Social media sharing helps the City

If you use Facebook or Twitter, please share the City of Gastonia’s social media posts with your family and friends. Or at least click “like” onInfographic City posts.

It’s simple math: The City’s 800+ employees have more followers on social media than the City does. The City has a total of about 5,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s assume 400 City employees use social media and that each employee has an average of 250 social media connections. That means City employees could reach 100,000 people on their social media accounts!

This is not unique to the City of Gastonia. According to Adweek, employees nationwide have 5 times more social media followers than do corporate accounts. Every time an employee shares, retweets or "likes" a City message, that message gets out to more people.

Bigger is better when it comes to social media because the bigger the audience, the more effect each social media message has. Well-known businesses from Starbucks to Ford Motors encourage their employees to share or retweet the company’s social media messages.

Even though the City of Gastonia is not a for-profit business, we are considered to be a “brand.” We have customers, employees and revenue. The City’s brand or reputation is developed and shaped by our customers’ interactions with employees and the services we provide. Sharing positive news about the City of Gastonia encourages public engagement and improves our image.

Mayor Walker Reid has two Facebook accounts, one as mayor and the other as a regular citizen. He frequently shares the City’s Facebook posts on one or both of his Facebook feeds. Reid says it’s an easy way to keep his friends and followers informed. “Considering that a lot of people don’t subscribe to newspapers, Facebook and other social media is a great way to share information,” Reid says.

According to Brandwatch, a sizable share of Facebook users nationwide, 40 percent, do not follow any “brands.” That means they don’t follow the City of Gastonia. Or Starbucks. Or Ford Motors.

But they follow their friends. And they trust their friends. A Nielsen survey finds 83 percent of Americans trust recommendations from friends, family and colleagues rather than marketing done by a company.

Because people trust their friends, they are more likely to share social media posts from their friends rather than messages posted by brands such as the City of Gastonia. The business magazine Fast Company reports that social media content shared by employees gets re-shared 25 times more frequently than content posted by a company or a brand.

Mayor Reid believes you don’t have to be the mayor or a high-ranking official to share the City’s posts with your friends. “I get very positive feedback by keeping my followers informed about what’s going on in our great city,” he says.

If you don’t want to share a City post, please click “like.” When a post gets more “likes,” Facebook automatically considers that post to be more engaging and will make it appear more prominently in others’ Facebook feeds.

In his book All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum stated that the first rule is to “Share everything.”

We’re not asking you to share everything on social media. We’d love for you to share or "like" the City’s posts that are most relevant to you. Maybe they show the accomplishments of your department. Or give helpful advice to residents. Or illustrate the ways we are making the City of Gastonia a Great Place with Great People and Great Promise.

Find the City on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CityofGastonia/ 

Follow the City on Twitter: @CityofGastonia

 

Sources:
 

Dale Denton named Public Works director

Dale Denton   horizontal

The office walls of Gastonia’s new Public Works director are decorated with framed sketches of characters from the 1960s TV hit The Andy Griffith Show. Dale Denton even has an Andy Griffith Show wall calendar, a Christmas gift from a fellow employee. Although Sheriff Andy Taylor was a fictional character, don’t be surprised if Denton tries to bring some of Andy’s legendary wisdom to the workplace.

“Andy is always trying to make other people look better. I like that about his character,” Denton says. “Barney kept messing up, but Andy would figure out a way to fix it so that it would work out and Barney would look like a hero. I try to do that as much as I can. If anyone else can get credit for something, I try to push it to someone else every time.”

Denton, a Gastonia native and City employee for 32 years, became director of Gastonia’s reconfigured Public Works Department on July 7. He oversees a $15.9 million budget and 123 employees who work for four divisions within Public Works: Solid Waste, Field Operations (including Stormwater, Streets and Traffic Services), Equipment Services and City Building Maintenance. For the past 11 years, Denton had been division manager for Field Operations.

Becoming a department head during a time of reorganization presents both opportunities and challenges for Denton. Since May, numerous City divisions and programs have been realigned, renamed and even dissolved. But Denton says the decision to create a more traditional city public works department makes sense and may lead to improved service and cost savings.

