Proposed City budget goes to Council this month

The task of developing the City’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018-2019, which begins July 1, is actually a six-month process that started back in December. That’s when City Manager Michael Peoples began working with the Financial Services Department, headed by Crystal Certain, to develop a timeline for the process. The process is governed by a North Carolina statute that requires a municipal budget be balanced and submitted to its governing board, the City Council, by June 1.

“Developing the City budget is the most critical work we do each year,” explained Peoples. “It establishes the fiscal framework for how we provide services. It’s our responsibility to develop and propose a budget that provides the necessary resources to staff to accomplish the goals established by the Mayor and City Council and to do it in the most cost-effective manner possible.”

A number of critical steps had to be built into the budget process. First, the city manager, assistant city managers and department heads met with City Council members in a Saturday retreat at the Gastonia Conference Center to get their direction on the City’s priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. The departments then began developing their individual budgets to meet the City’s ongoing needs, keeping in mind the priorities outlined by Council. The budget office, led by Crystal Falls and assisted by Jessie Williams, prepares and maintains all of the budget documents used during the process: schedules, working spreadsheets and permanent records.

Departments had to submit their proposed budgets – revenues and expenditures – by January 31. Assistant City Managers Melody Braddy, Todd Carpenter, and Flip Bombardier met with each department head to discuss and review their budgets. After analyzing all of the budget information, the City Manager and ACMs huddled in a series of lengthy, in-depth meetings to evaluate the needs and requests and determine changes to balance the budget.

“The meetings are often lengthy and involved, but the process is transparent," Peoples said. "It allows for constructive discussion between the managers and department heads about existing initiatives as well as proposed ones, staffing levels, performance, effectiveness, efficiencies and funding sources.”

This month, the city manager will present the proposed budget to the City Council for review and any additional revisions. A public hearing, required by state statute, is scheduled for April 24.

The proposed Fiscal Year 2018-19 balanced budget is currently estimated to total more than $236.9 million. The final budget is scheduled to be adopted by Council on June 5 and will set the tax rate for the next fiscal year. For the seventh straight year, the City's tax rate will not increase.

Six months after the budget is approved and adopted by Council, the cycle starts all over again in December.

Gastonia Detectives Wilson and Houser honored in national TOP COPS Awards®

Detective Adam Wilson webphotoDetective Heather Houser webphotoTwo Gastonia Police Detectives – Adam Wilson and Heather Houser – have been selected for recognition in a prestigious national awards program and will represent North Carolina when they receive their award in May.

Since 1994 the National Association of Police Organizations has held the TOP COPS Awards® Ceremony. The purpose of the TOP COPS Awards® is to educate the American public about our nation’s heroes and to pay tribute to law enforcement officers in federal, state, county, tribal and local agencies from across the country for actions above and beyond the call of duty during the preceding year. TOP COPS are nominated by fellow officers. An independent Awards Selection Committee comprised of national law enforcement representatives select, from hundreds of nominations, TOP COPS cases from 50 states and U.S. Territories. Officers from the top ten cases have been selected as the 2018 TOP COPS. In each remaining state from which nominations were submitted, one case has been selected for which the officer(s) will receive an Honorable Mention award.

Wilson and Houser have received the Honorable Mention award for North Carolina for their work in a human trafficking case in which Wilson served as the lead investigator. The victim credits them for her rescue and providing an opportunity for a productive life by connecting her with community resources.

“In years past the TOP COPS award winners are often officers who had been severely wounded from gunshot wounds, but overcame to arrest the suspect or they have exhibited extraordinary courage,” Wilson said. “To be in the same room with this type of bravery is an honor, and I’m happy to play runner-up to these individuals. To represent the Gastonia Police Department, City of Gastonia, Gaston County and all of North Carolina on a national stage is also an honor. The chance to receive an award of this scale from the president is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“This is a fine example of the important work done every day by our officers and detectives,” said Gastonia Police Chief Rob Helton. “We are very proud.”

 The Twenty-Fifth Annual TOP COPS Awards® Dinner will be held in Washington, D.C. on Monday, May 14. Many celebrities from NBC’s hit programs Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and CBS’s Blue Bloods, Cold Case, NCIS and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation will serve as award presenters. In past years, civic leaders including the president and vice president as well as the attorney general of the United States have helped honor the award winners by attending and speaking at the ceremony.

COG Awards 2018 - Joey Thompson

Joey Thompson by truck COG AwardsSafety Award

Joey Thompson, Signal System Supervisor with Public Works

Joey Thompson is a Traffic Operations supervisor, and  regularly performs unannounced on-the-job safety inspections to observe and ensure that employees are wearing proper personal protective equipment, working in an appropriate work zone, and checking to make sure that overall jobsite safety procedures are being followed.

