walk, jog, or taking in the magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and the Grove Park Inn. The neighborhood is comprised of a significant number of doctors, lawyers and a wide range of professionals and business managers and owners. There are many families who reside in Grove Park with both young and college age children, empty nesters and retirees. All these factors contribute to being a vibrant and engaged neighborhood.

What is some of your neighborhood history?

Grove Park Inn builder Edwin Wiley Grove purchased the land surrounding the Grove Park Inn and sold it to developers and prominent individuals who created a housing stock of remarkable and delightful dwellings, while Charlotte Street became the setting for a number of important buildings, such as the Manor Inn.
Richard Sharp Smith, the supervising architect of the Biltmore Estate, influenced much of the neighborhood’s distinctive architectural style, “English Derived Craftsman”, which was inspired by the American and English Arts and Crafts Movement.

The streetcar lines in the turn of the last century and the accessibility and affordability of the automobile played an important role in the neighborhood’s platting as a “streetcar suburb” with garages, communal parking and larger lots for homes.

Today, three of the neighborhood’s areas, Grove Park, Proximity Park and Sunset Terrace are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The current residents share a passion to maintain and protect that legacy.

What role does your neighborhood play as part of Asheville’s community?

In 2013, the Grove Park Sunset Mountain Neighborhood Association (GPSMNA) announced restoration plans for three historic parks that are an integral part of the neighborhood (E. W. Grove Park, Sunset Parkway and the Griffing Blvd. Rose Gardens). To implement these plans, the GPSMNA entered into a multi-year partnership agreement with the City of Asheville. Revenues generated from the annual Tour of Homes and Gardens fund the initial costs of restoring the parks, and further fund raising options are under consideration to advance these efforts and restore the fountain that was part of the original E. W. Park design.


What are some of the things you look forward to in the future of your neighborhood?

Over the next year, the neighborhood association will make a concerted to expand membership level to fifty percent of its residents. In addition, the association is considering the possibility of extending its north and northeast boundaries to include the adjacent streets that are not currently organized or part of an existing recognized neighborhood association.

Under consideration is a launching of a capital campaign in 2015 to raise money to restore the historic fountain that was part of the original E. W. Grove Park until the early 1960s. A plan will be laid out to present to potential donors with the idea of showing donors where and how their money will be directed to a project that will further enhance the neighborhood and the beauty of the park. A feasibility study will be conducted in advance of the campaign where if the requisite amount of money is achieved the project will be undertaken.

Name something that you would like to see to make your neighborhood better?

The association, working closely with Asheville Police Department, has an active community watch program which sends out crime alerts and crime prevention techniques to deter crime and make our neighborhood safer.

We continue to focus on building the sense of community for the neighborhood. Upon identifying new residents, a welcome email letter is sent to the household providing background information on the neighborhood, its history, ongoing social activities and a calendar of events. In addition, new families are asked to join Nextdoor, a free and private social networking website for neighborhoods that can be a valuable tool to make our neighborhood safer and stronger.

Click here to see all of the neighborhoods profiled so far.

Leave a Comment November 5, 2014

Asheville Tree Map crowd-sources survey of city’s trees

Autumn has arrived in full, and in Asheville that means admiring the brightly colored fall foliage. There’s no shortage of trees for leaf-lookers to soak in autumn’s display. And as long as our attention is on trees, it is a great time to dive into the Asheville Tree Map, an online crowd-sourced tool that seeks to identify and map trees in city and provide easily searchable info on the city’s tree stock.

Customized by the city’s Information Technology Services and the Tree Commission from open source software, the online map is designed to increase knowledge of trees in the area, highlight their benefits to the community and enhance the way we think about trees.

“The tree map is an exciting way to get people engaged with tree issues, and the user-friendly concept seems to inspire people to check it out,” says Tree Commission chair Mike Kenton. “For anyone interested in tree ID, assessing the health of their tree or a tree they care about, and especially learning about the environmental and financial benefits of trees in the Asheville area, it’s an excellent tool.”

Asheville Tree Map allows any user to log the location, type and size of trees in their area, adding to data already supplied by others in the community. On the flip side, users can search the ever growing tree database, search for types of fruit or flowering trees and view the environmental impact of Asheville’s tree population. Compiled numbers show the most common trees and individual markers show each tree’s characteristics and facts like how much air pollution each tree removes.

“There are enough trees in the city limits, from street trees to those in our back yards, that it would be impossible for one person to log all of them,” says city GIS Analyst Dave Michelson. “This is an excellent example of where crowd sourcing can work for the benefit of everyone. The more people involved, the better the map.”

In all, the map currently identifies information on 6,319 trees in and around Asheville. Many of those have been logged by the city’s arborist Mark Foster. Additionally, the Tree Commission and a group of volunteers celebrated the soft launch of the technology in March with a tree mapping party at Riverside Cemetery, logging some 100 trees. The commission hopes that more such parties will evolve from Asheville’s community as people begin to explore the application.