“I think of public works as being all about providing services,” Denton says. “You’re making sure the streets are safe, running the City’s traffic signal system, addressing stormwater issues, providing solid waste services. You’re maintaining the City’s 900-plus vehicles and related pieces of equipment and more than 140 City-owned facilities.”

Wants to learn what motivates each employee
Denton’s initial goals are to focus on safety, develop a cross-training program, further improve customer service and, in the coming weeks, meet with every Public Works employee. 

“We must make sure that every operation, every division, is safety minded,” he says. And he’d like to develop ways for employees in one division to try their hand at jobs in a different division. He says cross-training might open career pathways for employees and also make it easier when one division or program needs some temporary help. As an example, Denton says some Solid Waste employees could help Street Maintenance crews during a snow event.
 
Denton says he’s most excited about meeting with every employee in Public Works. “I’d like every employee to wake up in the morning and look forward to coming to work,” he says. “One of my goals is finding out what can be done to accomplish that mindset for each employee. What motivates each one of them?” 
 
In those upcoming conversations and crew/team meetings, Denton will ask Public Works employees what they think the City is doing right and what can be improved. “Employees have good ideas if someone is listening to them and paying attention,” Denton says. “You use their input to develop a plan and department-wide goals. Because it comes from the employees, not top down, you get more buy-in.”
 
Another of Denton’s goals is building on what he calls the City’s family atmosphere. “Nothing would be more awesome than if we all view each other as family,” he says. According to Denton, that includes less of a silo mentality and more focus on solving problems and helping one another. “Customer service is not just for residents,” he says. “It’s also internal: how City employees treat each other.”
 
Denton started as a drafting technician in the City’s Engineering Department in 1986. He worked 16 years as an engineer, first in the Engineering Department, then in Public Works & Utilities. In 2007, Denton became division manager of Field Operations. He held that role until being selected in early July as the new Public Works director.  

Inspired by The Andy Griffith Show

A “practical, common-sense approach” is how Denton describes his approach to management. And it may be why he’s such a fan of The Andy Griffith Show. “It was a simpler time,” he says of the show. “It’s all about the simplicity of life. Today, we’re all just too busy.”

Andy Photo

TV critics say that even when The Andy Griffith Show first aired in 1960, it was supposed to be an escape from real life, not a reflection of it. But fans quickly discovered real-life wisdom in Mayberry’s folksy fantasy. In the more than 50 years since its debut, The Andy Griffith Show has never been off the air. The show and its reruns remain a pop-culture tribute to small-town virtues and American values.

Those iconic ideals fit well with Denton’s workplace goals of strengthening the family-like atmosphere and encouraging employees to see the best in their co-workers, even if colleagues might occasionally act like the bumbling-but-well-intentioned Barney Fife.

Denton says he intends to lead by example and give others the credit when things go well. “I can’t do much of anything by myself, but I’m surrounded by some amazing people who love the City as much as I do,” Denton says in a wise-but-humble tone reminiscent of Sheriff Andy Taylor. “I work with some really good people, and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to serve as director of public works for my hometown.”

Image: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2014/05/andy-griffith-on-being-good-loser.html

 

Sgt. McCabe receives Officer of the Year Award

McCabeSgt. Keith C. McCabe has received the Officer of the Year Award from the Gastonia AM Optimist Club as part of its “Respect for Law” program. Sgt. McCabe is a 17-year veteran with the Gastonia Police Department where he serves a vital role in leading and training officers, primarily in traffic safety efforts.

Sgt. McCabe is the Gaston County Law Enforcement Coordinator for the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. In this role he manages the GPD’s and interagency traffic enforcement activities in connection with Booze It & Lose It, Speed a Little-Lose a Lot, and Click It or Ticket campaigns. He helps coordinate education events in the community on impaired driving using fatal vision goggles; texting and driving; and child passenger safety seats.

Sgt. McCabe and his team of traffic accident reconstructionists are frequently called to assist law enforcement agencies in Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln counties. Sgt. McCabe and his team provide technical expertise in collision investigations by mapping scenes and obtaining information from vehicle crash data recorders to present to the district attorney’s offices in those respective jurisdictions.

