Category Archives: Employee Spotlights

A Day in the Life: Dispatch Operator

Summer intern Jake Dube continues his adventure. This time, Jake sits in with dispatch operator Lester Gray. Jake picked his brain and learned what it means to work dispatch for Charlotte Water.

You remember that one kid in school that seemed to know EVERYTHING? Every school activity, everyone’s summer plans, even your secret crush? Well, that is Lester and everyone else in dispatch. The six of them rotate hours to do the job 24/7, always ready to handle any problem.

Phone calls, emails, and alarms oh my! All of these come flooding to dispatch throughout the day. Dispatch needs to be in the “know” about everything happening across the county. Lester will get an email for every event involving Charlotte Water. The fire department, 311 Call Center, and supervisors all email dispatch every day. Being a point of contact for anything happening means you get a lot of information sent to you.

What they do with this information is extremely important. They relay the information to the appropriate parties so they will be handled accordingly. Remember the 311 Call Center? They often call Lester and transfer over callers reporting leaks. He finds where the leak is coming from and notifies the right crew to fix the problem.

As I sit and watch Lester fields calls and emails at a rapid pace, an abrupt alarm sounds. I nearly jump out of my chair. Lester gets a good chuckle out of this and goes to a desktop around the corner. This alarm is for any lift station or treatment plant. If there is an issue,  whether that is low pressure or a machine is malfunctioning, the alarm sounds.

Lester clicks a few buttons and sits back in his seat. I wonder why there wasn’t any sense of urgency. A malfunctioning treatment plant sounds pretty serious to me. He smiles as I express my concern and he pulls up an email. It is from the technician of the wastewater treatment plant saying to disregard all alarms from the plant today because they were running tests. When a plant doesn’t send the email, and the alarm sounds, then you call the on-call technician to take care of it.

Plant Monitor System

I cannot imagine having to receive so many emails in a day. In the time it took Lester to get up, acknowledge the alarm, and sit back down he received 8 emails.

Lester admits that some days can be fast, with nonstop calls, emails, and alarms. On slower days, or lulls between the calls and emails he uses his time wisely and preps for the future. He cleans out his email, looks at updates, and makes sure he is ready for the next rush.

I am picking Lester’s brain during a quiet moment. Mid response, Lester is interrupted by the phone. He picks up and introduces himself. It’s from 311; transferring a caller who is reporting a leak. A few moments later, a man starts explaining the situation. His construction crew had hit the mainline. “The water shot above the house!” I believe were the exact words used. Lester asks a few questions, gathers the information, tells him to stay put and that Charlotte Water would be there shortly.

Lester fills out the report, takes screenshots of the information and sends an email to the right folks to go check it out. Without missing a beat he’s back to prepping for a future rush.

I find myself wondering what it must be like to wear so many hats. Lester handles phone calls, dispatches crews, coordinates through email, and… BUZZZZ. My line of thought is interrupted by another loud sound. I look up to see the monitor above his desk zoom in on the security gate. Lester chuckles again due to my reaction and greets the driver. It’s the landscaper coming to do work on the property. Lester opens the gate for them.


Another hat that Dispatch wears is security! They have monitors that show all the different cameras around the facility.

I sit and watch as Lester goes about his work. Coordinating with others, answering calls, opening security gates, and dispatching to crew chiefs and supervisors. If there is anyone who knows about everything Charlotte Water does daily… it’s Lester Gray.

My day with Lester was coming to a close. As I was packing up, Lester was still answering the phone, letting people through the gate, and receiving endless emails. I thanked Lester for teaching me so much. As a worker for Charlotte Water for over 23 years, he sure was able to tell me all about the history of the utility.

A firm handshake followed by “have a good one” and I was on my way home.

Above all, I will remember this. Dispatch helps Charlotte Water run smoothly. Without their constant communication and coordination, crews wouldn’t know where to go and what we were walking into. They are all wonderful people and dedicated workers who put in their time around the clock to make sure everything goes as planned. Thank you again, Lester!

Make sure to stay up to date on all things Charlotte Water by following us on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube. Don’t forget to check in on the CLTWater Blog so you won’t miss the next installment of A Day in the Life!

A Day in the Life: CharMeck 311 Call Center

Summer intern, Jake Dube’s adventure continues! Last week he was with CharMeck 311, sitting in with customer service representatives (CSR). Employees of 311 may not be Charlotte Water employees, but they do work for the City. In fact, of all phone calls at 311, 45% of them are Charlotte Water related. Come and join Jake on his day in the life of a 311 CSR.

I drive north and I pull into the large parking lot of 311. I find the lobby and wait for Dee Crayton, the program manager.