"Joey leads by example when it comes to safety and is always looking for opportunities to improve job safety and safety awareness," Councilman David Humphries said during the Employee Awards presentation on Feb. 20th.

Recently, an accident occurred when an employee was lifting the hydraulic hammer up off the bed of the service truck with the truck’s crane to drive a sign post into the ground. The hammer got stuck, shifted forward and broke the back glass of the truck. Joey had the garage modify the bracket that holds the hammer in place so that when the hammer is lifted from the bracket, it can't get stuck or shift, thus preventing a situation where someone could get injured or the truck could be damaged, Councilman Humphries said. He changed the SOP for operating the crane while lifting the hammer to the side of the truck, and had a steel mesh welded behind the truck’s rear window to protect it from potential damage in the future.

Joey regularly reminds employees to work safely, and cautions them on potential job specific hazards as a part of his pre-planning “tailgate discussions.” In addition to the division’s monthly job safety training program, Joey also holds quarterly traffic operations-specific safety training for his employees, the award nomination stated.

Joey worked with the Traffic Operations Manager and Division Manager to develop a safety policy for operating a bucket truck during after-hours calls. The new policy requires that a spotter be on-site while an employee is working in a bucket truck making repairs to the traffic signal system.

"I work with a bunch of great guys and I'm very honored to receive this award," Joey said after receiving the award at the City Council meeting.

 

COG Awards 2018 - George Sadler

George Sadler by truck COG Awards photoExtraordinary Service Award

George Sadler, Motor Equipment Operator with Public Works

George Sadler is a veteran employee in Public Works with over 23 years of experience in the construction industry. According to the award nomination, he is the most versatile employee in the division. He can operate equipment, pour concrete, lay storm drain pipe, and operate a street sweeper and flusher truck. He performs landscaping duties such as mowing rights-of-way or planting trees and shrubs. He repairs streets with asphalt and sets up a complete work zone.

"He's the go-to person when he's on the job site," Councilman David Humphries said during the Employee Awards presentation. "He can do it all, and he does do it all in a timeless and unselfish manner, always willing to go above and beyond and extend a helping hand."

George has worked on every crew in the division, and everyone loves having him on their team. He is well respected by his co-workers and his supervisors, and his work ethic is outstanding. He is always available to work extended hours to complete any job. George’s performance evaluations rating have been “Exceeds Expectations” for the last 10 years. He has been an integral part of every major project the division has completed such as the Optimist Club Park on Vance Street, the Police Memorial, the Gateway Project, Farmers Market projects, and he assisted the asphalt crews in preparing this year’s resurfacing contract, Councilman Humphries said.

"I try to do the best I can at everything," George said after he received his award at the Feb. 20th City Council meeting. "My mother told me once to try to learn everything you can about everything, and don't let anything slip by you. That's what I did and I see it all pays off. This is to her and my superiors and my colleagues that I work with. I didn't do it all by myself, they had a lot to do with it too. I thank you for it and I appreciate it."

COG Awards 2018 - Meredith Sisson

MeredithSisson for web

Customer Service Award

Meredith Sisson, Assistant Recreation Program Supervisor in Parks and Recreation

Meredith Sisson is the Adult Recreation Center’s program supervisor, and sets the bar for customer service, professionalism and family. 

"Meredith embodies the characteristics of this award on a daily basis, and serves as a positive role model for her customers and co-workers throughout the year," Councilman David Humphries said during the Employee Awards presentation on Feb. 20th. "Her many interactions with internal and external customers exemplify an unending commitment to create a positive experience for and leave a positive image of the City with everyone she encounters. She has an uncanny ability to connect with people, offer up a smile and make them feel like family."

Meredith serves as an advisor for the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, and works tirelessly to juggle schedules around 26 very active high school students, according to the award nomination. Their numerous activities include serving lunch at the Senior Citizen Thanksgiving Dinner, coordinating activities for a local after-school program, planning a Christmas party at the homeless shelter, visiting with residents at nursing homes, preparing dinner for the battered women’s shelter, providing dinner and activities for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Gaston, and organizing fishing derbies for both the Blind and Visually Impaired Group and the Gaston County Special Olympics.

She is the local Senior Games coordinator, and works in partnership with several agencies to provide a top-level Senior Games program. She always greets participants and makes sure to ask them specific questions to let them know that she cares and they are important to her, Councilman Humphries said.

"Good customer service is easy when you love your job and you love the people you are surrounded by everyday," she said after receiving her award.

 

New fire truck at Station 3

The Gastonia Fire Department welcomed citizens, the Mayor, City Council members and City employees to Fire Station 3 on Feb. 6 to help “push in” the department’s new ladder truck.

