Filed under: Water Resources
The City of Asheville is proud to announce that two of the organization’s top leadership have been recognized by professional associations as top practitioners in their field.
Asheville Fire Department Chief Scott Burnette was awarded Career Fire Chief of the Year by the North Carolina Fire Chiefs Association at a Feb. 8 ceremony. This is the highest honor the NCFCA can bestow upon a member and speaks to the outstanding professionalism of Chief Burnette as well as the esteem with which he is held by his peers.
Water Resources Director Steve Shoaf was chosen by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) as vice-president of the international organization, which advocates and educates for clean water across the North American Continent. Shoaf has served as North Carolina Section Director since 2012 and is one of only five people chosen for the position by the organization’s board of directors. He was elected to the post on January 19.
“We are extremely proud of Scott and Steve for these well-earned positions,” said Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson. “This kind of recognition at the state and national level speaks not only to the quality of their professionalism and leadership, but also to the level of service the City of Asheville provides.”
Burnette joined the AFD in 1995 and was appointed Fire Chief in 2009. Under his leadership, the department has achieved Accredited Department Status, a status achieved by less than two percent of departments worldwide. Burnette oversees a department of 256 uniformed firefighters.
Shoaf Joined the City of Asheville in 2009 after serving as Utilities Director for the City of Burlington for 21 years. He has been an AWWA member since 1990 and has served three terms on the North Carolina Section of the AWWA board.
February 10, 2014
A professional association dedicated to quality water services has recognized a City of Asheville Water Distribution Operator with back to back awards for outstanding efforts and contributions to water services.
Timothy Burdine, an 11-year employee of the city’s Water Resources Department, received awards from the North Carolina American Water Works Association and the North Carolina Water Environment Association (NC AWWA-WEA) as well as the AWWA’s national body.
Tim Burdine at the awards ceremony with NC AWWA-WEA Chair Jackie Jarrell.
Burdine was awarded the NC AWWA-WEA’s Water Operator of the Year Award and the AWWA’s Operator’s Meritorious Service Award Plaque at conference in Concord, NC earlier this month.
Water Maintenance Superintendent Ivan Thomas says that actions such as Burdine’s handling of traffic, communications and remediation after a recent water break on Swannanoa River Road cut off a major route for ambulances to Mission Hospital led to his nomination for the awards.
Burdine, Thomas says, also has impacted the department by standardizing operational procedures and upgrading them to utilize new technology, reducing water loss throughout the system.
“We are proud of Tim and the great work he does for Water Services,” Thomas said. “And these awards highlight the kind of dedication he brings to his job every day.”
Burdine supervises three work crews that head up construction projects, valve assessment and leak detection and recently oversaw two water construction projects replacing 700 linear feet of galvanized water lines with new pipe. This summer, he began attending Southwestern Community College.
Click here for more on the City of Asheville’s Water Resource Department.
November 25, 2013
The City of Asheville water treatment plants at the North Fork and William DeBruhl reservoirs have been recognized for outstanding water quality by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The North Fork water reservoir
Both plants exceeded EPA regulatory standards and achieved health and safety goals set by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources for optimized performance. Under the Area-Wide Optimization Program, water service providers like the City of Asheville can voluntarily participate in providing increased water quality, maintaining a lower level of turbidity (particulates in water) than required by the EPA.
Click here to see letters from the EPA.
“This shows we have a very good process in place, as well as an excellent water source,” says North Fork plant supervisor Bill Hart.
Under EPA regulations, water turbidity testing should reveal a maximum of 0.3 NTU. To comply with the AWOP program, finished water turbidity can test at no more than 0.1 NTU 95 percent of the time.
The City of Asheville also exceeds testing requirements by analyzing its water every two hours instead of the required four hours.
“The City of Asheville is focused on providing water of excellent quality and superb customer service,” said Director of Water Resources Steve Shoaf. “It is nice to be recognized for the diligent work of our employees and the resulting service to our citizens.”
The City of Asheville operates three water treatment plants, supplying 20 million gallons per day to approximately 53,700 customers. The Water Resources Department is made up of 146 employees, including the city’s Customer Service Division.
For more information about the City of Asheville Water Resources Department, go to www.ashevillenc.gov.
More from the coablog:
You spot it, we fix it: City of Asheville launches Asheville App
City of Asheville offers email billing
Local middle school students tour City of Asheville Water Treatment Plant
August 23, 2013
Six city employees were recognized by Asheville City Council at its August 13 meeting. Council thanked for their hard work, drive for improvement, and, in one case, heroism.
Darlene Barnwell, who works in the city’s Customer Service Division, received a standing ovation for her heroic rescue of an 8-year-old boy who was being attacked by dogs in a neighbor’s yard. In May, Barnwell was drawn away from a cookout she was hosting to assist in a search for the boy. When she found him in a neighbor’s yard being attacked by the dogs, she climbed a barbed wire fence, managed to distract the dogs, then pick up the boy and carry him out of the yard.
“We’re so proud of you Darlene,” said City Manager Gary Jackson. “And it touches our hearts that you would do that.”
