Filed under: Public Works
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
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
Last summer’s heavy rains were an eye-opener for Asheville, causing unexpected landslides and undermining several roads on mountain slopes. Repairs are currently underway or in the planning stage for three such cases.
On Bent Tree Road, a residential street off Town Mouontain Road, is home to once such site.
“All that rainfall washed fill out from under the road, and the road just sloughed away,” said project manager John Gavin. As a stopgap measure, the city put down “soldier piles,” or concrete barricades that served to convert the road into one lane and keep drivers away from the weakened part of the roadway. “But you didn’t want to get too close to the edge,” Gavin says.
Now, work is underway to restore the road and build a retaining wall to hold it in place. The project consists of approximately 100 feet of retaining wall and wire mesh, and anchors will be sunk under the road and into the hillside to hold the wall in place.
“This is really the only thing appropriate for this site,” Gavin said.
The project, expected to take three months to complete, is eligible for reimbursement by FEMA, an option triggered by the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency in 2013. Another repair on Sunset Drive is also eligible for FEMA funds, while a third repair at Finlee Avenue will be funded through the city’s repaving budget. Bent Tree Road will be closed at the construction site for the duration of the project. Work on Sunset Drive is anticipated to begin later this fall.
“These are roads along steep grades, and are used frequently by surrounding residents. So we’re working to get them back to 100 percent,” Gavin said.
September 11, 2014
A stretch of Haywood Road leading from the French Broad River into West Asheville will get a new look beginning Thursday August 21, as crews relocate the center yellow line and add a climbing bicycle lane.
The work is being conducted ahead of the August 28 closing of Craven Street between Haywood Road and Waynesville Avenue, part of the Craven Street Improvement Project.
Because of the relocation of the center line, the downhill lane from West Asheville will become a shared lane for both bicycles and vehicles. “Sharrow” markings will be installed as well to indicate that bicycles should ride the lane and vehicles should share the roadway.
“We recognize that Haywood Road and Craven Street are commuter routes for bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles alike,” said Senior Project Engineer John Gavin.“With Craven Street closed over the next six weeks, we wanted to make sure that everyone has a safe route as more traffic moves onto Haywood Road.”
During this portion of the Craven Street closure, commuters can also access Waynesville Avenue via the bridge from Riverside Drive to Craven Street.
The restriping and signage is anticipated to be complete by the end of Friday, Aug. 22.
Increased bicycle access is part of the Haywood Road Multimodal Project, and more enhancements will take place in the spring of 2015, after the completion of the Craven Street improvement project.
August 20, 2014
Follow along with 123 Graffiti Free! A new online dashboard tracks the City of Asheville’s progress on the 123 Graffiti Free cleanup assistance initiative. The dashboard, produced in collaboration between the city’s Public Works and IT Services Departments, displays the number of graffiti cleanup requests, the number of cases completed and the amount of money the City of Asheville has spent so far.
Through September 30, the city is offering property owners $500 in graffiti cleanup assistance as part of the 123 Graffiti Free cleanup initiative, and Asheville City Council has allocated $300,000 toward the cleanup effort. As of August 5, there were with 62 cleanup requests completed and in all cases of private property requests, the city’s $500 investment has covered the entire cost of removal or repainting with no money required from property owners.
Graffiti harms communities, and removing graffiti from property within 48 hours has been shown to be a deterrent to vandals. Report graffiti on public property or request cleanup assistance on private property with the Asheville App, email email@example.com, or call (828) 259-5960.
August 5, 2014
Two Public Works employees and one retired Finance Department employee were recognized by the North Carolina Chapter of the American Public Works Association’s North Carolina chapter for outstanding service and the pursuit of excellence at Asheville City Council’s July 22 meeting.
Public Works Administrative Assistant Kathi Willis was recognized with the Association’s President’s Award for her dedication to the Association and “her continuing efforts and work with the North Carolina Chapter Executive Board.” This is the second time Willis’ efforts have been recognized with this award, having won it previously in 2010. Chapter President Russell Byrd cited her character, organizational skills, her willingness to go beyond what is expected and her incredible ability to keep the chapter “on-task and in-line.”
Willis has worked at the City of Asheville since 1991 and took over the role of the APWA-NC Chapter secretary in 2008.
“Kathi Willis is a true professional in every sense of the word,” Byrd told Council. “Without Kathi’s invaluable contributions our chapter would not and could not be one of the finest in the association.”
The Association also recognized Construction Inspector Lee Morrison with the Association’s Municipal Employee Scholarship. Morrison works with the Capital Projects Management (Engineering) Division and has been with the City of Asheville since 2006. He has been attending classes to advance his knowledge of service and excellence and is nearing completion of coursework to earn the designation of NC Road Scholar, a program offered through the Institute of Transportation, Research and Education. In addition to his studies and workload, he is also a lieutenant at a local volunteer fire department and an Eagle Scout.
Lyle Willis, retired from the position of Contract Administrator in Purchasing Division of the city’s Finance Department, was awarded the Jean Seals Service Award, given in recognition for contributions by non-members for their support of the Association. Mr. Willis, husband of Kathi Willis, was cited for his attendance at APWA-NC events and his support of Kathi in her role. He worked at the city of Asheville for 23 years before his retirement in 2013.
