Archives – October, 2012
A big thanks to all of the City of Asheville employees who came out and donated at the Asheville Fire Department and Asheville Police Department Blood Drive on October 24. The drive, held in the City of Asheville Municipal Building that houses both the APD and AFD, saw donors from multiple departments contributing where it counts.
“In our business, we see first hand that blood is always a precious commodity when it comes to saving lives,” said AFD Chief Scott Burnette. “We’re glad to host an event that helps that cause.”
To find local blood donor opportunities or get information about how your organization can host a blood drive, go to www.redcrossblood.org.
“Donating blood is an opportunity for people to give the most important gift of all, the ‘Gift of Life,’” said Stacy Taylor, Donor Resources, American Red Cross, Carolinas Blood Services Region. “The Red Cross depends on the generosity of volunteer donors to meet the needs of patients in our area and across the country.”
October 26, 2012
In the coming months, the Asheville Redefines Transit (ART) service will continue to roll out service expansions and route adjustments, including one of the most-requested improvements: holiday bus service.
Beginning January 1, 2013, the ART system will operate partial service on six out of eight holidays previously without bus service: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. This, says Transportation Manager Mariate Echeverry, will provide needed transit options for riders who commute to jobs or run errands during holiday hours.
“Of the requests we get from our riders for service expansions, holiday service is at or near the top,” Echeverry said.
Asheville City Council approved the funding needed for holiday service in its 2012/2013 budget, and the step meets the City’s goals of excellent service and continuous improvement as well as Council’s strategic goal of supporting multimodal transportation. Approved funding allows eight hours of service for each of those holidays. Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day will be the only holidays that will not have transit service.
The City of Asheville Transit Division will hold a public meeting November 1 to gather input on the most effective hours to operate holiday transit as well as present information and gather feedback about other changes, including schedule improvements to route C and route N and making permanent the increased service on route E1 along Swannanoa River Road/VA Hospital.
In August, the division increased bus departures and arrivals on route E1 to twice an hour between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. in response to rider requests. This step, Echeverry says, will make that adjustment permanent. “But we do need to hold a public meeting prior to making that change,” she said.
The Nov. 1 meeting will be held at Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium, 67 Haywood St. from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and will have a drop-in format.
In addition to the meeting, the public can weigh in on changes to the ART system via an online poll found here. A link to the survey can also be found at ridetheart.com. Paper surveys are also being distributed and collected at the ART Station to gather as much feedback as possible.
The public may also submit comments, no later than November 1, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Mariate Echeverry, Transportation Planning Manager, City of Asheville, P.O. Box 7148, Asheville NC 28802.
October 22, 2012
Congratulations to the Asheville Police Department’s John Rikard, who was promoted from Detective to Sergeant in an Oct. 12 ceremony at Asheville City Hall. Sgt. Rikard has been with APD for nine years and has served in the roles of Patrol Officer, Community Resource Officer, and General Assignment and Major Case Detective.
The ceremony was held in Asheville City Council Chambers and was overseen by Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, who administered the oath, and by APD Chief William Anderson.
“It’s wonderful that we can all come together and celebrate this achievement,” Anderson said to a gathering of Sgt. Rikard’s family, friends and colleagues.
The APD promoted three other officers in an August 3 ceremony.
October 15, 2012
Want to cut out one more envelope from your bill basket? Sign up for emailed billing by the City of Asheville Customer Service Division and get your combined services statement sent directly to your inbox.
Since the beginning of September, Customer Services staff have been stuffing notices into combined services statements, which include billing for water, sanitation, recycling and stormwater utility, that inform customers of the ability to sign up for email billing and opt out of a paper statement.
“People have been requesting this for awhile. There’s a lot of interest,” says Customer Services Superintendent Florie Presnell. “We’ve been excited to see the response.”
Since the division was upgraded to the city’s Munis data managing system in 2011, the e-billing option became a possibility, and already several hundred people have opted for email statements since the start of September.
The switch to the Munis system came out of the Business Technology Improvement Project, approved by Asheville City Council in 2009.
Email billing represents a real cost savings to the city, Presnell says. The Customer Service Division sends out roughly 300,000 statements a year to 56,000 water customers. Moving the entire operation to email would save the city thousands in postage alone, not to mention greatly reducing paper usage.
“It is the environmentally friendly thing to do,” Presnell continues. “And customers with email billing will get their bill on the same day it is processed.”
Want to sign up for e-billing? Look for the form in the latest combined utility bill and return it to the enclosed address. Or email email@example.com.
Click here for information about paying your combined service statement online and eliminating paper from billing.
October 8, 2012
This Saturday! From the WNC Nature Center:
The 36th Annual Hey Day Fall Festival will be held at the Western North Carolina Nature Center on Saturday, October 6th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The event features animal encounters, craft demonstrations, face-painting and live entertainment. Food and beverage vendors will be onsite and other activities will include pumpkin painting, arts and crafts, and many local exhibitors. “Hey Day is our biggest event of the year,” notes Chris Gentile, Director of the WNC Nature Center.
The Friends of the Nature Center will offer opportunities to become a member, Adopt An Animal, purchase raffle tickets, and other great ways to support the Nature Center and its mission of connecting people with the animals and plants of the Southern Appalachians.
Admission to the WNC Nature Center is $8 for adults ($6 for Asheville residents) and $4 for ages 3-15. The Nature Center is located at 75 Gashes Creek Road in Asheville. Hey Day is produced by the City of Asheville in collaboration with the Friends of the WNC Nature Center.
For additional information on Hey Day and the WNC Nature Center including directions, exhibits, and special programs, visit the website at www.wncnaturecenter.com or call 828-259-8080.
October 4, 2012
In case you haven’t heard, Open Data Day is October 16 (read more about that here), and the City of Asheville is a proud participant. Alongside keynote speakers from Code for America and Open Data Philly, the event will be the site of a Hackathon, a cross-discipline ad hoc on site effort to create useful tools that could assist in the Open Data Day theme of increased access to government data.
City of Asheville GIS Analyst Dave Michelson describes the concept behind the hackathon and what it could offer:
What exactly is a hackathon?
The hackathon is an intensive and highly focused group, in this case a group of citizens, who are usually techies. The group has a very specific goal of rapidly “hacking” together a technological solution to a given demand. In our case, the hackathon responds to a very specific civic issue: transparency and open municipal data. Despite the mainstream, sometimes negative perception of the word “hacking,” a hackathon it is NOT destructive nor is it a malicious attack on a computer system. Instead, it is a problem-solving effort by programmers.
Describe what it is like to be at the table during a hackathon.
The hackathon is usually festive and fun while at the same time just focused on getting the coding done. It resembles a caffeine-infused all-nighter type off feel.
What does a hackathon offer us in the way of opportunities? What can we learn that is new?
Because the hackathon is for citizens and by citizens, it aims to directly answer questions citizens have about how city government works. So as an organization, we learn how we can better interact and engage with our citizens.
How will this hackathon be organized?
Very loosely and open, as it’s based on collaboration. Usually, participants split into one or more groups, come up with a problem they want to solve, then just do it. At the end, we will vote on who wins the right of best hack at Open Data Day.
The design sounds like part of a growing collaboration between the community and the city organization. What’s the take away from that kind of collaboration?
The hackathon relies on open data or some kind of access to data provided in an open way to create highly useful “apps” for citizens by citizens. The data starts with us and ends with you.
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.
Follow Open Data Day on Facebook and Twitter.
For more information about Open Data Day, contact Jonathan Feldman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 4, 2012