In addition, he is a Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Instructor teaching officers in our community and across the state on how to identify impaired drivers along with testing procedures to get impaired drivers off our roadways to ensure the safety of the public. He serves on the Technical Advisory Committee for Impaired Driving through the state’s Forensic Test for Alcohol Branch.

In 2018, Sgt. McCabe coordinated two retired officers’ funeral escorts and partnered with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol in the escort of the late Rev. Billy Graham through Gaston County.

Other accomplishments include:

  • He has been instrumental in developing a Peer Support Team in Gaston and Lincoln counties, which provide one-on-one and group debriefings to first responders that are involved in traumatic events.
  • He researched and applied for a grant through the Gastonia Police Foundation to replace first aid boxes in patrol vehicles with individual first aid kits. The kits provide officers with equipment that can be used in situations involving traumatic injuries.
  • He is a specialized instructor teaching the First Responder Block for the Basic Law Enforcement Academy at Gaston College. He also provides training to GPD officers on hazardous materials and bloodborne pathogens during annual in-service training.
  • He holds an associate degree in emergency medical science from Catawba Valley Community College, a bachelor’s in business from Montreat College, and master’s in business from Pfeiffer University.
  • He is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves and serves as an instructor for the Advanced Leadership course out of Fort Knox, Kentucky, training Army National Guard, Reserve and active duty non-commissioned officers.

City employee's perspective on Municipal Citizens Academy

Carly Caldwell described the five-month Citizens Academy as “incredible,” “wonderful” and “informative.” The Gaston County native signed up for the Gastonia Municipal Citizens Academy to learn more about City operations. She has a business degree from Appalachian State and has worked for the City’s Keep Gastonia Beautiful program since February 2016.

IMG 0901 Carly and GFD web“I learned something new from every class,” Caldwell said of the Municipal Citizens Academy. “This program gave me a new perspective about the depths of each department and the significance of all of the moving parts within the City.” And she said the reality of all of those “moving parts” had special meaning for her, as a City employee. “It showed me the importance of all of the departments and employees working together,” she said.

For two Thursdays a month, over a total of 10 sessions, the participants learned about the nuts and bolts of City government through presentations, discussions, field trips and a police ride-along. “I really enjoyed the passion and excitement every department portrayed when presenting on their assigned night,” Caldwell said. She especially liked learning about Gastonia’s history, taking part in a mock Planning Commission meeting and learning about safety information from the Electric Department. In the photo on the left, Caldwell learned what goes into fighting fires. “It was incredible to see how much goes into every detail of the City and everyone that it takes to make it happen.”

Another participant, Amy Pearson, was also impressed by what she described as City employees’ “passion and dedication.” Pearson, who does not work for the City, said she was surprised by how many employees have worked for the City for 20 years or more. Pearson said the Citizens Academy showed her that “the City is run by great people and is a great place to work and live.”

Caldwell said the 14 people in the program all became friends and looked forward to the classes. Participant Cassandra Byrd said, because of the relationships built during the Citizens Academy, the participants will “help move the City forward in a positive way.”

Caldwell recruited several of her classmates to volunteer with Keep Gastonia Beautiful projects, including the Highland Community Garden and Adopt-A-Street. She recommends that more City employees sign up for the program. “This course will give you a renewed spirit of becoming more involved, vested and gain a stronger sense of passion for your job,” Caldwell said.

Applications for the 2019 Gastonia Municipal Academy will be accepted starting in August, with classes to begin next January.

IMG 0945 Group web

Read more about what residents said about the Municipal Citizens Academy

 

City employee electronic paystubs Q&A

1. How do you receive the electronic check stub? What does it look like?

Employees receive their electronic check stubs via email notification. You may choose your work email address, home email or both. Click on the link in the email notification and you will be prompted for a password. Please contact Payroll (704-866-6929) if you have questions about your password. The emailed check stubs will be a PDF and will look exactly like the hard copies you were receiving.