All three were presented their awards at the 57th annual Conference of the American Public Works Association, North Carolina Chapter in June.
Click below to see the presentation to Asheville City Council.
July 25, 2014
On Monday, July 21, work will begin on the Craven Street improvement project in west Asheville, a long-term enhancement that will include multi-modal roadway improvements including pedestrian and bike facilities, stormwater Best Management Practices and stream restoration, low impact parking and greenway construction and water line improvements. See background on this project at the City of Asheville Project Page.
The duration of the project will last from July 21, 2014 through December of 2015. The majority of the roadway work will take place during the next 6 months. As this is an active construction project, there will be heavy construction equipment in the area for the duration of the project.
During the remainder of July and the beginning of August, work will focus on clearing and grubbing activities, placement of the stormwater conveyance systems and other utilities, and existing asphalt removal. The project also involves a comprehensive improvement to the unnamed creek that starts along Waynesville Avenue and drains through the New Belgium Brewery site into the French Broad River.
Full road closures are not expected during this initial phase of the project, though delays and lane closures can be anticipated. Travelers are advised to use alternate routes where possible.
Beginning August 25, work will expand into roadway culvert improvements with Craven Street closed in the direction Haywood Road for the duration of work, which is expected to last until the end of September.
The Craven Street improvement project is located in the area surrounding the New Belgium Brewery construction site and is the City of Asheville’s portion in a public-private partnership with The State of North Carolina, North Carolina Golden Leaf Foundation, NCDOT, Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Buncombe County, the Economic Development Administration, and the Asheville–Buncombe Economic Development Coalition and others in support of New Belgium Brewing’s investment of $175 million in our community.
July 18, 2014
It’s sign up time! July 1 marks the beginning of the City of Asheville’s 90-day graffiti removal assistance program, and property owners are now encouraged to call, email or use the Asheville App to sign up for up to $500 in removal assistance.
The cleanup assistance program runs through September 30, with a goal of removing as much graffiti from Asheville as possible in that time.
Here’s how property owners can report graffiti and sign up for removal assistance:
Use the Asheville App (ashevillenc.gov/ashevilleapp), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (828) 259-5960.
City staff will visit the site and estimate the cost of removal
The property owner signs a waiver and agrees to pay all costs over the City’s $500 investment ($500 per building per incident)
The City contacts a pre-qualified contractor to remove graffiti, who will aim to remove graffiti within 48 hours
The City pays the contractor and bills the property owner for any amount over $500
After September 30, property owners will be responsible for removing graffiti from their property within seven days. At the request of property owners, the city will coordinate cleanup with a pre-qualified contractor, but the property owner will be responsible for the entire cleanup cost. That’s why getting on the list for the 90-day removal assistance program is such a great opportunity for property owners!
“We know that quick removal is one of the best deterrents to vandalism,” said Cathy Ball, the city’s Executive Director of Planning and Multimodal Transportation. “That’s why the goal of the 90-day assistance program is to remove graffiti throughout the city and get us back to a baseline. Working together as a community, we can make a real impact on graffiti vandalism.”
This is the second step of the 123 Graffiti Free initiative directed at a comprehensive approach to tackling graffiti. The first step took place in April, when Asheville City Council passed new civil fines for offenders.
Graffiti hurts the community, businesses and business growth. It reduces property values and can lead to increased crime activity. Report graffiti vandalism in progress by calling 911. To report graffiti vandalism on city-owned property, call (828) 252-1110 or use the Asheville App. To report tagging in Buncombe County, call (828) 250-6670.
Find more information about Asheville’s 123 Graffiti Free Initiative on the Projects Page.
July 11, 2014
The latest section of sidewalk in a network of sidewalks serving North Louisiana Avenue is under construction as crews begin pouring concrete on the 800 linear feet linkage. The sidewalk project is the fifth in a planned six sections totaling 5,580 linear feet that create a safe pedestrian corridor from Patton Avenue to just past Emma Elementary School.
Economic investment in sidewalks connects communities and the North Louisiana sidewalks make the neighborhood safer for pedestrians, giving students and parents at Emma Elementary the option to walk from nearby homes. They also encourage economic growth by providing access to business corridors like Patton Avenue for customers and employees alike.
“The residents, business owners and property owners in this area have been amazingly supportive of this project,” said Senior Project Manager John Gavin. “And they contributed to its success by donating the necessary construction easements we needed for completion.”
This linkage from North Louisiana Business Park to the city limits at Skyview Terrace is funded by Community Development Block Grant Funds with the cooperation of the NCDOT, which owns and maintains North Louisiana Avenue. The linkage is anticipated to be completed by early August, 2014.
Other sections of sidewalk on North Louisiana Avenue utilized a combination of Safe Routes to Schools funding, federal CDBG funds and a Job Access/Reverse Commute grant through the Federal Transit Administration.
Completed sidewalk construction on Patton Avenue were paid for with City of Asheville capital improvement project funds.
June 25, 2014