Archives – September, 2012
October is Fire Prevention Month, but the Asheville Fire Department already has an important message about the difference a sprinkler system can make in reducing fire damage.
From the AFD FireLine page:
On September 24, 2012 the Asheville Fire Department was dispatched to 9091 Verde Vista Cr. in response to a reported structure fire. Crews arrived on scene to find heavy smoke coming from unit 5117 and also reported that the sprinkler system had been activated. Evacuation of nearby units was conducted but due to the activated sprinkler system the fire was confined to unit 5117 only and to the washing machine itself. AFD crews did not have to extinguish the fire because the quick activation of the sprinkler system was able to suppress the fire completely. Statistics show that the installation of both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system reduces the risk of death in a home fire by 82%.
Click here for more fire safety tips from the Asheville Fire Department.
September 26, 2012
City of Asheville Engineering Services crews will begin construction on a new crosswalk at North Lexington Avenue on Monday, Sept. 24. The mid-block crosswalk, to be located in the vicinity of 65 N. Lexington, is a much-needed street element that has been requested by surrounding business owners and pedestrians to make crossing easier and safer on that portion of the street.
Crews will modify the existing “bulb out” on the East side of the road to include an ADA compliant handicap ramp. On the West side of the road, the crew will construct a new bulb out that will include a 7′ wide ADA compliant handicap ramp and two “landscape corners”. The ramps will be constructed of concrete and will tie into the existing brick sidewalk surface. Sections of granite curbing removed on the West side of the street will be reincorporated into the project.
Construction will begin Monday morning and is estimated to take about three weeks to complete.
September 21, 2012
Dozens of requests for data come through the City of Asheville every month – private businesses, media outlets and other members of our community all benefit from the availability of public records. So how do government organizations make those records easier to access and how can technology help? That’s the point behind Open Data Day, a conference designed to bring community visionaries and technology experts together in the same room to discuss the opportunities, challenges and implications of using technology to make government information easier to get your hands on.
“In response to feedback from last year’s Cloud Day, we reached out to the community to see what kind of interest there was in an open data day this year,” says Jonathan Feldman, the City of Asheville’s Information Technology Services Director. “It turned out that there was a great deal, from the entrepreneurship community to the technology community, and of course, from government and academia.”
In response to that demand, the City of Asheville is participating with ERC Broadband, BuildFax, VentureAsheville, Epsilon Technology Solutions, Meet The Geeks, and a growing list of partners to hold Open Data Day in Asheville.
Open Data Day will feature national keynote speakers from Code for America and Open Data Philly as well as break out workshops and cross-discipline collaboration to examine the opportunities technology and real-time data access provide.
Technology like email has already proven itself an asset to the convenience of conveying government information. Speeding up access to data has the potential to benefit news organizations requesting information, government staff who spend time retrieving it and entrepreneurs who could tap into a wealth of data they can use to build value in their community. Open Data Day aims to approach the possibilities from every angle available.
“When there is a problem that affects multiple groups of folks, getting together to plan and act is always a good idea,” Feldman says. “When you do, generally, people start to have good ideas and create relationships that they need to execute on those ideas. That’s where Open Data Day comes in. Civic engagement is especially high in Asheville, so we think this is a perfect venue for the discussion.”
Open Data Day coordinators are still looking for workshop proposals, panels or even “hackathons,” where multiple programmers combine their efforts to code new examples of useful applications onsite. Anyone interested in pitching an idea can sign up here.
Open Data Day will be held October 16, 2012 in the U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, NC. For information about attending, click here. Tickets will be available through Oct. 12. Early bird tickets available Sept. 30.
Follow Open Data Day on Facebook and Twitter.
For more information about Open Data Day, contact Jonathan Feldman at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 21, 2012
For some, the ceremony held September 11 by the Asheville Fire Department was recognition of achievement and the effort they have given to the department and
The annual ceremony recognizes new hires to the AFD as well as promotions, special achievements and life saving efforts over the year.
community. For others it was the beginning of a new career and life as a firefighter. But for each person at the ceremony, the day was a reminder and celebration of the dedication it takes to be part of the AFD.
“Thank you so much. We are proud of what you have achieved,” said Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy speaking to the firefighters and their friends and families gathered at the Sherrill Center on the UNC Asheville Campus. “You represent the best and the brightest.”
27 Asheville Firefighters were recognized for promotions or advancements at the Sept. 11 ceremony.
The Asheville Fire Department recognition program observed the advancement or promotion of 27 firefighters and the hiring of 26 new recruits. AFD Chief Scott Burnette said the department’s outreach efforts through programs like the department’s Explorer Post and In Real Life program not only brought in a large field of new applicants, but also allowed the department to increase the numbers of minority hires over the last year.
In the past year, 16 firefighters advanced to the role of Senior Firefighter, and four were advanced to Captain. Seven firefighters received promotions, including 14-year veteran Joy Ponder, who notably achieved the status of the AFD’s first female Battalion Chief.
Joy Ponder is the Asheville Fire Department's first female Battalion Chief.