2. What are the benefits to me receiving my check stub this way?

You will receive your email notification several days before your paycheck is deposited into your account, and you can save the PDF file for easy access any time. Employees enrolled in email notification will also receive W-2s and 1095c’s via email, which is more timely and efficient.

3. What are the benefits to the City?

Enrolling in email notification streamlines the workload for the City's payroll department. Payroll personnel sets up the email information one time and from that point forward the process is automatic. Each pay period, the email notifications are automatically generated. By comparison, the hard copies must be printed, stuffed into envelopes, sorted and bundled for pick up by departments each payroll, which is less efficient than email.

Email also reduces the cost of copy paper, toner, envelopes and wear on equipment.

4. Are they easily printed out at work or home?

Yes, and you may also save the PDF to your computer, giving you easy access to your paystubs anytime. Your password is also required to access the saved PDFs. 

5. When do you receive notification that you can view your check stub?

Notifications are usually received the Tuesday of payroll week but no later than Wednesday.

6. Is your money available as soon as you receive notification that you can view your check stub?

No, your money will not be available until the pay-issue date indicated on your pay stub.

7. Does the electronic version have all of the same info as the paper one?

        Yes

8. Is this method secure for receiving my check stub?

Yes. The PDF attachment is sent password protected. It will go to the email you have indicated, so it should not be received by anyone else. If you have further security concerns, please contact the City’s Technology Services Department.

9. Can I choose both, to receive it electronically and also get a paper copy delivered to my office?

       Yes

10. Can I choose two or more emails to have the notification sent to?

Yes

11. Can I view the check stub electronically from work or home?

Yes to both.

12. Any other employee-related financial documents you can receive electronically?

W-2’s and 1095c’s

13. How do I sign up?

Contact Nancy Trawick or Yvette James in Financial Services/Payroll and ask them to send you the form. Complete it and submit the form to Nancy or Yvette.

Some City employees plan unique vacations

AdobeStock passport 2

Summer is the time of year when most of us are planning or taking vacations. Many will go to the beach, mountains, or take a cruise or trip to Disney. But some City employees are planning unique ways to spend their vacation time.

Jessie Williams (Financial Services) is going on a mission trip for a week, June 17-24, in Guadalajara, Mexico. This is her first mission trip and it’s in connection with her church, Lake Wylie Christian Assembly.

“I’m excited and nervous at the same time since I’ve never left the country,” Jessie said. “There are about 14 of us going. My church supports a lot of missionaries around the world so we’re going to work with missionaries who live there. The focus is going to be working with children.”

While in Guadalajara, Jessie’s week, Monday through Friday, will involve Vacation Bible School-type activities with the kids in the mornings and outdoor street-type activities in the city most of the afternoons. She’ll likely spend one afternoon at an orphanage, and Saturday is a free day for the group.AdobeStock Navajo Hogan 2

Starting on June 9, Kristy and Robert Crisp (Economic Development and the Schiele Museum, respectively) are road tripping to South Dakota and will stay in a haunted hotel in Deadwood. Then they will head down to Utah where they will stay in a Navajo hogan at Monument Valley for two days. A hogan is a traditional mud hut used by the Navajo and is pictured on the right.

Deadwood, S.D., features the Bullock Hotel, where there have allegedly been sightings of the ghostly figure of Seth Bullock, the town’s first sheriff in 1876. Bullock supposedly worked with a partner to build a hotel, and reportedly still shows up from time to time to help keep the staff on their toes.

Kristy is a fan of the show Ghost Adventures which has done several shows at the Bullock Hotel. “Real or not, I enjoy watching because of the different locations and historical backgrounds,” she said. “Even though I may put on a brave face, I scare easily and it is highly probable that I will be sleeping in the car.” Robert says he does not believe in ghosts, but he might sleep with one eye open.

Inside the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, the Crisps will stay with Verna Yazee, who is Navajo and owns a hogan. “I fell in love with Monument Valley several years ago and stayed in the hogan in 2015,” Robert said. “The experience warranted another stay. The hogan is closer to camping than a hotel and the serene setting is perfect for seeing the Milky Way.”