She tells me that 311 handles over a million calls every year. 450,000 of those are Charlotte Water related. These calls can consist of high water bills, reporting a leak, and everything else in between.

Dee explains the rigorous training CSR’s undergo before answering calls. First, the 12-14 week training period where you learn the call system and applications (Since they handle calls for both City and County, there are TONS of applications). To start, you learn two, then as time goes on, you take training courses for more applications and eventually become a “generalist” CSR.

After training, they are still not ready for the floor. They work in the “nesting pod”. This is where the small group starts answering calls in a controlled environment with close supervision. This period goes for 60 days. Once complete, they are ready for the floor.

After the tour, we take a seat in Dee’s office. She settles in and gives her email a quick glance. She turns away from her screen and gives me the rundown of my day. I get my own headset and go out onto the floor and sit down with CSR, LeNette Harrison.

LeNette answers utilities and Tax calls. The majority of her calls are about Charlotte Water. LeNette was kind and informative as I sat with her. I had so many questions but it was hard to squeeze any in because she was constantly answering calls. Since I can’t ask questions, I listen.

I am amazed by her multitasking. After each call ends, the CSR must log it. This log contains the subject and end result of the call. Every time LeNette ends a call she would immediately be connected to the next call. While answering that call, she was finishing the log for the previous one at the same time. It was impressive.

Next, I moved to generalist CSR: Julian Campbell. Julian has been with 311 for five years. Just looking at his desktop monitors gave me anxiety. He has so many different applications open at once so he can find the information needed no matter the call.

Julian handled calls ranging from Property disputes, bulky item pickups, and even high water bills. Remember my article on Bobby Sloan? When he investigates a high water bill, this is where it can start.

Julian’s knowledge was immense. Try and find someone who has more knowledge about Charlotte Mecklenburg overall than a CSR generalist. Can’t? I’m not surprised. That’s because they know all the services the city and county provide.

Days get busy at 311. At this point, there were between 20-40 callers on hold. CSR’s don’t ever rush a caller off the line, but they don’t like callers to sit on hold for too long.

Julian answered calls all the way to lunch. Some were easy and quick, and others were complicated. No matter what, Julian was thanked for his ability to help. Once he finished his last call, he switched his status to lunch break and went to eat.

I sit with my last CSR, Mozelle Bryant. Mozelle only chews Extra gum (Spearmint of course) and has since grade school. She’s been with 311 for over 10 years and is a generalist, like Julian. She offered me a stick of gum, then got to work.

Luckily while sitting with her, calls were not backed up like earlier. I take this time to ask questions about being a CSR. Mozelle says with a laugh that there is never a dull moment during her day. Things can pick up in the office and you won’t be able to put the headset down till quitting time. Especially as a generalist, you can go from answering questions about a water bill to then contacting animal control about a stray dog. Never a dull moment she says again as a call connects.

Before I know it, I look at the clock and realize it’s the end of my day. I thanked everyone who let me join them as I leave. I popped into Dee’s office to write a thank you note, then grab my bag and head home.

I gained so much respect for the job. All CSR’s are very knowledgeable and handle problems all day to find the help callers need.

The biggest takeaway that I had from this day was that all the employees; from the supervisors to CSR’s care. They are a resource to help the citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and want there to be resolution to any callers issue. They are good at what they do, plain and simple.

It was a pleasure to sit in and watch them work. I learned so much about Charlotte Water and even more about the services the City provides.

A big Thank you again to Dee Crayton and everyone that I sat with! I had a blast.

Make sure you stay connected and follow Charlotte Water on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube to stay up to date on all the great work Charlotte Water is doing! Keep on the lookout for my next installment of ‘A Day in the Life’!

A Day in the Life: Environmental Program Inspector

Charlotte Water communication intern, Jake Dube is on a quest to learn every different job at Charlotte Water. This past week he spent a day with Environmental Program Inspector: Shannon Bryne. Come and join him and his camera as they adventured along with Shannon for the day.

Shannon starts out her day in the office at 8:00 am. I meet her at her desk, we gather all the gear and equipment we need for the day and head out to the truck. Shannon turns the keys. The truck engine roars, and we are on the way.

Shannon typically completes five to seven inspections a day. What does an Environmental Program Inspector inspect exactly? why, grease traps of course! Every food service provider is required to have a grease trap. This ensures grease does not get into the wastewater pipes and cause an overflow. Shannon (and others on her team) makes sure these traps are functioning properly.

We pull up to the first inspection and walk into the store. Shannon introduces herself and asks to meet with the manager. The manager comes to the front and invites us to follow her back to the office. Shannon explains why she is visiting and asks to see the most recent grease trap cleaning receipt.