Ponder was also the 2012 recipient of the YWCA’s Tribute to Women of Influence award, that organization’s recognition of women who are role models in the community. The 2011 recipient of the TWIN award was AFD firefighter and Public Information Officer Kelley Klope.
“That honorees have been women in the Asheville Fire Department for two years in a row, we think is pretty significant,” said Burnette.
The AFD award ceremony is held in tandem with its annual remembrance of the September 11 attacks and the firefighters who gave their lives to save others, as well as a time to honor those from the Asheville Fire Department who lost their lives in the line of duty.
“We honor the lives lost that day by continuing to improve and advance, never forgetting our mission to save lives and to minimize suffering,” Burnette said. “We are here today a stronger nation and a stronger fire service and we will always be grateful for those who gave their lives to save others.”
Below are the AFD firefighters who received promotions and advancements:
David House (Active Military Duty)
DEPUTY FIRE MARSHAL
New hires to the AFD are:
September 20, 2012
The final touches are underway on two sections of sidewalk along Patton Avenue that provide safer walking routes for pedestrians along the busy corridor. The two linkages, one from Parkwood Road to Leicester Highway and another from Regent Park Boulevard to the Capt. Jeff Bowen Bridge (formerly the Smokey Park Bridge), total a combined 4,150 linear feet of new sidewalk but link together a much larger network of sidewalks that stretches from the Capt. Bowen Bridge to the Smokey Park Highway. The route gets a high rate of use by pedestrians for its connection to retail and grocery stores along Patton as well as its proximity to bus stops on the City of Asheville ART system.
“This one really rose to the top in our pedestrian master plan,” said City Transportation Planner Barb Mee. “And it provides walking access to multiple stores, the Westgate shopping center and along the interchange at Patton Avenue, I-26 and I-240 which was tricky for pedestrians to say the least.”
The design includes safety railings along shoulders where traffic is exiting and entering the interstates and involved a collaboration between the City of Asheville and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The Patton Avenue connections are just two examples of several sidewalk projects that are in some stage of development in the City of Asheville, including another recently completed section on North Louisiana Avenue, a section under construction on Lyman Street in the River Arts District, and a stretch along Tunnel Road in collaboration with the NCDOT that is underway and will eventually connect downtown to the ABCCM Veteran’s Quarters. A sidewalk project along Hendersonville Road is in the planning stages.
The City of Asheville pedestrian plan identifies 110 miles of needed pedestrian linkages that are prioritized using several factors including proximity to community destinations, safety concerns and feasibility of construction.
In the case of the two Patton Avenue connectors, those factors all added up to a green light. “This one really jumped off the charts,” said Greg Shuler, the city’s streets and engineering manager. “We are fortunate that City Council has put a high priority on this kind of infrastructure,” Shuler said.
The Patton Avenue linkages were paid for with City of Asheville capital improvement project funds, but sidewalk projects throughout the city are funded through a combination of sources, including Community Development Block Grants and federal funding like Safe Routes to Schools which provides money for projects that make it easy and safe for students to walk to school. The North Louisiana sidewalk project that connects neighboring students with Emma Elementary School combined Safe Routes to Schools funding with federal CDBG funds and a Job Access/Reverse Commute grant through the Federal Transit Administration.
Click here to see more about the City of Asheville’s Pedestrian Thoroughfare Plan.
September 18, 2012
Every year, local service providers focusing on homelessness issues get together to meet, share notes and set up a one-stop destination for people seeking services associated with homelessness. Project Connect, held this year on Sept. 6 at First Baptist Church in Downtown Asheville, is a chance for people experiencing homelessness to access service providers and learn more about the community network of agencies, nonprofits and social organizations that focus on the challenges of homelessness.
200 people attended Project Connect over the course of the day, seeking out information about housing and job training as well as more immediate needs like free medical screenings and hair cuts provided by volunteers.
“Our smallest errands become harder when someone becomes homeless,” says Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative Coordinator Heather Dillashaw. “During Project Connect, people can find many different services and a lot of information under one roof.”
But Project Connect is also an important time for service providers to share information with one another and hear from people experiencing homelessness about which services still need to be met. In all, 30 different service providers attended.
“In order to provide as comprehensive a service as possible, we have to connect and communicate as a network to find overlaps in coverage and places where needs aren’t being met, and to see how we can all help each other in our mission to address homelessness,” Dillashaw said. “Project Connect is a great opportunity to fine tune our efforts.”
Project Connect was held in tandem with the Day of Caring, organized by United Way’s Hands On Asheville-Buncombe, a day when organizations and companies throughout the area observe by taking part in volunteer projects that make a difference in the community. 28 City of Asheville employees and 21 Mission Hospital Employees volunteered at last week’s Project Connect as part of their annual volunteer service projects.
Click here for more information about the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative and to find out how to connect with service providers.
September 12, 2012
A gathering of bicyclists, joggers, walkers and parents with strollers celebrated the opening of a new section of the Reed Creek Greenway on Saturday, Sept. 8. The event marked the latest addition to the City of Asheville’s growing greenway network.
The Reed Creek greenway runs parallel to Broadway Street, crossing Cauble Street, and the addition is a vital link in a continuing expansion that will give bordering neighborhoods greenway access to downtown Asheville.
Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Council member Chris Pelly, Greenway Commission member Sue Barlow and Olympic medalist Lauren Tamayo officially opened the connector.
“Thank you to the City and to everyone involved,” Tamayo said. “This is something Asheville can get behind and embrace.”
Following the ribbon cutting, bicyclists including Tamayo and members of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club rode the new stretch of greenway.
The newest addition to the Reed Creek Greenway includes a 10-foot-wide paved path, a bridge crossing over Reed Creek, and an emergency call box.
Click here for more information about the City of Asheville’s Greenways.
September 11, 2012
Corey White consults a clipboard and a copy of a decades old map as he walks a line along a sloping hillside at Riverside Cemetery. He stops and checks surrounding markers, then points to a weathered stone in the grass. “That’s the marker,” he says, holding up the corresponding plot diagram that shows the name of who is buried beneath the faded stone.
In the City of Asheville’s IT Services Department, Scott Barnwell pulls up an aerial view of the cemetery on his computer monitor that shows hundreds of similar plots, color coded and labeled by section, all gathered by White’s footwork. Zooming in on an individual plot, Barnwell calls up the name, number and burial date associated with the grave. Using Esri cloud computing software, the City of Asheville’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department and IT Services are partnering to compile an entire online inventory of the Riverside gravesites that can be accessed via computer or even on a smart phone.
Riverside Cemetery is best known to many as the resting place of author and Asheville native Thomas Wolfe as well as other prominent local historical figures like Zebulon Vance, but another 14 to 15 thousand people have been buried on the 87 acre site in
the past century and a half. The City of Asheville is currently piecing together an intricate puzzle of archival material to pinpoint and identify every grave and build an interactive GIS map of Riverside Cemetery.
Riverside Cemetery is operated by the City of Asheville’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department, and this project sprung up in 2011as a sound business practice for the facility: inventory the occupied gravesites and identify all unused areas that can be marketed and sold as new burial plots. With that information in hand, the City of Asheville can develop a business plan for the cemetery that will allow it to have enough funding for maintenance and upkeep in perpetuity.
But the project is also one of good stewardship, accurately confirming the location of all of Riverside Cemetery’s residents and making that information easily available for people searching for their relatives or historic individuals. The location and mapping part of the project, White says, is about 65 percent complete. The entire database should be nearly finished by the end of the year.
Already, users can access the tool (see below for links) to search for specific names, or wander the grounds and pinpoint plots at their feet, and can see the name, burial date, inscription and a photo of the marker. The two departments collaborated previously on a walking tour of the grounds, and similar creative ways to display this new data may develop as well, Barnwell says.
But first, White must confirm the location of the graves and his search begins in the cemetery’s vault, which is overseen alongside the rest of the facility, by manager Paul Becker. Becker knows the complex art of retrieving information from the vault, having spent 15 years mastering the files. A combination of maps, interment records and other fragments of documentation helps Becker locate a grave. Many of the records were reprinted in the mid-1980s but documents stretch back to the 1800s and were in varying degrees of disrepair. Some records had old cloth sewn into them. Some paper was so old, it would fall apart in your hands, so even the copied documents have holes in the information they provide. But every piece is important.
“You don’t ever throw anything away at a cemetery,” Becker says.
Becker says the demand is there for the information being plugged into the GIS maps. Riverside Cemetery sold in the neighborhood of 30 plots last year, and Becker gets requests at least once a week that have him diving back into the vault. With all the information at the touch of a screen, visualizing the future and the past of Riverside Cemetery becomes easier.
Access the City of Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery digital tool here or download the smartphone app here.
September 6, 2012
Don’t have change? A new pilot program by the City of Asheville’s Parking Service Division implements new technology for a sample of on-street parking meters that will allow customers to pay by cell phone or smart phone.
Beginning Thursday, September 6, 104 meters in one section of downtown will be designated by stickers explaining how to set up an account and pay for up to two hours of parking by phone using a credit or debit card. The system gives customers another option when parking in downtown Asheville.
“We are excited to offer this service to our residents and visitors as a way to make parking in downtown Asheville more accessible and user-friendly,” said Ken Putnam, the City’s Transportation Director. “The Parking Division continually looks for ways to improve the customer’s experience.”
Meters that are part of the pay-by-phone pilot program will still accept coins and will have a time limit of two hours.
The test phase of the technology will run for three months, from September to November, and will be active on 104 parking meters along Hiawassee St., Haywood St., Battery Park and Wall St. Meters that are part of the pilot program will display yellow stickers with instructions showing how to set up an account and pay for parking. Once an account is established, customers can simply pay meters on their phone by entering a zone and meter number. Customers can also request a text message reminding them that a meter is about to expire.
Customers using the pay-by-phone parking service will be billed an additional 25-cent service fee per transaction. The fee goes to the provider of the pay-by-phone service and a message will remind customers of the fee before they activate a phone transaction.
The parking pilot program will provide Asheville City staff with the information it needs to make a recommendation about whether or not to establish pay-by-phone services throughout downtown.
For more information about the City of Asheville parking Services, click here.
September 4, 2012