2018 brought challenges, changes and a spectrum of achievements for the City of Gastonia. Some successes can be easily categorized by department. In other situations, employees from a variety of City divisions and departments pulled together to serve our residents, often working long hours in less-than-ideal conditions. Employees should feel a sense of pride for what we, together, have accomplished.
Major events: Maddox Ritch, FUSE, strategic plan, storms, restructuring, Gotha
No event generated more local news headlines in 2018 than September’s search for 6-year old Maddox Ritch who disappeared while at the City’s Rankin Lake Park. Several City departments assisted Police and federal authorities in searching for the child and eventually finding his body. City employees pulled together to professionally and compassionately handle the crisis that brought international attention to Gastonia for more than a week.
Along Franklin Boulevard, the City completed demolition of buildings, site preparation and moving utilities for the FUSE project. A preliminary financing plan for the sports and entertainment district was approved. The first private development was selected for the Trenton Mill pad.
The City Council unanimously approved the City's 2018-2020 strategic plan in April.
Inclement weather kept City employees busy during the year, especially those who work for Public Works, Electric, Police, Fire, Two Rivers Utilities and Solid Waste. 2018 storm events included snow in January and December, and Hurricanes Florence and Michael, in September and October, respectively.
Effective June 1, the City reorganized and restructured some of its largest departments:
- Dale Denton was promoted to lead the revamped Public Works Department.
- Joe Albright directs the reorganized Public Utilities Department.
- Community Services is the new name for six divisions led by Vincent Wong.
- Parks and Recreation, now under Cam Carpenter, took on new responsibilities and employees.
In May, several departments were represented when Mayor Walker Reid led a delegation of seven City officials and seven Sister Cities representatives to Gotha, Germany, to celebrate the 25-year partnership of Gastonia and Gotha.
2018 by City department:
Communication and Marketing:
- More than doubled the number of followers on the City’s social media platforms
- Created City News Source to provide information directly to the public and news reporters
- Created Employee Focus, a monthly e-newsletter for City employees
- Launched new bus routes in June and added two small, “light transit” vehicles
- Selected a new fixed-base operator for the airport, which improved the level and quality of services
- Offered homebuyer classes attended by 186 people
- Completed construction of three affordable housing units
- Launched a Pavement Condition Study
- Issued nearly 1,000 Certificates of Occupancy representing about $43 million worth of construction in Gastonia
- Established the Economic Development Department with two additional employees to grow capacity
- Updated the Downtown incentive policy
- Moved Customer Service to the Garland Business Center
- Updated the purchasing, fund balance, and investment policies
- For the 25th consecutive year, received awards for budget reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association
- Received a Class 2 Insurance Services Office rating, among the top 2% in North Carolina and top 3% in the U.S. The ISO score is a measure of how well prepared a fire department is to fight fires and can result in lower insurance premiums for property owners.
- Offered Workplace Violence Awareness training and Harassment Prevention training to all City employees, with assistance from the Police and Legal departments
- Conducted a comprehensive study of employee satisfaction, in conjunction with the UNC School of Government
- Named Judy Smith as full-time director
Parks and Recreation:
- Renovated Martha Rivers Park score tower and playground
- Completed a section of greenway from Ferguson Park to Marietta Street
- Partnered with Keep Gastonia Beautiful to plan and construct a Teen Garden in the Highland community
- Promoted Cam Carpenter to department director following the retirement of Chuck Dellinger
- Passed its first annual compliance review from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
- Implemented in-service leadership training attended by all sworn officers
- Successfully initiated targeted strategies to improve recruitment
- Completed installation of LED lights on Franklin Boulevard and replaced 909 street lights to reduce operating costs
- Received five Public Power Excellence awards from the American Public Power Association
- Completed a new substation for all Gastonia Technology Park customers
- Finished work on the Smyre neighborhood water improvement project
- Began treating wastewater from the Town of Stanley’s Phase II sewer project and replaced a water line serving the Town of McAdenville
- With Keep Gastonia Beautiful, launched the Adopt-a-Street and Adopt-a-Trail programs; added “Do Not Litter” signs in highly littered areas
- Introduced the WasteWise app for Solid Waste customers
- Added a stream monitoring gauge on Duharts Creek
- Restored 150 linear feet of Linda Street Stream
- Completed the American Alliance of Museums reaccreditation process
- Completed the exhibit exchange with Sister City Gotha, Germany, the Schiele’s first international exhibit
- Opened a new featured exhibit, "Creepy Nature"
- Began upgrading software used for planning, zoning, building, permitting and code enforcement teams within Development Services
- Upgraded the utility billing payment application
- Implemented Seamless Docs to improve forms on the City’s website
- Released an updated version of the intranet CityNet
- Finished its first year surpassing its two goals for overall wellness and percentage of employees who participate