Archives – November, 2012

Celebrate Holiday Tails at the WNC Nature Center

From the WNC Nature Center. This is always a fun time to come out and see the critters:

The Western North Carolina Nature Center celebrates winter with its popular “Holiday Tails” event on Saturday December 1st from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. The event will feature games, crafts, special animal presentations and a special visit from Santa.

All activities are included with paid admission to the WNC Nature Center. Admission is $6 for adults ($8 for non-Asheville residents), $5 for seniors ($7 for non-Asheville residents), $4 for youth ages 3-15 and children age 2 and under are free.

For more information including directions and special programs visit the WNC Nature Center website at www.wncnaturecenter.com

Holiday Tails City of Asheville
The WNC Nature Center is a service of the City of Asheville that features over 220 animals native to the Southern Appalachians including red wolves, otters, birds of prey, black bears, and reptiles. The Nature Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Leave a Comment November 27, 2012

Texting tech helps APD get community crime tips

APD Text-a-TipInformation from the community remains one of the most important tools officers use when cracking cases. Community policing, in the form of observations and tips, often offers the best set of eyes and ears a department has. That’s why the Asheville Police Department has many ways to make it easy and confidential to relay information to them.

Text-a-Tip is the latest in a selection of opportunities for the community to report criminal activity and interact with the Asheville Police Department. The software, which enables tips through smart phones, already rivals the APD’s other tip lines in terms of volume. Since Text-a-Tip launched in July, the department has received 58 tips over the system, says APD Sgt. Michael Lamb, and the information has resulted in several arrests and drug seizures.

“It’s a way to give us information in almost real time and at the same time remain completely anonymous.” Lamb says. “We need the eyes and ears out in the community. They know about things before we ever could.”

The system allows people to text information to the APD through a third party provider, meaning the source of the tip remains anonymous. By texting and responding, the tipster and the officer can communicate back and forth.

“This is technology that is comfortable and easy to use, especially for young people who are used to texting,” Lamb says.

To use Tex-a-Tip, text “APDTIP” plus your message to 274637 (CRIMES) on your cell phone or mobile device (Note: standard rates may apply). A third party routes the message to an APD Criminal Investigations Supervisor who assigns it to the on-duty patrol commander. “We’re all set up for it,” Lamb says. “It goes straight to our smart phones.”

Officers never see the phone number or identity of the person relaying information, and the tipster can end the conversation by texting “STOP.”

Text-a-Tip is especially helpful when used alongside the mapping technology found at crimereports.com that lets a viewer track calls for service around town and in their neighborhood. They can click on an icon and a window displays the type of crime under investigation. If the person has any information, he or she can report specifically about the incident through Text-a-Tip or on a personal computer through the WebTips link.

Click here to find out more about Text-a-Tip and other community policing resources.

Click here to see important messages from the Asheville Police Department.

Anyone with information about a crime can contact the Asheville Police Department at (828) 252-1110 or Asheville-Buncombe Crime Stoppers at (828) 255-5050.

1 Comment November 26, 2012

Putting city data to work at the Hackathon

Twenty-three data sets, twenty people and three hours. That’s the raw material for the kind of innovation that comes out of civic hackathons like the one held last month at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville as part of Open Data Day. The day-long conference on the benefits and uses of accessible government data culminated with three groups poring over open City of Asheville data and finding creative ways to put the information to use.

Open Data Day Asheville

The winning team from the 2012 Hackathon pores over open City of Asheville databases.


“There was probably more excitement about the hackathon than anything else” says GIS analyst Scott Barnwell. Barnwell and other members of the City’s Information Technology team arranged the data sets using information that was largely already available to the public but that was enhanced by being consolidated into a City of Asheville Open Data catalog.

Some 23 sets include databases of City-owned property, business license locations and information sets culled from the GIS-based mapAsheville tool.

“The city has a lot of information out there and we keep adding more as we think of ways to apply tools like mapAsheville,” Barnwell says. “The trick is and will continue to be how to best get it into the hands of the people who can benefit from it.”

In recent years, the City of Asheville has upgraded its data managing systems, allowing the IT Services Department to compile data and make it available online in places like mapAsheville, but it is how the information can be utilized that makes a hackathon so interesting.

A hackathon is an opportunity to apply raw data to serve a purpose, be it a civic benefit or financial opportunity. Businesses rely on government data every day. So do groups like neighborhood or preservation organizations. Data represents opportunity and that aspect wasn’t lost on the ODD 2012 attendees.

Three groups tackled the hackathon challenge to come up with some sort of application or revelation using the open data they had at hand, and their efforts went in unexpected and interesting directions. (Click here to see more about how each hackathon team used open data at the 2012 Open Data Day blog.

“First of all, anyone can hack,” says GIS analyst Dave Michelson. “You don’t need to know how to write code, you just need to have ideas. We only had three programmers in the room. And it was really cool to see what the groups came up with.”

The winning group, as voted by the other hackathon participants, created a mapping tool that relates public art to bus stops and considered how this could be used to boost bus ridership.

“A hackathon is like an incubator for ideas,” Michelson says. “It’s a new way to engage the community and create a startup mentality,” Michelson says. The goal, he says, is to enable the community and government to be more innovative.

Michelson points to a community initiative by the Code for America Brigade that is underway to build a volunteer base of creative and interested people willing to carry on the civic hacking mission. As that mission expands, he expects the City will get even more requests for the kinds of data that open even further collaboration between the municipal organization and the population it serves.

Leave a Comment November 13, 2012

LED Streetlights Coming to a Street Near You

From the City of Asheville Office of Sustainability:

Beginning Monday, Nov. 12, the city will move into the third and final phase of the streetlight upgrade program in which traditional bulbs will be upgraded to LED fixtures. When complete in June 2013 all roads in city limits except Department of Transportation roads will be upgraded to LED streetlights. Upgrades will take place Monday through Thursday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. with no expectations of traffic disruption. Installations will begin at the base of city limits in south Asheville this fall, moving to east Asheville this winter and concluding in north Asheville next spring.

Over the last two years the City has upgraded 3,400 street lights to the energy efficiency LED technology and will complete the city wide program in June 2013 with a total of 7,400 fixtures. Once completed, all three phases are expected to save $450,000 annually and 1,294 tons of avoided carbon which is equal to the emissions from burning 7 rail cars of coal.

The first and second phases of this program have already resulted in $165,000 of energy savings. When this program began, the municipal budget for streetlights was $1.7M annually. In order to make the investment in LED streetlights the city is keeping this budget flat and using the energy savings to pay for the investment in this technology. The energy savings is so substantial that in addition to all streetlights being upgraded, the majority of the sustainability program activities are being funded through this source.

The City of Asheville is the first in the nation to implement this innovative financial model, called the Green Capital Improvement Program, where all the energy savings pay for the energy efficiency investment. These lighting upgrades build further upon the successful lighting ordinance passed in 2008, which ensures all municipal streetlights adhere to “Dark Sky” standards.

For more information about these upgrades please visit the frequently asked questions page at www.ashevillenc.gov/green or email mullman@ashevillenc.gov.

Click here for more background on the City of Asheville’s LED streetlight upgrades.

1 Comment November 5, 2012


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