Front of new fire truck with #3 on engine grill

The “push-in” ceremony is a time-honored tradition in the fire service and is a ceremonial way of retiring the previous fire truck to make way for the new one. As part of the ceremony, Gastonia firefighters removed the “3” from the front of the retiring Ladder 3 and placed it on the new truck.

New truck photo 3Water was also removed from the tank of the previous truck and poured into the new Ladder 3. This symbolic act recognizes the previous truck’s tradition of protecting people and property, and signifies that the new truck will do the same.

The new Ladder 3 is a 2018 Spartan/Smeal fire apparatus, which has a 75-foot ladder, 500-gallon water tank, and a 2,000-gallons-per-minute pump.

People pushing fire truck into fire station

Gastonia firefighters, city officials and citizens who attended the open house all assisted in ceremoniously pushing the new Ladder 3 into the bay at Station 3, located at 717 Wellons Drive, off Union Road. Once the truck was inside, the station’s battalion chief radioed the dispatch system to officially place the new Ladder 3 into service.

City officials pose for photos with the new fire truck

 

 

 

 


Gastonia Fire Chief Phil Welch,
Mayor Walker Reid
and City Council
members Jennifer Stepp,
Jim Gallagher
and Robert Kellogg.

 

 

COG Awards 2018 - Dustin Ledford

DustinLedford DaffodilCourtproject cropped reducedProject Management and Delivery Award

Dustin Ledford, Civil Engineer with Development Services

In three different projects Dustin Ledford's mindfulness of available funding and innovative thinking resulted in a lot of money saved for the City.

"Dustin is currently titled as a Civil Engineer I due to licensure, but constantly performs at a Civil Engineer III level," Councilman David Humphries said during the Employee Awards presentation. 

In one project there was only one bid, and that bid was over budget. Dustin negotiated reduced pricing on some items, and value engineered several other items to bring the project within the available funding. That got the project moving forward, and reduced the project price by $126,000. On another project to move pipe outside of a building footprint, the price potentially would have been $500,000. Dustin investigated pipe rehabilitation techniques, and ended up saving the City $150,000 - $200,000 easily. Dustin also volunteered to design the FUSE utility relocations in lieu of consulting this work out. This saved the City roughly $100,000 in design costs, according to the award nomination.

Dustin works a lot in the right-of-way storm water assistance program. This program involves major coordination with property owners in coming up with designs that will be suitable or aesthetically pleasing, but still something that will in turn solve the storm water issue. Dustin most recently worked through these issues on one project, getting buy-in from 10 different property owners on just one project. This was a difficult task as all had different levels of concerns and expectations.

He is always the first to volunteer, and volunteered to take on construction project management as well as managing two consultant projects going on at the same time. “He’s a major asset to Engineering, the City, and our citizens," Councilman Humphries said.

"It's an honor to work for the City of Gastonia and for the citizens," Dustin said after receiving his award. "If it were not for the good employees I work with and the great management staff that I work under to guide me in those routes, I would not be here today."

 

Employee moves planned for spring

Garland renovation compressed

A renovation project is underway at the Garland Business Center, on the main floor near the doors to the parking lot. The space is being reconfigured for the nine employees in the Customer Service Division of the Finance Department. Currently located on the main floor of City Hall, this division handles walk-in customers who need to establish a new utility service, to disconnect an existing utility service, help with extended pay arrangements and to address billing concerns.

The construction work is on schedule and is expected to be finished by March 31. In April, the Customer Service employees will move to Garland. “We’re making Garland a one-stop-shop for customer service,” says Deputy City Manager Todd Carpenter. Customers with matters related to code enforcement or building inspections now often must go to the Garland Center, then to City Hall, then back to Garland. “This will eliminate the back and forth, and it will mean far less confusion for customers,” Carpenter says.

The northeast section of City Hall’s main floor will then be converted into office space for the Communications and Marketing Department. The three employees now work in three different buildings. Carpenter says moving the Communications team into the same space will improve coordination and delivery of services. Communications and Marketing is expected to move into the renovated area of City Hall in early May.

Employees and winter weather

January’s one-two punch of bitterly cold temperatures and a blast of snow affected nearly all Gastonia residents and most City services. 
Snowplow compressed
As a result, many City employees had to work longer shifts, endure frigid weather and deal with unhappy customers whose City services were interrupted or delayed.