Kristy added: “I am looking forward to spending time with Verna and being able to experience authentic Navajo culture in addition to the amazing land that we will experience. For me, that is the highlight of the trip….experiencing the Badlands, Black Hills, Devils Tower, Rocky Mountain National Park and Monument Valley.

“Robert didn’t mention, the hogans do not have electricity and water/sewer so for two days we will be off the grid completely.”

Gastonia Police recognize excellence with awards

Yager receives lifesaving medal

A man shot in the chest receives emergency first aid from Jesse Yager.

Josh Wood performs CPR on a man found unresponsive in a home during an investigation.

A 12-year-old boy choking at a local restaurant receives the Heimlich maneuver from Heath Stanley.

Officers Yager, Wood and Stanley were recognized with Lifesaving Medals during the Gastonia Police Department’s Recognition of Excellence awards program on May 10 at the Loray Mill. Dozens of other officers, civilian employees and volunteers were also honored in the event made possible by generous donations from Homesteads Grill and Taphouse, and the Gastonia Police Foundation.

“Our officers, civilian employees and volunteers make a great difference in our community, and it is our privilege to recognize those who have raised the banner of excellence for us all,” said Police Chief Rob Helton.

group2Detective Clint Bridges was named Officer of the Year for his exceptional performance above and beyond the call of duty representing the GPD in a multijurisdictional federal taskforce. Bridges has served as a Task Force Officer (TFO) with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) since 2013. Bridges has developed and participated in numerous Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), some Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) that have resulted in substantial drug and money seizures.

“Detective Bridges has personally been involved in seizing hundreds of pounds of heroin, meth, and cocaine,” said Criminal Investigations Division Capt. Ed Turas, who serves as chairman of GPD’s awards committee. “Detective Bridges also has been involved with seizing millions of dollars of drug money through asset forfeitures, which contributes to the disruption, dismantling and destruction of major drug trafficking organizations.”

Officer of the Year (Honorable Mentions) went to Detective Jim Bliss, Officer Mike Lewis, Detectives Heather Houser and Adam Wilson, and Officer Heath Stanley.

Bliss and Lewis were honored in the NC Auto Dealers Association’s Hometown Heroes Program: Bliss for working a high volume of complex fraud cases involving multiple jurisdictions. He worked 155 fraud cases last year, works with the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Service, National Insurance Crime Bureau, and is a U.S. Postal and U.S. Secret Service TFO. Lewis was involved in a high speed, high risk pursuit of a Georgia murder suspect in which shots were fired at the officers. Lewis is a K-9 officer with outstanding leadership in volunteer work and K-9 work.

Houser and Wilson are the only two officers from North Carolina to be recognized with the National Association of Police Organization’s Top Cops Award (Honorable Mention). The recognition is for their work in a human trafficking case involving a violent and dangerous offender. The case was adopted by the FBI and has become a template for victim assistance, case development and investigation.

Stanley performed a life-saving action to save a boy’s life. 

Other awards were:

Chief’s Achievement Award – Sgt. Scott Norton and Sgt. Jonathan Scher. Norton was recognized for being a key figure in raising monies and awareness for the Special Olympics North Carolina in 2017. He set a record for the GPD in the amount raised for SONC, which was $9,856.25, and a No Shave November fundraiser had 92 participants.

Scher was a key figure in the implementation, policy development, training and management of the GPD’s Body Worn Camera program. This involves 124 cameras in operation.

Unit Meritorious Service Award – Sgt. Eric Wiggins, Detective Morris Elliott and Detective Mike Watts. Wiggins and Elliott were honored for outstanding performance in the recruitment and management of candidates and new hires. There were 125 new hires in four years.

Watts has demonstrated outstanding performance in his division in cell phone extractions, assisting others with case development and intelligence gathering, and enhancing overall the performance of the Criminal Investigations Division. He is an FBI Violent Crimes TFO.