Council also recognized Asheville Fire Department Battalion Chief Joy Ponder for completing the four-year National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program. Last year, while going through the program, Ponder became the AFD’s first female Battalion Chief.
The City’s Purchasing Manager Amy Patterson was congratulated for earning the title of Certified Local Government Purchasing Officer through the North Carolina School of Government. The certification means that Patterson and the City’s Purchasing Division are recognized as providers of efficient, fair and transparent business practices.
Darryl Rice, Rob Martin and Kevin Haughinberry of the City’s Fleet Division were recognized for completing specialized training and certification to inspect low-emission CNG vehicles in the city’s fleet. Their training saves the city time and money when using the low-emission vehicles.
Click the screen above to see a video of Council’s City of Asheville Employee Recognition from August 13.
August 14, 2013
Last Friday, Brandon Buckner, the City of Asheville’s Meter Services Superintendent sat down before his peers (and a dubious looking set of pruning shears) and donated his hair to Locks of Love, the nonprofit that creates hair pieces for children who have lost their hair due to medical procedures, including treatments for cancer.
Buckner prepares to take the leap. Operation Manager Ron Kerns does the honors.
“There was a chance to get some recognition for these causes,” Buckner said. “I don’t know if there is a person who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way. And if we can provide something that will make these children feel better about themselves, that’s a good thing.”
Buckner also used the event to drum up donations for another good cause, challenging city employees to donate to the group Caring for Children, a locally-based nonprofit that serves abused and emotionally challenged children and nurtures families in need.
“It’s wonderful what these folks do for the kids,” Buckner said. At the event, he presented a check for $600 to the organization’s Executive Director John Lauterbach.
A freshly-shorn Buckner
“We can’t thank him enough for thinking about us,” Lauterbach said. “And to combine the thought of us with Locks of Love really touches my heart.”
Buckner has been with the City of Asheville Water Resources Department for 11 years and was recently featured in this article spotlighting the department’s efforts to convert the city of Asheville’s water meters to automatic meter readers. The upgrade improves customer service while reducing the time staff needs to collect information from meters.
For more information about groups mentioned or to find out how to donate, got to www.locksoflove.org or www.caring4children.org.
See video below for an interview with Brandon and footage of the main event!
August 1, 2013
The City of Asheville is excited to announce the launch of the Asheville App, an easy-to-use online tool that allows users to notify the city about issues like water line leaks, potholes, or illegal dumping that need the city’s attention via smart phone or computer, then track the results.
“This is the kind of technology that really enhances connectivity in the city,” says Project Manager Eric LaRue. “We are always exploring ways to make it easy and efficient for people to interact with city government.”
Here’s how it works: Asheville App users who spot a problem submit a service request at www.ashevillenc.gov/ashevilleapp or on their smart phone using the downloadable app. Users can submit their location and even a picture of the problem spot. The Asheville App then sends the service request to the relevant city department personnel so they can quickly resolve the issue. A tracking tool allows users to monitor progress on the repair, and City employees can even communicate directly with users if they need further information. The app notifies the resident when the repair request has been completed.
The City of Asheville strives to provide excellent service in a timely and efficient manner, and the Asheville App will play an important role in fulfilling that goal.
“The ease of use of the Asheville App will not only give people more ways to relay information to us, it will also streamline our ability to respond to customer service needs,” says Customer Services Division Superintendent Florie Presnell.
The City of Asheville enlisted the services of PublicStuff (www.publicstuff.com), an innovative CRM software company, to create the app and digital communications solution. “We are excited to add Asheville to the PublicStuff family” Founder and CEO of PublicStuff Lily Liu said. “Asheville is a city with a rich cultural heritage and PublicStuff aims to work to provide an easy way for residents to stay in touch with their local government.”
The Asheville App can be found and downloaded at www.ashevillenc.gov/ashevilleapp.
March 12, 2013
The City of Asheville Customer Service Division receives thousands of calls in a month. It’s not unusual for a customer service representative to field 100 calls in a day. Though Customer Services is part of the Water Resources Department and primarily handles water billing questions and payments, the division fields calls about everything from potholes to streetlights to bus service.
Customer Service Representative Linette Sieben was named Water Resources Employee of the Year
“We assist with calls all day long and try to help everybody that calls in,” says Customer Service Representative Linette Sieben.
So when Sieben got a call last September from a woman who was having trouble breathing, she began to suspect that something was wrong. “I asked her if she had been running to the phone and she said ‘No’ and that she didn’t know why she was out of breath,” Sieben says.
The woman had called to pay her water bill, but as the conversation progressed, her breathing grew more labored and eventually, she no longer responded to Sieben’s questions.
Sieben called the police. Since she had the woman’s address on her water account, police were able to respond and likely prevented a tragedy. Police found her unresponsive and she was transported to the hospital. When the woman called back in a few days, she told another customer service representative that Sieben’s quick action saved her life.
In February, Sieben was named Water Resources Employee of the Year and presented with a plaque in appreciation of her initiative.
“We are very proud of the attitude and service delivery of all of our Customer Service staff,” says Water Services Director Steve Shoaf. “Linette’s intervention exemplifies the level of service we all strive to achieve. She is deserving of this special recognition.”