It's not possible to list all of the departments that stepped up and stood out. But here are a few examples:

  • City/TRU water line crews who fixed nearly two dozen ruptured water mains, with repairs often taking 12 hours and into the wee hours of the morning when temps were in the single digits.
  • City/TRU water treatment plant employees and lab workers who prevailed over frozen valves and frozen intake lines. Emergency repairs and innovative bypasses allowed water to keep flowing from municipal storage tanks and enabled the City to keep treating water and wastewater.
  • Public Works crews who worked around-the-clock before, during and after the snow fell on Jan. 17 loading up trucks, applying brine and slag to streets, plowing main thoroughfares and treating trouble spots.
  • Maintenance and Landscaping employees from Utilities and from Parks and Recreation who teamed up, working during cold nights and early mornings at more than 20 City-owned buildings and some County-owned facilities, the airport and on four downtown streets to remove snow and apply salt to parking lots, sidewalks and building entrances for the safety of employees and residents.
  • Firefighters and Fire Department support personnel who handled an increased call volume for all the fire stations due to the extreme cold and adverse weather.
  • Gastonia Police who responded to 48 traffic accidents on Jan. 17, a much higher number than the average day, and patrolled slippery streets for several days and nights.
  • Electric employees who jumped into action to restore power to customers when snow-covered tree limbs took down electric lines.
  • TRU employees at water and wastewater treatment plants, which are staffed 24/7.
  • Solid Waste employees who worked in the cold during January collecting trash and vacuuming leaves.
  • Customer service employees from many departments who answered phone calls and emails from residents about delayed garbage and recycling pickup, explained why community centers and parks were closed and recreation events were canceled due to snow, provided information about suspended City transit service, and who handled general account inquiries and requests for new utility service.
  • City mechanics who kept vehicles and equipment operating for all departments in the frigid temperatures and during the snowy days and nights.
  • Meter readers who made sure electric meters were read as scheduled and completed orders for new utility service, regardless of the weather.
  • City Customer service representatives who are handling an increase in customers who are concerned about paying higher heat bills.
  • Maintenance employees who swept, vacuumed and mopped the muddy, salty and slushy remnants of the wintry weather from the floors of City buildings.

Because many of these employees don’t work at computers, we encourage all supervisors to personally pass along this message of praise and thanks.

In an unusual step, the City closed offices early on Jan. 17 and reopened mid-morning on Jan. 18. Essential and emergency personnel still had to report to work, while some City employees booted up computers and worked from home.

Working for government means serving the public, even when the weather makes it complicated or uncomfortable. City employees know it’s all part of our jobs. But we thank every tireless (and we hope thawed-out) City employee who showed that Gastonia lives up to our slogan: Great Place. Great People. Great Promise!

COG Awards Program

A new City of Gastonia Awards Program has been developed to recognize outstanding employee performance. The program’s first winners will be announced at the City Council meeting on Feb. 20, in the Public Forum Room of the Gaston County Courthouse, a meeting that is televised.Gold award that says Excellence

The Employee Awards Committee reviewed the 22 nominations, discussed implementation of the new program, and voted for award winners during committee meetings in January. Guided by Deputy City Manager Todd Carpenter, the Awards Committee was made up of 12 employees from various City departments. Award winners will receive a cash award of $500, one paid day off, and a certificate or plaque to recognize the esteemed honor.

There will be one winner in each of the four award categories offered in the new program. Those categories and their criteria are:

1) Extraordinary Service – To acknowledge consistent extra time and effort that extends beyond the scope of normal job duties and has resulted in identifiable and significant results or outcomes. 

2) Project Management and Delivery – Initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing work to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria.

3) Safety – To acknowledge and reward an employee for his/her contributions that promote a stronger safety culture, or identify, prevent, or correct a safety related issue.

4) Customer Service – Going above and beyond. Excellent customer service is when the customer feels the employee has gone that extra mile and provided that extra effort. Sometimes that little unexpected extra can be helping the customer find the right person to speak to or following back up with them to make sure their needs were met. A customer can be widely defined (citizen, business owner, co-worker, etc.).

 

Financial Planning Seminars

Saving $1 million is not easy and, with all of life’s demands, most people would say it’s impossible! But did you know your retirement pension can have about the same value as $1 million during retirement? The need to understand our individual and unique financial wellness was discussed during Financial Workshops for City of Gastonia employees held in December at the Schiele Museum.

Generally speaking, in the North Carolina Local Government Employees Retirement System, a final average salary of $60,000 multiplied by .0185 equals 1,110 multiplied by 30 years of service equals an annual pension of $33,300. If you multiply $33,300 by 33.5 retirement years, that equals $1,115,550!

And if you add 401K and Social Security to the LGERS pension, City employees can have an income of almost as much in retirement as their final average salary figure. This is an enviable financial position for any retiree. Death, disability, or quitting or getting fired are the only things that can keep us from getting this retirement benefit.

To understand your unique pension and other benefits with Gastonia, you may schedule an appointment with Bo Cauble at bocauble@cplanning.com or call 980-235-7830. There is no cost or obligation for City employees.

Dec. 14, 2017

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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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Gastonia, NC 28052