Filed under: City Departments
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.
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.
November 18, 2014
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.
November 3, 2014
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.
October 30, 2014
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.”
The 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.
Information 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.
October 29, 2014
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.
On 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.
October 21, 2014
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.
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.
October 17, 2014
Leaf 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.
October 15, 2014
“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.
“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.
October 8, 2014
The Asheville Fire Department is reminding everyone that October is Fire Prevention Month and that smoke alarms save lives!
From the AFD:Working smoke alarms can make a life-saving difference in a fire. That’s the message behind this year’s Fire Prevention campaign, “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!”
Along with firefighters and safety advocates nationwide, the Asheville Fire Department is joining forces with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) during Fire Prevention Month, which is October, to remind local residents about the importance of having working smoke alarms in the home and testing them monthly.
According to the latest NFPA research, working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire in half. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
“In a fire, seconds count,” said Kelley Klope, PIO. “Roughly half of home fire deaths result from fires reported at night between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Home smoke alarms can alert people to a fire before it spreads, giving everyone enough time to get out.”
This year’s Fire Prevention campaign includes the following smoke alarm messages:
• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
• Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. This way, when one sounds, they all do.
• Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
• Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they don’t respond properly.
• Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of the smoke alarm and understands what to do when they hear it.
The Asheville Fire Department will be hosting many activities during Fire Prevention Week/Month to promote “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives!” The following is a list of just some of dates/times/locations that AFD will be educating at local schools.
Oct. 1 Isaac Dickson 8:30-10:30
Oct. 2 Estes Elementary 8:30-12:00
Oct. 6 Jones Elementary 8:30-12:00
Oct. 7 Oakley Elementary 8:30-10:30
Oct. 8 Francine Delaney 8:30-10:00
Oct. 9 Haw Creek 8:30-10:30
Oct. 13 Asheville Catholic 8:30-10:30
Oct. 14 Bell Elementary 8:30-10:30
Oct 16 VIP at AHS 10am & 2pm
Oct. 20 Hall Fletcher 8:15-10:15
Oct. 21 Claxton Elementary 10:00-12:00
Oct. 22 Sandhill Venable TBA
Oct. 23 Vance Elementary 9:00-11:00
To find out more about Fire Prevention Week programs and activities, please contact the Kelley Klope, PIO for the Asheville Fire Department at (828)251-4011 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about smoke alarms and “Working Smoke Alarms Saves Lives”, visit NFPA’s Web site at www.firepreventionweek.org.
September 29, 2014
The Asheville Fire Department’s newest vehicle is a top-of-the-line piece of public safety equipment. Its features include LED lights that use a smaller generator and leave more room for equipment, a wireless internet hotspot that enhances communication at a command post, a night-vision camera, airbag technology that protects firefighters and mobile hydraulic tools like the jaws of life that allow for greater range. It was also built nimble enough to navigate city streets, but with the climbing capability to handle the steep terrain in our area.
But high-tech capabilities do not trump tradition, and on Tuesday, Asheville Firefighters honored the long-standing tradition by pushing Squad 1 into downtown’s Gus Werhan Station 1.
The tradition goes back to the days of horse-drawn fire engines. Horses couldn’t back engine in, so firefighters had to push the vehicles back into the bay after responding to fires. Click below to see video of the event:
September 24, 2014