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Patiently Waiting

Shannon tells me about all the different rules that must be followed by the businesses. Determining how often the trap needs to be cleaned depends on the size of the trap. 1,000 gallons or more means they require quarterly cleaning. Some restaurants use more oils than others, and in those cases, Charlotte Water may suggest more frequent cleanings to maintain a well-functioning grease trap.

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Old Receipt

The manager eventually finds a receipt, though it is from a few years back. Since she does not receive the most recent receipt, she happily gives the manager her card and informs the manager to contact her once she gathers the proper the information. She takes notes on her tablet and heads outside to check the trap!

The first things first… create a safe work environment. Shannon pulls out the cones and places them around the work area.

Next, She uses a tool that scans air levels inside the trap (this is so Shannon does not breathe in dangerous gases). She places it in the manhole and after a moment it beeps, signifying the safe workspace. She pries off the manhole covers and takes a look inside.

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Testing the manhole

She gestures me over to come and look. Shannon points out the top layer of grease. If a trap is cleaned often, the outlet will just look like dirty water. Sometimes, a hard layer of grease can form on top. Based on her initial analysis, she says this needs to be checked by the Sludge Judge; one of her many tools for inspections. She heads to the back of the truck and grabs the tool.

Sludge Judge

The Sludge Judge is a clear tube that Shannon sticks down into grease traps. You trap the grease and examine it.

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Judging the trap

Shannon examines the levels for a few moments and says this trap passes the examination. She releases the cap and the contents fall back into the trap. Then, we head to our next inspection.

As we sit in traffic Shannon shares the tricks of the trade. Shannon is incredibly knowledgeable about her work and passionate about protecting the environment. Ever since she was young she’s deeply cared about keeping the planet clean. She remembers fondly how as a child she would pick up litter every day on her street. Her job helps her continue this goal of a clean planet and this puts a smile on my face.

Traffic finally lets up, and we arrive at our next inspection.

Not all grease traps are the same; just like any product, there are competitors and different variations. Shannon says that facilities may have a grease trap inside the kitchen. Just like this one.

Trap GIF

We head inside the store and are greeted by the owner. She gladly takes us to the back to show Shannon the new grease trap they had installed. Shannon says this is the “Cadillac” of grease traps. What makes this trap special is the four separate compartments and screens made of carbon fiber. The extra compartments help clean the traps more thoroughly. Shannon says the carbon fiber means it is a grease trap that will never need to be replaced, unlike other traps.

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The “Cadillac” grease trap

Shannon’s job isn’t just inspections. Often she does public education. In the case of this facility, they had just recently opened. They didn’t know how to set up cleanings for the traps.  Shannon gladly gives her a packet of companies that do inspections and cleanings and left the owner with her business card in case she had any more questions.

The owner is relieved and thanks’ Shannon for her help. Shannon says its all part of the job. What Shannon won’t say, but I will is… Shannon rocks. We pack up and head to the next inspection

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Inside look

A few inspections later and we are at the last one of the day. As we get out of the truck, Shannon notices a storm drain right outside the storefront. She heads over for a closer look. What I thought looked like rust, was actually dried grease. We peer down and see a grease build up. Concerned, Shannon follows the line to the storm drain on the street. So much grease has been poured down, that there was a grease build up all the way in the street storm drain.

Shannon and I go inside for the inspection to see if they have all the proper equipment and cleanings done. They had it all. With all the proper equipment, it was confusing to so much grease being poured into the storm drain out front.

Shannon reminds the owner to dispose of all grease properly. She then gives them a Flow Free poster. As we leave she tells me the county will handle it from here.

I ask why the county would look further into the issue. Shannon informs me that Charlotte Water manages drinking and wastewater pipes but not stormwater pipes. Shannon documents the issue on the stormwater watcher app and passes along the information to the right folks. We get in the truck to head home.

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I learned so much from Shannon during my day. She is boundless with knowledge and very passionate about her job. One thing I will remember is how much Shannon cares for her work. She’s helping keep Charlotte clean.

Shannon was smiling all day long. Born and raised in the greater Charlotte area, it is clear that she loves this city and is happy to help keep it clean. Thank you again, Shannon!

Be sure to check in next time of A Day in the Life. Stay tuned to hear about more of Charlotte Water through the eyes of a summer intern!




A Day in the Life: Large Meter Repair Crew Chief

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Large Meter Work Scene.

Summer intern Jake Dube is on a quest. Join him as he shadows Charlotte Water staff to learn about all the different things that Charlotte Water staff do in the community. 

