Earlier this month, the City of Asheville kicked off the new year by kicking paper pay stubs in favor of e-mailed payroll info. The move, which grew out of a Business Technology Improvement Project passed by Asheville City Council in 2009, reduces paper use by the city and increases accurate databasing and record keeping.
According to City of Asheville Human Resources Analyst Carol Nguyen, approximately 800 city employees who utilize city email addresses received digital pay info on the first payday of the year. That will mean 800 sheets of paper saved every two weeks, or 20,800 sheets over the course of the year .
“This is a cost reduction to the city, as well as an advancement of its goals for sustainability,” Nguyen said.
Currently, employees receive payroll info through City of Asheville email addresses, but an enhancement of the system will soon mean employees can see their info by accessing the database directly. That step will mean the inclusion of City of Asheville staff who do not operate with city email addresses such as seasonal temporary employees. Eventually, vacation requests and sick days will be logged as well, a move that project head Eric LaRue says will further strengthen efficiency in the organization.
“We are greatly increasing our accountability and eliminating the opportunities for errors, which for a government can be as important as cost savings,” LaRue said.
Digitized pay stubs (most employees already receive their pay via direct deposit) is another step in the unveiling of the city’s emerging suite of business tech applications, including digital work orders and business license applications, that make up the cross-departmental Munis system. Information Technology Director Jonathan Feldman notes, “all of these moves increase the city’s ability to manage information and transactions without printing hard copies.”
The annual point in time count that tracks the demographics, causes and population of those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness in the Asheville and Buncombe County community takes place on Wednesday, January 26. The count, which is used to provide accurate data about the state of homelessness in the community, constitutes a partnership across multiple city and county departments, agencies and stakeholders.
This number reflects an estimate derived from the annual Point in Time Count. This year the count takes place on Wednesday, January 26th. Staff from homeless agencies, volunteers, and people who are experiencing homelessness will work together to count everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness on the night of January 26th.
In addition to shelters and other housing programs, the Buncombe County Department of Social Services, Buncombe County Jail, police from Asheville, Montreat, Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Woodfin, and Weaverville, the Mission Hospital, the Charles George VA Medical Center, United Way’s 2-1-1, and agencies that provide crisis services to people in our community will help with the count.
Data collected during the count includes demographic information, causes of homelessness, where people are sleeping, and information about chronic homelessness, veteran status, and other subpopulation data. The count will include individuals and families staying outside, in shelters, and in other housing programs for people experiencing homelessness.
A presentation at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College on Saturday Jan. 22 offered a glimpse at what could be the future of transportation in Asheville’s River Arts District, and attendees had the chance to give their input into how they envision changes in the corridor.
The presentation was the first in a series of public input opportunities and the latest step in the planning and design phase that has so far seen extensive informational and outreach sessions with community stakeholders, committees and project partners.
“We’ve had over 30 meetings and presentations since the kickoff of the planning process [in June 2010],” said Stephanie Pankiewicz, of LandDesign, the company contracted by lead consultants Wilbur Smith and Associates to conduct the input process. “We are trying to make sure we interact with a range of interests and community members.”
Asheville city staff and council members were invited to see a preview of the information on Jan. 21.
The River Arts District Transportation Project addresses a 2.2-mile section of the larger Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan adopted by Asheville City Council in 2004 and focuses on portions of Lyman Street, Riverside Drive and surrounding properties. A series of maps, photos and overlays at the presentation showed opportunities for alternative street alignment, greenways, bike and river access and on-street parking. See literature associated with the River Arts District Transportation Project here.
Over the course of the next year, there will be several more opportunities for members of the public to weigh in on their preferred design alternatives, followed by a public hearing in 2012.
City of Asheville Transportation Planner Dan Baechtold, who was on hand to answer questions at the presentation, notes that such input is critical to the larger planning process, one that is intended to expedite the implementation of the riverway plan as funding is identified.
“This study is one step in a long process, but it is an important step. Completing the required environmental study and preliminary design will put the city in a position to seek money for construction,” Baechtold said. “Many of the available funding sources require projects to be ‘shovel-ready.’ At the end of this study we will have made the critical engineering decisions to be ready for those funding opportunities.”