“Asheville’s Open Tree Map offers unparalleled opportunities to visualize and manage our urban forest,” said Commission member Amy Kemp. “It is not only supportive of the City’s tree management activities but offers the ability to calculate the economic and environment impact of the city’s trees, whether on public or private property.”

Because the Asheville Tree Map was developed using already available open-source software, Michelson said that customizing an Asheville-specific application took less staff time and effort that starting one from scratch. Michelson said that IT Services is also keeping an eye out for mobile app options to expand the tree map onto hand-held devices.

To access the Asheville Tree Map, go to http://ashevilletreemap.org.

Leave a Comment November 3, 2014

Honoring Officer Bingaman one year later

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On October 29, Asheville Police officers, friends and family gathered outside the Buncombe County Courthouse for a candlelight memorial in honor of Officer Robert A. Bingaman who died one year earlier.

The service was held in the building’s courtyard, home to a stone memorializing emergency and police personnel who have died in the line of duty. APD Chief William Anderson and District Attorney Ron Moore both spoke to the gathering of approximately 100.

Bingaman died in 2013 when the car he was driving left the Capt. Jeff Bowen Bridge over the French Broad River. Bingaman, who served in the traffic division, was also a former Marine and a well-respected officer in the Asheville Police Department.

Leave a Comment October 30, 2014

Community shines light on transportation needs at Asheville In Motion event

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Interactive events and a great turnout made for a successful Asheville In Motion event on Saturday, October 25. The combination workshop, input session and panel discussion served as the launch for the formation of a city-wide mobility plan- a vision that consolidates all forms of travel and transport into one idea: we all need to get somewhere. Whether using sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle infrastructure, transit or streets, mobility is important for everyone.

“We were so pleased with the turnout and the enthusiasm of the participants,” said Mariate Echeverry, the city’s Transportation Planning Manager. “Everyone provided us with so much information on their wants and needs for mobility.”

MapThe event at the U.S. Cellular Center included a mapping exercise where participants pinpointed areas of concern, a streetscape design lab, a touch-screen survey and an idea wall to catch any great thoughts that were not being addressed.

“The success of the mobility plan depends on us getting as much information as possible from people in the community. They know where their needs lie,” Echeverry said.

The survey is online at ashevilleinmotion.metroquest.com for anyone who did not make it to the workshop.

IdeaWall. 29 15.15Information gleaned from the survey, the AIM event and upcoming visits to neighborhoods where transportation options are critical will be used by consultants to produce a report to inform the mobility plan.

“All of the moving parts in a holistic mobility plan are complex and intricate, and I think a lot of people left Saturday’s workshop informed of what it takes,” Echeverry said.

She also expressed thanks to all the volunteers that helped make the Asheville In Motion event a success.

Follow progress on the Asheville Mobility Plan at the city’s projects page.

participants

Leave a Comment October 29, 2014

Getting geared up for snow duty!

Fall means many things in Asheville : colorful views, leaf lookers, raking, and bagged leaf pickup. For the City of Asheville’s Public Works Department, it also means gearing up for snow events. That process kicks off in an annual October ritual as crews set up and test plows and salt spreaders.

snow1snow2snow3On Tuesday, Public Works personnel gathered behind the Public Works facility on South Charlotte Street to conduct a dry run of the equipment and to make sure it’s all functional so crews can hit the ground running at the first snowy forecast.

“Salt is very hard on equipment,” says Labor Crew Coordinator Tony Chapman. “We want to load up all the equipment and make sure it all works. And we want to make sure that when it’s time to load up, we’ll be ready to go.” It’s all part of providing the best service possible to the city’s residents and visitors.

Over the course of the day, 18 salt spreaders and some 26 plows are loaded onto Public Works trucks and examined for any problems. If any fixes are needed, the equipment goes to the Fleet Division for repairs.

The run-through also serves as a warm up for new crew members so they know exactly how to rig up the trucks when snow begins to fall. Getting the fleet ready to run is a process that can take four to six hours, Chapman says.

This year, the City of Asheville will also employ four new brine tanks used to pre-treat roads ahead of ice and snow. “That way, we can be ahead of the curve,” Chapman said.

For updates during snow events, follow the City of Asheville on Twitter or check in at www.ashevillenc.gov.

Leave a Comment October 21, 2014

Graffiti Dashboard finalist for NC Tech Award

The North Carolina Technology Association has announced that the City of Asheville’s 123 Graffiti Free Dashboard is among the finalists for the 2014 Tech Awards. The online tool is one of four finalists in the “Business Value” category under “Use of Technology,” and was selected from more than 500 nominations. It is also the only example of public sector tech among the finalists.

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IT GIS Analyst Cameron Carlyle with the 123 Graffiti  Free dashboard.