Craig Lowrance and Zach WilliamsCommendations

  • Officers Zach Williams and Craig Lowrance. While investigating a public nuisance call, officers offered aid and assistance to a homeless subject and took him to get food rather than pursue enforcement. Their actions were not reported by themselves or others, rather they were seen during body camera reviews. They demonstrated kindness without expectation of praise or reward.
  • Sgts. Nancy Capistran, Chris Waldroup, Kevin Putnam, Detective Heather Houser, and Officers Heath Stanley, Jordan Goins and Jess Loftin for substantial support for human trafficking victim assistance and recovery, conducting investigations to locate the victim and obtain crucial evidence for the prosecution of Gastonia’s first human trafficking case.
  • Sgts. Jamin Brackett and Detectives Jonas Hansen, Phillip Smith, Jason Harris and Jordan Reese for outstanding work in fingerprint identifications. There were 266 identifications made in 2017, which is a 300 percent increase compared to 2016.
  • Officer Jarod Ewers for his handling of a suspected DWI traffic accident. Ewers recognized that the driver’s violent behavior was not due to impairment, but rather a medical emergency which was later identified as brain cancer (stage IV). 
  • Sgts. Pat Spiker and Laura Biggerstaff, and Officers Josh LaFevers, Jason Beaver, Holden Prater, Harrison Hamorsky, Gregory Tucker, Brandon Broome, Brad Bumgardner, Adam Hudson and Brian DiYorio for their work, with the assistance of CMPD air support and a York County bloodhound, to relentlessly canvas the city and the Bessemer City area for hours for a 76-year-old woman who had dementia. She was found unresponsive, but alive. Due to a great team effort she is still alive today.
  • Officers David Guerin, Justin Padgett, Brad Bumgardner, William Payne, Seth Canipe, Anthony Johnson, Jeff Loftin, Jason Gill, Alex Burns, Caleb Price, Jesse Yager and Mike Lewis for their response to a shots fired call, which ended up being a homicide. They apprehended three of the four suspects while being involved in a foot chase and pursuing a fleeing vehicle. During the stop of the vehicle, the officers found the victim and rendered CPR. During this confusing melee they were able to secure evidence significant to the investigation.

Amy Hawkins ChiefChief’s Honorable Mention

Sgt. Scott Norton and Officer Amy Hawkins for safety training for houses of worship.

Civilian of the Year

Police Records Supervisor Janet Griffin for outstanding Records Bureau leadership and customer service. She trains, guides and directs personnel and operations to include court documentation, case and personnel management, and communications, including quality control. She serves as GPD’s coordinator for the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the N.C. SBI’s Division of Criminal Information (DCI). In addition, her responsibilities include serving as a liaison to local, state and federal agencies, and oversight of tele-service, revenues collections, validations of guns, vehicles, missing persons, runaways, and maintenance of permits and domestic violence orders.

Citizens on Patrol (COP) of the Year

Doug Carpenter and Don Brittain for their volunteer efforts to support agency operations and provide citizen security and assistance.

Explorer of the Year

William Linkous and Jenna Hollifield for outstanding participation in activities and volunteer work.

Educational Achievement Awards

Detective Adam Wilson for obtaining his master’s degree.

Emily Burr for obtaining her associate’s degree.

Military Service Award

Trent Michaels and Alex Koeppel-Calzada for service with the U.S. Army.

FY19 City budget

The Fiscal Year 2018-19 City budget will be submitted to the City Council for approval on June 5. Almost 59 percent of the General Fund pays for costs relating to the City’s greatest asset, our employees. Employee salaries and benefits constitute more than $69 million of the total City budget.

For the fifth fiscal year in a row, City employees will receive salary increases. Similar to last year, the new budget includes salary increases of 2.5 to 4 percent, effective June 23, for full-time and part-time employees. The budget also maintains the annual $350 Christmas bonus for eligible employees, to be distributed the last week in November. The City will continue the 401(k) program for all full-time employees at the current 5 percent level. The new budget increases the Employee Education Reimbursement Program maximum to $1,000 per employee.

Rising health care costs continue to impact the City’s Insurance Fund. The FY 2018-19 budget factors in a 7 percent increase to cover medical expenses incurred by employees enrolled in the City’s health insurance program. The new budget will continue funding for a $750 payment to a Health Savings Account for all employees who have City health insurance. Employees not federally eligible for an HSA will receive the same amount. Wellness initiatives and incentives will also continue next fiscal year.