Click here for more information on the River Arts District Transportation Project.
Click here for information on the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan.
Public input for this session will continue to be collected until Feb. 23, 2011 and can be sent to SPankiewicz@landdesign.com.
44 volunteers showed up at the Stephens-Lee Community Center on Saturday, January 15, to give the center’s gymnasium a new coat of paint in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. day. The service project, organized by the City of Asheville’s Volunteer Program, saw participants from the community as well as the city’s Parks Maintenance division, cadets from the Asheville Police Department, students from Christ School and teens participating in the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA). It took the group only two hours to complete the job, reported the city’s Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford.
Stickford said Saturday’s event was the first in what she hopes will become an annual volunteer service effort celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We would like to identify opportunities every year for Martin Luther King Jr. day that will benefit the community,” Stickford said. The event, she continued, compliments the city’s participation in the Day of Caring held in September and coordinated by Hands on Asheville-Buncmobe, an organization that was also a driving force behind the MLK Jr. weekend event. “They have been instrumental in the community with regards to a day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. day,” Stickford said. A third volunteer project will be planned for the spring, she said.
The roster of volunteers for the Stephens-Lee project filled quickly, as participants invited friends and relatives to be part of the volunteer day. “A lot of the APD cadets brought extra volunteers,” she said.
Superintendent of Parks Kathleen Connor, who alongside Park Maintenance staff set up volunteers with paint, rollers and brushes, said the new coat of paint is an important step in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department’s priority of revamping of the center’s gym that will eventually include new lighting and floor resurfacing.
Click here to find volunteer opportunities in the City of Asheville.
Asheville Police Department Chief Bill Hogan and Asheville Fire Department Chief Scott Burnette thank the residents and visitors of Asheville for following the advice of public safety officials and staying safely off the roads during recent winter storms. Emergency calls for service were dramatically lower during the latest snow events than they have been in past storms. Click the image below to watch the video.
It’s not just roads that need to be cleared of snow and ice in the wake of recent winter storms. Sidewalks also have to be shoveled as well, and City of Asheville crews have been hard at work getting pedestrian routes open, an effort aided by two new tractors brought in to help the effort.
An ordinance adopted by Asheville City Council in October makes it the responsibility of property owners to clear sidewalks adjacent to their properties, and the city has plenty of its own sidewalks to take care of.
Work resumed on Saturday clearing high-traffic stretches and parking decks in the Downtown Business District, with crews taking on the snow with shovels. But even with their numbers ranging from 12 to 20, it was soon obvious that shovels would not be enough, despite operating in 12-hour shifts. And persistent snow meant revisiting the same expanses over again.
“There’s so many miles of sidewalk, it’s just too much to handle with shovels,” says Chris Daniels of the city’s Streets Division. “We wore out a few shovels.”
With the tractors, the crews are able to clear sidewalks much quicker and using less staff hours. “We can do it in one pass,” Daniels says.
Besides increasing the city’s ability to respond to snow events, the tractors will prove useful for a variety of warmer-weather duties, says Public Works Director Cathy Ball.
With the snow breaking, the crews have now moved into areas of the city outside downtown that also require attention, aided by GIS data that shows specific stretches of sidewalk that fall under the City of Asheville’s responsibility.
It’s hard to believe, says Christen McNamara, but for the first few years the City of Asheville’s Outdoor Recreation program offered a youth snowboard and skiing series, there were spots left unfilled. It’s even harder to imagine now, since this year’s program boasts a full roster of 45 kids that filled up within one day of registration.
“We filled up quickly this year,” says McNamara, the City’s Outdoor Recreation Program Coordinator. Offered by the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department, outdoor recreation programs are a way to introduce children and teens to the variety of recreation opportunities the region offers. From rafting and hiking in the summer to skiing in winter, McNamara says the programs encourage kids to get out and get active. “It’s like a beginner course to all these activities,” she says. “We want kids to get outside and move around.”