The City of Asheville’s Customer Service Division assists with billing questions at (828) 251-1122. Service representatives are available via telephone from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Fridays except on holidays. The City of Asheville offers email billing for water customers. Sign up by emailing email@example.com.
March 8, 2013
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for information about paying your combined service statement online and eliminating paper from billing.
October 8, 2012
ASHEVILLE – The Development Services Center is continuing its emphasis on providing excellent customer service by seeking regular feedback from the people it serves.
Staff recently issued an online customer service survey to gauge their performance. The goal is to keep doing what customers say is working and to improve in areas that customers felt were lacking.
Development Services is the umbrella name for the development assistance and regulation provided by five city departments: the Building Safety Department, Planning & Development Department, Transportation & Engineering Department, Water Resources Department and the Asheville Fire & Rescue Department.
Building Safety Director Robert Griffin, who oversees the Development Services Center, said his staff will continue taking surveys about every other month and that surveys are also being created for inspections and other services.
“We’re establishing a cross-functional team to look at customer service, work flow, and any other identifiable improvement area for recommended changes,” Griffin said. He added that this team will be facilitated by someone outside the development process.
Building Safety Director Robert Griffin stands next to a shelf of submitted development plans.
The overall feedback in the first survey, the results of which came back just recently, was positive. The majority of respondents (about 83 percent) came to the center to submit or pick up permits. Of that pool, some 94 percent said they were greeted promptly, and 83 percent said staffers were helpful and polite. Some 66 percent said they were able to meet with a city staff member within 15 minutes of their arrival at the center.
Respondents who met with a Development Services Center Plan Review staff member assessed them very highly: 88 percent said plan reviewers were professional, and 82 percent said reviewers were helpful and polite. Moreover, 94 percent of respondents said staff explained processes to them in a way they could understand.
In response to some respondents’ concerns about sign-in procedures and wait times, Griffin said front counter staff has been reorganized.
“Their additional function is to make sure every customer is signed in, receives service, and is updated when the time is longer than anticipated,” Griffin said.
He added that the center has changed the intake process for certain permit types to allow customers to have information entered into the computer system in a more timely way.
One survey respondent wrote of being impressed by a staff member’s work ethic: “The plan reviewer I met with said he needed to come back into work later that evening to catch up with paperwork. I was surprised that a public employee cared that much. With no pay.”
To learn more about the Development Services Center, visit: http://1.usa.gov/qoFtm3.
September 6, 2011
City of Asheville staff conducted tours of the North Fork Water Treatment Plant in Black Mountain for the Owen Middle School 7th grade class field trip on June 8. Around 130 students toured the plant through an education and outreach program conducted in partnership with RiverLink, a regional nonprofit spearheading the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River. This is the first school field trip tour since 9/11, when Homeland Security was established and public tours at the plant were suspended.
During the tour, led by Sustainability Outreach Specialist Rachel Rogers and RiverLink Education Coordinator Hayley Joyell Smith, students hiked up to the City’s primary water source to see how the water is harvested from the North Fork Reservoir, treated with chemicals such as chlorine to address any pathogens and filtered to remove sediment before being distributed to the 126,000 residents in Asheville and Buncombe County. The City of Asheville processes approximately 15 million gallons of water daily.
“The field trips are a great way to demonstrate the process of providing safe water,” said Director of Water Resources Stephen Shoaf, who helped to initiate the school field trip program. “It is important that citizens understand the city’s role and their relationship to this valuable resource,”
Superintendent of Water Production Leslie Carreiro agreed, saying, “field trips offer a wonderful learning experience. They allow the students to learn where their drinking water comes from, how it is treated and that it takes numerous people with many different skills, education and knowledge to deliver the water to their homes.”
North Fork Treatment plant staff explained to the 7th graders how they use advanced computer systems to monitor the treatment process and ensure the water quality is within high health standards through testing in the state certified lab. They also shared their educational background and the degrees needed for a job in the water treatment field, helping to link career choices and education.
Students also participated in hands-on activities led by RiverLink Education staff, interns and volunteers, including the 3-D Enviroscape watershed model and water quality testing. These activities helped the students to further understand how the protected 22,000 acre North Fork watershed functions to produce high quality and safe drinking water.
Owen Middle School 7th grade science teacher Don Slye thought this was a wonderful opportunity for the students to get out and “actually see first hand the process of water treatment, not only to see it happening but to talk to the people responsible for their clean water. Now they know there is more to it than just turning on the faucet and getting clean water. This will stick with them a lot longer than if we had just seen a video or had a discussion about the water filtration process.”
The City of Asheville and RiverLink hope to provide more education/outreach programs to area schools in the future. Through this partnership, RiverLink would conduct hands-on activities in the school classroom to provide students with important information on watershed functioning and the role of water quality testing. With this information, students would then tour either the North Fork Water Treatment Plant or the Mills River Water Treatment plant to get first hand experience of where their drinking water comes from.
Click here for more information on the City of Asheville’s water treatment and distribution.
Click here for more information on the City’s Sustainability Initiatives.
June 14, 2011