“This tool was designed to allow the public easy access to information, and to clearly illustrate the progress the 123 Graffiti Free program was making in the community,” said Business & Public Technology Manager Scott Barnwell. “Ease of use and transparency are the kinds of roles tech should be playing in the world.”

The dashboard was designed by Cameron Carlyle, the newest member of the Information Technology Services team, with the collaboration of the Graffiti Team, the Office of Planning and Multimodal Transportation and the Office of Communication and Public Engagement.

With a visit to 123GraffitiFree.com users can see the number of requests made for graffiti cleanup, the number of jobs completed, and the amount invested by the City of Asheville. They can also track individual projects and see a map showing locations of graffiti cleanup sites.

In July, the city launched the 123 Graffiti Free cleanup assistance program offering $500 in cleanup assistance to property owners. Property owners who have not participated in the program are eligible through September 30, 2015 (or until funding runs out) for a one-time $500 incentive to help clean up graffiti on their site.

The NC Tech award winners will be announced on November 6.

Leave a Comment October 17, 2014

Leaf season is here! We got your bags.

leavesLeaf season is upon us, and with that comes leaf collection. The City of Asheville Sanitation Department picks up leaves on an alternating schedule. Be sure to leave bags untied or use a reusable container marked “leaves”.

And if you need some reusable bags, you can pick them up from any City of Asheville fire station!

Here are the details:

The City of Asheville provides bagged leaf collection service on an alternating schedule and provides reusable leaf bags at City of Asheville fire stations on a first come – first served basis.

Bagged leaves are collected twice per month and should be placed to the curb by 7:00 a.m. on the Monday of the assigned collection week. For residents with a Monday and Tuesday trash collection, bagged leaves will be collected the first and third week of each month.  For residents with a Wednesday and Thursday trash collection, bagged leaves will be collected during the second and fourth week of each month.  Bagged leaves are collected year round.

Reusable leaf bags are now available at City of Asheville fire stations. To ensure collection, leaves should be placed in untied bags or a reusable container marked “leaves”. Residents can find curbside leaf collection weeks by visiting the city’s website.

Composting is another alternative for the loose leaves to be placed and is great for the soil in your garden.

For further information contact the City of Asheville at 251-1122 or visit www.ashevillenc.gov/sanitation.

 

Leave a Comment October 15, 2014

Oct. 25 Symposium draws community into mobility planning

Everyone needs to get around. That’s the simple idea behind Asheville In Motion, an evolving and exciting community-based initiative designed to increase access to all forms of transportation.

AIMOn October 25, the public is encouraged to participate in a symposium on Asheville’s transportation future. The event will feature a panel discussion, community exercises and opportunities to let the community know your biggest priorities for mobility in Asheville.

Input and information will become part of the city’s AIM mobility plan, which will meet Asheville’s growth and transportation needs by changing how we think about getting around.

“In the past, we have thought of sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure and streets as being in different silos,” says Transportation Manager Mariate Echeverry. “The best way to build a mobility network that gives attention to all forms of transportation is to examine them in a holistic, interconnected way.”

Better mobility means easier access to jobs, better neighborhood connectivity, a boost to business, and a safe, healthy, sustainable transportation system. Help Asheville take AIM at the future of mobility by attending this exciting event.

The Asheville In Motion symposium will take place Saturday, October 25 in the U.S. Cellular Center Banquet Hall from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Find more information about Asheville In Motion here.

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Leave a Comment October 9, 2014

Mayor’s State of the City focuses on innovative growth

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” That quote, originally spoken by Dolly Parton, was a cornerstone message from Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer at the City of Asheville 2014 State of the City address.

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“I really think that fits well for Asheville,” Manheimer told a crowd gathered at the U.S Cellular Center’s banquet hall on October 1. The Mayor took the opportunity to spotlight the city’s sense of pride in culture, creativity and sense of place, but also to talk about the challenges the city faces as it grows.

Fiscal imbalances between growth and expenditures outlined in a 2012 white paper remain, and reduced funding opportunities present their own challenges, but Asheville is fortunate to have local and regional partners that form a network for moving forward.

“Addressing the long-term viability of our region requires an innovative approach to economic development, government services, and a full engagement of the network,” she said.

One option is the creation of Metropolitan Service Districts, or Innovation Districts, currently being considered for three areas of town: The River Arts District, South Slope and Charlotte Street. Investing in these areas in the form of street and sidewalk improvements, stormwater infrastructure and off street parking facilities has the ability to create an environment for economic development, multimodal transportation improvements, affordable housing options and revitalization.

The Mayor stressed the great role of important partners like Buncombe County, the Asheville Housing Authority, A-B Tech, Mountain Housing Opportunities and Green opportunity for forwarding the vision of the community.

“Asheville is not a complacent city,” she said. “ We all want to see the city thrive.”

Are you curious and want to know more?  Watch the full video of the Mayor Manheimer’s State of the City address.

Leave a Comment October 8, 2014

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