Over five Fridays this winter, the kids participating in the ski and snowboard program will take a bus bound for the snow covered slopes in Cataloochee, have the opportunity to take lessons, and ski from 5:30 until 10 p.m. The group’s first trip heads up the mountain this Friday, and based on the reactions she saw last winter, McNamara anticipates a good reception from the boys and girls taking part.
“You’ve never seen kids smile this much,” she says. Although the ski and snowboard program is full for this year, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department offers a variety of opportunities for the upcoming spring and summer, including several camps for different age groups. There are also outdoor programs offered during Asheville City School teacher work days and for home-school students.
Click here for a full listing of Outdoor Recreation Programs and prices.
Already this winter, multiple snowstorms have hit Asheville and Western North Carolina, and the City’s Public Works Department has been hard at work to keep roads passable and clear, while the Asheville Police and Fire Departments continue to keep people safe.
The City of Asheville is urging the public to remain safe and cautious throughout inclement winter weather events, and has issued tips for safety at home and on the road.
During and immediately after weather events, drivers are strongly encouraged limit travel until crews have cleared roads. When travel is essential during winter weather, warm coats, clothes, hats, gloves and boots should be worn. Other items to take when traveling include a mobile phone, extra food, water, a flashlight and blankets.
The American Red Cross also advises keeping a full gas tank to prevent the fuel line from freezing, and informing people when you are traveling. If you do get stuck, the Red Cross advises staying with your car, as a vehicle is easier to spot than a person.
The Asheville Fire Department has also issued information about home heating during cold weather, noting that heat sources are the second leading cause of home fires.
Says the AFD:
“Along with the colder temperatures that accompany winter, there is an elevated risk of dying from fire during this season with December, January and February generally being the deadliest months for fires (NFPA). Citizens should be aware of the risks associated with using alternative heating sources such as wood burning stoves, space heaters and fireplaces. Improper maintenance is a major cause of fire for these sources.”
Here are safety tips for using alternative heating sources:
• Maintain a 3 foot space around heating sources.
• Only use heating equipment that has a UL label.
• Always use the proper fuel for fuel burning equipment and refuel units outdoors. Be sure area is well vented to avoid CO buildup.
• Be sure heaters are on a sturdy surface and clear from traffic, kids and pets.
• Turn heaters off when leaving the house or going to bed.
• Carbon monoxide poisoning is another danger to consider. The Asheville Fire Department recommends that each home not only has a working smoke alarm, but a carbon monoxide detector as well.
For information on how to be safe with alternate heating sources visit www.nfpa.org.
For information on emergency preparedness, including loss of heat, visit www.ready.gov. For information on heating assistance residents should call 2-1-1, the local community service information line. Click here for information from the City of Asheville Water Resources Department about how to avoid frozen water pipes pipes.
Due to the winter weather forecast for the Asheville area over the next 24 hours and in the interest of safety, the pedestrian bridge community update meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Jan. 8 from 1-3 p.m. has been postponed. Information on the make-up date will be released once a new date is confirmed.
The National Weather Service has forecast accumulations of 2-5 inches of snowfall for the Asheville area this evening and early Saturday morning. These conditions have the potential to make both driving and the scheduled Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) walk hazardous. The CPTED walk is an integral part of the meeting as it allows participants the opportunity to share safety concerns with law enforcement and other city staff while walking along the bridge and areas adjacent to the bridge.
Visit www.ashevillenc.gov/progress to view the status of various tasks associated with the reopening of the bridge.
Original blog post below:
From a City of Asheville press release:
The city of Asheville will hold a community information meeting and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) walk Saturday, Jan. 8, from 1-3 p.m. The meeting will start at the Hillcrest Community Center at 100 Atkinson St. An information session will kick-off the meeting followed by a community walk where participants will be invited to walk the bridge and areas adjacent to the bridge, sharing safety concerns along the way.
City staff will include representatives from the transportation department, police department, public works department and administrative services department. APD Captain Daryl Fisher shared, “we’ve already increased our presence in the areas adjacent to the bridge but the key to keeping the old problems from taking root again will be strong relationships between the community and law enforcement officers. This walk will be an important step in the process.”