Category Archives: Employee Spotlights

Charlotte Water Employee Spotlight: Ben Smith

Pretty much anywhere you go these days there are signs on doors, markers on the floor indicating where to stand and walk, and even acrylic barriers for extra protection between us. These indicators are very much apart of our “new normal” and it’s hard to remember a time before these safety measures were put into place in almost every building you enter.

Safety Signage and Barriers at Our Facilities

Here at Charlotte Water, our Facilities Supervisor Ben Smith, along with his small team of Facilities Maintenance staff, have worked tirelessly to measure, mark, and indicate all of the new necessary signage in our buildings, as we continue to prepare for the slow return of our staff. They have worked to design, order, and install all of our safety signage:

  • Reminder to social distance and stay 6 feet apart, reading “Be smart, stay 6 feet apart”
  • Footprints, as needed, indicating where to stand for social distancing
  • One way enter/exit signs (and more to come!)
  • Do the “big five” safety measures
  • Hand washing in all restrooms
  • Wear a mask at all times

Acrylic barriers are commonly seen at a reception desk or in common areas for extra protection where social distancing opportunities may be limited. Ben spent two full days going around to the six facilities where the acrylic barriers would be installed, to ensure that all of the barriers would match to the existing office furniture. The installation of the barriers took place in early June, and each were assembled by hand, on site by Ben and his team.

James Bryant installing an acrylic barrier at our Zone 3 location

Enhanced Cleaning at Our Facilities

In addition to the installation of signage and barriers, Ben and his team were also in charge of coordinating the enhanced cleaning procedures across all of our Charlotte Water facilities. Along with the everyday cleaning, additional disinfection procedures were implemented twice each day, and also building and vehicles were decontaminated as needed.

Another important addition to our buildings are the temperature scanning kiosks that are in process of being delivered and installed at our facilities. Currently, we have our third-party nursing vendor performing in-person temperature screenings, until we make the full transition to the temperature scanning kiosks. Before the kiosks can be installed at multiple facilities, Ben is working on testing the kiosks at one of our locations first, to make sure to process runs smoothly.

Silver Linings and More to Come…

As always, there is a bright spot that can be found out of any situation. During these quieter months around the facilities, Ben and his team have been able to tackle some of the more “disruptive” projects that they sometimes would need to work on over the weekends or after regular office hours, as not to disrupt staff while they were working.

Along with more of our staff working from home, or in staggered shifts, we no longer face the issue of running out of space for our staff members. Previously, Ben was part of a standing meeting to discuss space needs for our department, which is no longer a pressing issue. In addition to all of the new safety measures, our department is also in line for a city-wide initiative to have HVAC modifications and touch-less plumbing fixtures.

Facilities Maintenance Team: Ben Smith, James Bryant, and Chase Hartsell

We would like to give a huge “thank you” to our Facilities Maintenance Team for keeping our facilities clean and running smoothly for all of our staff, as we continue to make our slow return back to the facilities. We are looking forward to seeing these upgrades in person, and can feel reassured knowing that our facility is a clean and safe place to work.

Charlotte Water Employee Spotlight: Tommy Wendelgass

Security Team Members: Vic Simpson, Tommy Wendelgass, and Sean Price.

As many of us know, even during times of crisis the show must go on. Being that we provide a vital service to our community, we are thankful to have members of our staff who are looking out for us behind the scenes to make sure that our operations and central functions can continue to run smoothly, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Our Security Team

This week, Emergency Planner, Tommy Wendelgass shared some of his important work over the past several months. As a member of our security team, Tommy has been working at our Emergency Operations Center since the pandemic began, and has worked closely with our Incident Command team. The focus of his role has been to ensure that the Incident Command maintains its structure and runs smoothly. Another large part of Tommy’s role is also to make sure that we have plans in place in case of an emergency, and that we make sure those plans stay up-to-date and relevant.

Over the past several months, Tommy has been working to update our three main preparedness plans – the Emergency Operations Plan, the Continuity of Operations Plan, and the Site Emergency Action Plans. Each of these plans is designed to prepare our utility to still function and operate during an emergency. Tommy shared about the importance and functionality of each of these different emergency plans.

Emergency Operations Plan

This plan establishes a departmental framework that enables a systematic, coordinated, and effective response to emergencies and disasters that may impact our system. This plan utilizes an all-hazards approach and incorporates the national preparedness guidance as outlined in Presidential Policy Directive 8, and is consistent with the National Incident Management System.

Continuity of Operations Plan

This plan was updated under guidance from the City of Charlotte Risk Management Department. The COOP establishes procedures to maintain continuity of operations and documents necessary actions and responsibilities for continuing mission essential functions whenever Charlotte Water leadership becomes incapacitated or whenever facilities/operations become inoperable. 

Site Emergency Action Plans

Charlotte Water has developed Site Emergency Action Plans (EAP) at the Laboratory, Administration, and Zone Operation Facilities. The purpose of the EAP is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. Emergency plans and proper employee training (such that employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies.

Mutual Aid Network

Another important aspect of Tommy and the security team’s work, is working with the mutual aid network known as the North Carolina Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (NCWaterWARN).

