Filed under: Water Resources
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
The City of Asheville’s partnership with NC811 is a great way to keep people safe from injury and reduce damage to underground utilities by encouraging people to “Call Before You Dig.” Residents can call “811” and a technician will mark the underground utilities before digging begins.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared April 2014 as “Safe Digging Month,” and new legislation passed by the NC General Assembly goes into effect in October that increases accountability and the ability to track and find underground utilities. The City of Asheville is already preparing for the change.
In training session in April and May, the city’s Water Resources and Public Works Departments learned how the changes affect Asheville and the city’s performance as a partner with NC811.
“We want the transition to be seamless, and for our people to have the information they need to perform at the highest level of professionalism,” says Water Resources Operations Manager Ivan Thomas.
In fact, Thomas says, crews are already implementing the changes described in presentations given by NC811 representative Mark Schuman.
“For years, the City of Asheville has been a great partner in spreading the message of NC811: Always call before you dig, not only to protect you, but also the public. No job is ever too important to not take the time to perform safely,” Schuman says.
Stormwater Services Manager McCray Coates says the changes back up the level of professionalism the division strives for.
“One of the incoming requirements is that all new stormwater facilities be made locatable,” Coates says. “This is a move that helps everyone – us, residents, developers and NC811. So we are glad to be moving forward and putting the new legislation into action.”
If you are planning an outdoor improvement project, safety starts before the shovel hits the dirt. Underground utility lines can be anywhere and accidentally running into one while digging could result in service outages, fines or even injury. Simply call 811 and technicians will mark underground utilities like water, sewer, power or phone lines for free before you even break ground.
The City of Asheville Water Resources and Public Works Department participate alongside many other utility providers in the area as part of the NC811 One Call service to locate and mark underground utility lines on your property so you don’t have to dig in the dark.
For more information, go to www.nc811.org or to www.ashevillenc.gov.
May 8, 2014
The City of Asheville’s Water Resources Department continues to deliver water that meets or exceeds federal water quality regulations, and an annual report currently being delivered to water customers displays the results of water quality testing.
Each year, the City of Asheville distributes its annual water quality report in water customers’ bills and posts it to the City of Asheville website. The report, mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, presents the types and concentrations of substances found in samples taken from both the water plant and locations throughout the service area. That level of transparency is especially valuable considering the importance of water quality to the community. The 2013 report going out during March and April shows that Asheville’s water supply is cleaner in all categories than required by EPA standards.
“We are always proud to share the water quality report with the community. We are fortunate to have Asheville’s pristine water resources as well as the employees who work hard to ensure that our customers receive excellent water quality every day,” said Stephen Shoaf, Director of the Water Resources Department.
The City of Asheville Water Resources Department operates three water treatment plants, 37 pump stations, and 32 reservoirs, and protects and manages a 22,000 acre watershed. The North Fork water treatment facility processes an average of 15 million gallons of water a day, while the Mills River and William DeBruhl plants produce about 3 million gallons a day. System wide, the City of Asheville Water Resources facilities process 20.5 gallons of water per day and service more than 123,000 customers.
The City of Asheville’s water quality is closely monitored on a daily basis by laboratory technicians who collect and analyze water both at the plant facilities and throughout the distribution system. Lab technicians collect roughly 120 samples per month from sample sites throughout Asheville and areas served by City of Asheville water. Asheville has a large distribution system, therefore Water Resources staff regularly monitor, sample and flush portions of the system to ensure high quality drinking water.
Each plant routinely analyzes the raw and finished water for temperature, turbidity, pH, chlorine, total and fecal coliform bacteria. Routine distribution sampling and analysis consists of: pH, alkalinity, temperature, chlorine, total and fecal coliforms. The EPA requires the analysis of various other constituents and all of those results were below limits set by the EPA.
This informative report provides details about the quality of the water provided to the city’s customers as well as the water sources and how it is treated. Customers can find the report in their next water bills or see it online here, and may expect an update of this report each year.
For further information or additional copies of the City of Asheville’s 2013 Annual Water Quality Report, call the City of Asheville Customer Services Division at (828) 251-1122.
April 7, 2014
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 8, 2013