As a part of the benefits supported by the new budget, for the first time, retirees who are enrolled in the City’s health plan will be able to use the onsite health clinic. A Citywide internship program has also been established.

Reorganization of Public Works, Enterprise Services and Community Development

Three City of Gastonia departments are being reorganized, effective May 12. City Manager Michael Peoples says similar services will be grouped together, and the realignment will make City government more efficient. 

The City's new Public Utilities Department will have more than 170 employees working for these divisions:

  • Electric
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment (Two Rivers Utilities)
  • Utilities Maintenance

The director of the Public Utilities Department is Joe Albright. He is currently director of Enterprise Services, but that department name is going away as part of the changes.

The Public Works Department will have about 130 employees working for these divisions:

  • Building Maintenance
  • Equipment Services (formerly known as Transportation Services)
  • Field Operations (includes Stormwater, Streets and Traffic Services)
  • Solid Waste

The City is advertising to fill the vacant position of Public Works director.

The Administrative Division, which supports utilities and public works, will continue to be a shared resource but will be funded by the Public Utilities Department.

As part of the changes, eight positions in various divisions will be reassigned to other units under Public Utilities or Public Works. In addition, six landscape employees and a supervisor now assigned to various divisions will be consolidated under Recreation.

The Community Development and Innovation Department gets a new name and adds two divisions that were in Enterprise Services. Led by Vincent Wong, the new Department of Community Services will include:

  • Airport
  • Community Development Block Grants
  • Home Program
  • Keep Gastonia Beautiful
  • Sister Cities
  • Transit

Because several of those divisions receive state and federal grant funding, the realignment will maximize the City’s efforts to obtain and manage grants.

“With the recent senior management retirements in Public Works and Fleet Services, it was an excellent opportunity to explore the benefits of reorganization,” Peoples said. He noted that the reorganization does not add any positions and will be accomplished without increasing costs. “The changes will distribute management responsibilities more evenly across the divisions and departments, giving us greater efficiencies as similar services are combined,” he said.

Wildlife welcomed around TRU wastewater treatment plants

When you think of a wastewater treatment plant, you might not immediately think of wildflowers. Or song birds. Or a flourishing habitat for native butterflies, bumblebees, reptiles and plants. So you may be surprised that the property surrounding Two Rivers’ Utilities three wastewater treatment plants provides a thriving environment that enriches the ecosystem and serves as a community resource.

The commonly used term for wastewater is sewage, and many people don’t want to live near a sewage treatment plant. Most people don’t want to live bee on sunflower crop 280near industrial facilities, either. But it turns out that the land around quarries, factories, and facilities that produce energy or treat waste can be an excellent place for wildlife habitats.

In 2011, Two Rivers Utilities’ Wastewater Treatment Division joined the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife and Industry Together program, often called WAIT. The WAIT sites, ranging from wetlands to meadows to woodlands, are “dedicated areas on workplace grounds that are transformed into wildlife habitats that can sustain life for diverse wildlife species.”

It’s more than a feel-good program. Sites receive WAIT certification if they meet specific criteria for managing and maintaining the designated wildlife habitat to encourage native flora and fauna to flourish. Equally important is an educational component that involves employees and the community.mallard male and female  crop 280

Forty sites around the state have attained WAIT certification, including the Carmel Country Club and the NC Museum of Art. TRU’s Crowders Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant received WAIT certification in 2012. TRU’s Long Creek and Eagle Road wastewater treatment plants are also participating and hope to attain WAIT certification next year.

The Crowders Creek facility has a 2.4 acre wildflower meadow and an onsite library with books about native species and photos of wildlife seen at the site.

Education and tours
To help meet the educational requirement, TRU offers tours of its wastewater treatment plants and habitat areas. Most of those going on the tours are young people, such as with school groups and Scouts. In 2017, 224 community members toured a TRU wastewater treatment plant.