This network is a collective of utilities throughout North Carolina that are committed to helping each other conduct emergency response and recovery operations. WARN provides a system of aid that may be utilized by water and wastewater utilities requiring emergency assistance from member utilities. Charlotte Water can utilize WARN by requesting personnel, emergency equipment, materials and other required resources. If a natural, man-made, or technological event were to cause a significant staffing/operation loss, Charlotte Water could mitigate the threat, and continue mission essential functions, by utilizing NCWaterWARN. Our Deputy Director, Shawn Coffman is the current chair of NCWaterWARN.

In addition, if there are vulnerabilities during an emergency that WARN cannot fulfill, we can utilize the County Emergency Management resources as well as the State Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

Comfort During Uncertain Times

During these uncertain times, it is critical and also very reassuring to have these stable security measures and emergency preparedness procedures in place. We are thankful for the work of Tommy and our security team for working hard each day to make sure these procedures are effective and up to date, so that we can be prepared for anything that comes or way.

Charlotte Water Employee Spotlight: Matt Newlon

Through this ever-changing pandemic, many of us have faced new challenges in our roles, and have had to shift our job duties in unexpected ways. One member of our staff who is very familiar with pivoting during these unprecedented times is Procurement Officer, Matt Newlon.

Matt was initially part of the Charlotte Water task force team, which was formed earlier in the year to do some initial planning, before the pandemic really began to affect our country. Eventually, a logistics team was formed as a response to COVID-19, and Matt became the procurement representative for that team. His role was primarily focused on securing safety supplies for the department.

Along with Matt, the logistics team includes representatives from other divisions across Charlotte Water:

  • Jackie Jarrell, Team Leader
  • Terra Neal, EMD
  • Matt Newlon, Procurement
  • Ben Smith, Facility Maintenance
  • Demetria Butler, Human Resources
  • Kara English, Field Operations
  • Don Keaton, Field Operations
  • Kathy Gibson, Fleet Management

Navigating the New Normal

It immediately became apparent that this pandemic was having an unprecedented effect on our supply chain. Many countries that were initially affected by the pandemic were the ones who produced many of the supplies that our department needed. Many organizations across the nation were trying to secure many of the same supplies at the same times. Matt and the team quickly realized that they needed to think outside of the box to obtain the PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies that our department needed – and fast.

Many of our usual vendors either had no supply, supply on back-order, or could not provide a shipment status for orders. The Commodities and Services Procurement Team stepped in and work tirelessly to assist with finding vendors who had immediate availability, which is where the creative thinking came in. They reached out to all types of vendors for the supplies we needed – such as chemical manufacturers, auto supply, and dental supply vendors. They really had to work together to keep their spirits up – there were many times where they would lose supplies in a matter of minutes. In those situations they had to think and act quickly, and move on to the next vendor. The team proactively identified alternative vendors to have ready if they lost a supply source, so they would not lose momentum. The goal was always to keep moving, and not get frustrated.

Commodities and Services Procurement Team: Ryan Lingholm, Adrianne Lewis, Bryan Keeton, and Matt Newlon.

The team soon learned that a plan was needed to manage inventory. They consolidated all of their inventory at a warehouse at one of our Zone locations to manage all of the COVID PPE supplies. Another important piece of managing their inventory was to create an internal supply chain request portal. This allowed our divisions to request supplies, and gave the team the ability to track and deliver the requested supplies across the entire department.

Making the Best of Every Situation

Matt has been very proud of the fiscal responsibility of the team – there were many times where they would find products that were available, but at a much higher than normal cost. In those cases, they had to turn down products that were available, and work harder to find the same quality product for a better price.

Needless to say, navigating this pandemic has definitely been a learning experience in many ways. When working to obtain sanitizer for the fleet safety kits, the team had to look for sanitizer with a very short dwell time – which is a fancy way of saying how long it takes for the sanitizer to dry. When Charlotte Water got creative and began making our own in-house hand sanitizer, the team had to work to procure the bottles we needed for the sanitizer, which is also something that’s never been done before.

Working Together

As the pandemic continued, and staff began our phased Return to Standard Operations, Matt helped with the procurement of temperature checks with a third-party nursing vendor, and is currently working to procure temperature scan kiosks, which will replace the in-person temperature checks. Being the first department to outsource the temperature screening services and kiosks, it has given us the chance to work with other departments in the City, such as the Fire Department and Risk Management, to assist them with advice and guidance to help them with their potential procurement for these types of services and equipment.

Of course, out of all of this hard work and perseverance, there were some silver linings. Working with the logistics team gave Matt the chance to work closely with various staff members across multiple divisions, and through that he has developed new friendships from working with a new team. Matt also learned new processes that will benefit the team, even after the pandemic.

Taking Time for Self-Care

No matter what situation you are in, this pandemic has put added stress on our everyday lives. During Matt’s time away from work, he has been able to enjoy more of his hobbies such as spending time fishing out on Mountain Island Lake (which is one of our water sources)!

We are so thankful for all of the hard work done by Matt, the procurement team, and the logistics team! We couldn’t do our jobs safely without all of their efforts, and all while maintaining a positive attitude. Keep up the great work.