Charlotte Water has 912 employees. I am going to work alongside as many as I can to learn as much as I can about the utility. Last week, I had the pleasure of shadowing Bobby Sloan, Large Meter Repair Crew Chief, on my first ride-along of the summer.

His day begins early. Bobby doesn’t mind, he is an early bird and wakes up around 3:45 a.m. He doesn’t need much, a walk in the crisp morning air and a cup o’ joe. He knocks out office work before we meet. I arrive and grab our gear and head to the truck.

In addition to working out in the field, Crew Chiefs coordinate and dispatch staff to various jobs each day. When I get into the truck, Bobby looks over his ToughBook and examines the list of jobs for the day. He chooses his service request to respond to and starts the truck.

Bobby is a detective. He investigates strange water bills. The first service job we are heading to is for a low water bill. We arrive at the apartment complex and find the water meter box.

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Bobby Sloan taking a reading from the large water meter.

Bobby uses his tool to open the meter box and begins to run a test. He makes sure that the device registers the same number found on the meter.

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Inside look

The meter is registering the same numbers the scanner is. Bobby looks up briefly to ponder the problem in front of him. In what feels like no time at all I see the light bulb turn on. Bobby knew exactly what to do next.

He comes back from the truck holding a water key. He takes the key, sticks it down around a bolt and turns…

Water Gif

With water running, it confirms that the meter was working properly. Bobby deals exclusively with the meter. Anything past the meter box is not his expertise.  The large meter was working, and water was registering. The apartment complex may not use much water, or there is an issue elsewhere in the system. This means that this ticket will stay open and someone else will come back to further investigate the problem.

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The Water Key

This is how most days go. Find the job, look at the meter, and solve the problem.

Everything is running smoothly before the last meter of the day…

Bobby is responding to a request to locate a meter. Charlotte Water staff went out to check the meter but could not find it. That was now our job.

Bobby pulls out his phone and opens up a city app that shows all the water and sewer mains, manholes, and meters in Charlotte. We see that there is a meter box down the street. We orientate ourselves and get walking.

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Beginning the search for the meter box

Bobby is carrying a prod, this tool is used to poke the ground. Sometimes the meter box is covered in overgrowth. Bobby suspects this is the reason the crew couldn’t find the meter. We walk down the street to the spot on the app. With no meter box immediately in sight, we begin looking around the surrounding area. 

Bobby works his way around some large trees and starts poking around. We come up with nothing. Bobby looks at me with a small smirk on his face. Just like he has done all day, he gets an idea. We go back to the truck to use a trick of the trade.

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Searching for the meter box

He opens Google Maps on his phone. He taps the button for street view and drags the slider to 2011. We are looking at the same street, but not as overgrown. He is looking for blue spray paint on the side of the road; a mark used by staff to identify water meters on the street. Though this is neat, we still can’t find the meter box.

Not being discouraged, Bobby grabs his ToughBook to do some investigating. He looks up the history of this meter box and found the last person to service it. The name reads Frank; he smiles and says “Watch this”. Frank is on Bobby’s team and must be one of the most organized people I have ever met.  He calls Frank, who opens his excel spreadsheet noting every meter he has serviced. Frank laughs as he had to find this meter. He directs us down the block, around the corner. We follow his directions and find the spot.

Problem solved right? We finally found it…ish. We look up from the blue marking on the street to find weeds 5 feet tall.

Bobby gets out of the truck and grabs his tools.

After a few minutes, he cuts his way to the meter box, sticks his shovel in the ground, and catches his breath.

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Meter box finally found

We approach the top of the meter box and open it up. We are finally done… except there is one more surprise left.

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Filled meter box.

The meter box is filled with water. Bobby explains that this is common in low lying areas.

As I stand there wondering how in the world we could solve this, Bobby goes to work. In his truck, he starts pulling tools out and he hooks something into his truck battery. It is a portable pump. Version 2

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Portable pump.

He takes the pump and places it down into the meter box. With a flip of a switch, the water comes pumping out.

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Pump in action.

After a minute, the meter box is clear of water. Bobby checks to see if the meter is working correctly. Before we leave, he sprays blue spray paint to help the next crew member find the box.

Spray Gif.gif

As we are driving back to the office, I thank Bobby for letting me tag along. I started out my day as a novice and now I know so much about large meters.

At the end of the day, one thing was clear. Bobby wants the best for the customers of Charlotte Water. He makes sure that they have access to water 24.7 and that the meter is working properly. He is an incredible guy and a fountain of knowledge. I had a wonderful day riding around with him. Thanks again, Bobby!

For more stories on other Charlotte Water employees, stay up to date with us on our blog and other social media accounts!