Tag Archives: employee spotlight

Call 811 Before You Dig!

Building a house? Planting a rose bush? Digging a hole to beat Nicolas Cage in finding the third National Treasure stockpile? Before you do any of these things, it’s important to call 811.

When you call or log an 811 ticket on the 811 website, it triggers a multitude of utilities to investigate your request and Charlotte Water is one of them. Once a request is received, a Locates Technician is dispatched to the site and marks the area where the water line is underground.

Jorge Arango, Locates Supervisor, responding to an 811 call and marking an area with blue paint to signal water lines underground.

The Locates group has their hands full, as they respond to all calls whether it’s a small job or a large construction project. In fact, it is reported that this team responds to a minimum of over 1,000 requests every month alone. On top of that, not all jobs are straightforward. Some pipe is laid in unusual ways to avoid features such as storm drains or manholes. While these situations are quickly resolved by an experienced technician, it does still take time to recognize variances in surroundings and mark them appropriately.

Jorge Arango, Locates Supervisor, shared with me that technicians have to learn to trust their equipment rather than assume where they anticipate the water pipes to be located underground. Fortunately, the team has access to some pretty cool tools! Featured in the picture below is a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) tool to assist in locating difficult water pipes and mains.

Without calling 811 first, you risk damaging water, sewer, gas, electric, or any other utility line that runs underground. There are many teams just like the Charlotte Water team that will respond to your call for free to mark the area first before you dig. By being mindful, you save yourself and your neighbors a lot of headaches in the event you strike a line.

If you’d like to submit a request, visit https://nc811.org/ or call 811!

No Main, No Gain: Maintenance of Your Water Mains

Field Operations for Charlotte Water is a critical component to the success of the utility. Serving an area of over one million people is a large undertaking. To add to that, the area of Charlotte is among one of the fastest-growing regions in the entire country. As growth continues, Field Operations must keep pace with maintaining old and new water mains throughout the county. How do they do it? With a strong team and a tried and true strategy.

Field Operations are split into four separate zones, each covering a distinct geographical area of the service area of Charlotte Water. This includes towns outside of Charlotte such as Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill, and Pineville.

Pictured above is Zone 1, which serves the northern part of the region.

When asked what each Zone covers, Operations Manager, William Lee, said that focus is applied to areas of maintenance of water infrastructure and situations such as water main breaks, sewer main breaks, preventing and responding to sanitary sewer overflows, and maintaining critical assets such as manholes and sewer lines that reside within that Zone.

These individuals are experts in their field and possess a dedication to the city to see it function as smoothly and effectively as they can make it happen. Many people see through decades-long careers in Field Operations and bring a wide array of skill sets.

One example is Phil Stanley, a Team Leader at Zone 1. He started with Charlotte Water 23 years ago and before that, he had a long career in construction projects and working on plumbing and septic systems. When asked what he likes most he said, “I enjoy the investigative part of it. I like to solve problems and there’s a sense of fulfillment because you can physically see what you did and you serve the people of Charlotte.”

An example of a type of call Field Ops may respond to within the region.

There’s no shortage of interesting days with Field Operations within Charlotte Water, and there’s a little something for everyone. William Lee, Operations Manager, said, “Charlotte Water is a great place to work and there’s a lot of diversity. There are a lot of avenues to find your niche. You get out of it what you put into it.” In the Zone 1 facility, there is a section dedicated to training new field technicians. A particularly fascinating part of the training space was real examples of water and sewer mains with real tools to demonstrate how to make new connections and how to operate valves.

Interested in learning more and joining the team? Check out current job openings at jointeamwater.com

Leaky Meter? We Can Fix That.

Most days, it is likely a regular resident served by Charlotte Water doesn’t even think about where their water comes from or the infrastructure that supports it. However, those thoughts can be at the forefront of your mind if you walk outside and see a flood in your yard from a leaky pipe or fitting.

Charlotte Water has staff on standby at all hours to receive calls about leaks all around the region and will send a tech into the field to personally investigate a problem. Relevant calls come into Dispatch, a team of individuals who man the line 24/7 to be on standby in case the worst happens.

Senior Water Service Technician, Danny Balose, flushing a hydrant to repair a leak.

One of the supervisors at Dispatch, Fred Moody, shared stories of his experiences during his years of service and some of the unique things he’s seen. He said that they see more calls during extreme weather, such as deep freezes, and that it’s important to bear in mind that freezes impact our pipes more than northern regions not because of aged infrastructure, but because we designed our systems to be suitable for the climate we live in.

Outside of extreme events, leaky fittings and pipes can be from a number of things and can range from a serious leak that threatens the integrity of a road to just a damp yard. Below, Danny Balose, a seasoned water service technician, listens to water running through a meter to diagnose where a leak may be coming from.

Danny Balose detecting a leak by listening for running water.

Danny has decades of experience within the area. When I was riding with him to learn more about his role, he knew where many neighborhoods were in Charlotte just by memory from his visits over the years. He holds a philosophy that each visit demands the same attention and care to get to the bottom of the problem. He is meticulous in his record keeping and commits time after each call to fill out exactly what happened.

Danny is just one of many individuals at Charlotte Water that remains dedicated to serving their community. If you see a leak in your own yard or in the street near your home, call 311 and Danny or another technician from Charlotte Water will come out to investigate.

Who You Gonna Call? It’s 311.

If you haven’t already heard, when you have a problem or question about Charlotte or Mecklenburg services, it’s best to call 311. CharMeck 311 is the region’s customer service line to have your city service questions answered and assessed. 311 was introduced to the area almost 20 years ago in 2005 as a consolidation of services. Before, residents were directed to contact services and utilities separately to have issues resolved. Since then, 311 has received tens of millions of calls that range from tax questions to water issues, animal control, and more. They even get out into the community for in person events to answer your questions! They have a standing engagement at your local libraries if you would like to speak to them in person.

311 On The Go at a local event recently

You may wonder, how does an agent get information for a caller at the drop of a hat? Surely they don’t just know all the information off the top of their heads? Agents are trained to use an application the city calls Emerald. It is essentially an internal search engine with which agents are trained to look up keywords to find solutions to questions quickly. Emerald is kept up to date with current city projects and programs so the information you get is current and reliable.

Customer service representatives are trained to handle different types of requests, with the most senior representatives trained to handle any type of call that comes in. The agents are masters of multitasking by providing service to callers via phone or online and inputting information and requests through a myriad of forms. In this role, many agents become extremely well versed in a variety of city subject matters and some even move to different departments in the city as incredible assets to their new teams with their wealth of city knowledge.

To maintain consistent quality over time with new agents being hired, 311 commits exceptional effort to training and quality control. Regina Peralta, a Quality Assurance Analyst at 311, offered the insight that 311 is unique as a call center as it is a public service rather than a traditional private company helpline. Agents receive calls from a wide audience of people that have a large variety of needs, and it is a tough job to be sure everyone is served with the same care and quality.

Zekia Young, Senior Customer Service Representative

At 311, the agents live and thrive in the same communities they serve. Pictured above is Zekia Young. She’s been with 311 for over 18 years since 311 opened in 2005. I had the pleasure of sitting with her for an afternoon as she took calls and she handled each one with poise and professionalism. I asked her what she hopes for the public to know, and she said that she hopes that people understand that the team at 311 works hard every day to accurately satisfy the needs of the community.

To contact 311, you have a few options!

You may call the service center and speak to someone like Zekia from 7am-7pm Monday through Friday. You may also utilize an online chat feature to speak to a real human during those hours (trust me, I witnessed it myself).

Otherwise, you may submit service requests online or via the CLT+ app. For more information, visit the 311 contact page.