Charlie Graham with Cub Scouts crop 280In addition to learning how wastewater is treated and cleaned, people on the tour visit the wildlife areas around the plants and get information about the WAIT program. TRU staff also provide information about the WAIT program when taking part in local school career fairs and presentations to the public.

Volunteers are essential to managing and improving TRU’s wildlife habitat sites. An Eagle Scout built and installed a hawk perch and purple martin condos. Gaston PAWS (Piedmont Area Wildlife Stewards) helped build wood duck boxes. A Charlotte Audubon Society member has conducted bird counts. Other community partners have donated flower seeds and educational supplies, and have maintained the meadows that provide cover for a wide range of native species.

TRU Division Manager Stephanie Scheringer says the WAIT program fits nicely with the Wastewater Treatment Division’s core mission ofPurple Martin Condo crop 280 environmental protection, environmental stewardship and public education. “It’s been a positive for the staff,” Scheringer says. “We have many animal and nature lovers who enthusiastically volunteer to be part of the program.”

TRU employees who are actively involved with the on-site wildlife habitats include Cody Austin, Doug Barker, Melody Carter, Rickey Ellison, Chris English, Adam Evatt, Charlie Graham, Kevin Graves, Hugh Hampton, Alec Jenkins, Tracy Johnson, Chad Ledford, Douglas Lewis, Janet Maddox, Jake Moody and Shellie Poole. They occasionally clean out bird boxes and bat boxes, and help maintain and enhance the habitat area. And as they make routine security checks of the plant perimeter, employees also keep a watch on the wildlife area, sometimes photographing the plants and animals they see.

“We are really proud of the WAIT program” Scheringer says. “It’s an inexpensive but effective way to partner with the community and enhance the environment.”

Heath Stanley and Josh Watts honored with Distinguished Service Awards

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City of Gastonia employees Heath Stanley and Josh Watts were honored with the Gaston County Jaycees’ 70th Annual Distinguished Service Awards. The awards, presented April 11 at the Gaston Country Club, are for community servants who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Josh Watts received the Outstanding Firefighter of the Year Award for his dedicated work with the Gastonia Fire Department and his off-duty volunteer work. Heath Stanley was named Outstanding Gastonia Police Officer of the Year for performing the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a 12-year-old boy.

Stanley was on duty but on break eating lunch recently with other officers on his shift at a local restaurant when a woman started panicking and hitting her 12-year-old son on the back. The officers sprang into action to help calm the woman, and Stanley performed the Heimlich three times before the boy’s airway was cleared of food. A tragedy was avoided, and everyone returned to eating their lunch; the mother and boy’s names are not known.Watts Josh cropped 2

Watts is constantly taking new classes, works to improve his already sharp skills, and leaves “no stone unturned” when checking the apparatus and equipment, according to the award nomination by GFD Capt. Justin White. In his off-duty time, Watts volunteers with the Gaston County Fire Explorers to ensure future county firefighters are being trained correctly. He is a role model for them, and also volunteers with the Union Road Fire Department where he serves as a lieutenant. In addition, he is an Eagle Scout and helps mentor other Boy Scouts.

“Josh Watts is one of the most dedicated and hardest working firefighters I know,” Capt. White said. “He takes extreme pride in our trade, and constantly trains to improve himself. Josh also goes above the norm to make sure that the people we serve are taken care of on calls. He is the type of firefighter that everyone wants on their truck.”

Capt. Geno Paluso, a former Navy SEAL who served on active duty as commander of the Naval Special Warfare Group 3 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, served as keynote speaker at the Jaycees' awards ceremony. Capt. Paluso is currently the commandant of cadets at the Citadel where he graduated in 1989 with a degree in mathematics.

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Gastonia, N.C., just minutes west of Charlotte, is one of the area’s best places to live and work with an ideal combination of location, size and livability. Gastonia is the largest of Gaston County’s 13 municipalities and one of the largest cities in the Charlotte metropolitan area. Selected as an All-America City three times, Gastonia’s desirable quality of life is the result of its beautiful natural surroundings, friendly neighborhoods, responsive government and vibrant business environment.










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