The City of Pickerington is gaining an extra set of eyes.
Citizens can now log onto the City’s website at www.pickerington.net to provide a crime tip, report a code violation or even request a pothole be fixed.
On the City’s updated home page, there is a “City Request Center” (CRC) link in the middle of the page that allows residents to click on a tab and report a problem.
When they open the CRC link, residents have four options on a drop-down bar to choose from: code violations, crime tips, public information requests and service requests.
If they are making a service request, there is a place to check-mark the type of assistance needed. Requests for service suggestions range from curb/sidewalk repair to the pick-up of dead animals on roadways.
There is even a box to mark “other” if none of the 11 categories applies to the situation.
While other cities have similar “3-1-1” services, this enhanced, interactive website program was designed specifically for Pickerington, and does not direct the user to “frequently asked questions” as a way of dealing with the challenge, according to Lana Messmore, the City’s webmaster and administrative assistant to the human resources director.
“Those usually go to a page of frequently asked questions and will direct the visitor to the appropriate place in the website in which to accomplish their goal,” Messmore said.
The Pickerington site allows residents to immediately report a problem without having to navigate through pages to decide what they should do.
Residents can report situations anonymously if they choose. If they desire a response back, they can enter their email address.
“We hope for continuous improvement of the City’s responsiveness though a 24/7, easy-to-use community request center; a citywide system for prioritizing and expediting service calls; and simplified tracking of responses to requests, which allows for staff performance analysis and reporting,” Messmore said.
Residents do not have to be near a computer to send a request for help to the City.
“Residents can pull up our website on their cell phones and access the same forms they would at home on their computer without having to download a special application, or they can still call in as they have in the past,” Messmore said.
If a resident prefers to speak directly to the department, the City has recorded a directory of personnel and departments.
An operator is also always available to assist.
For easy access, a list of City employees and department extensions can be downloaded and printed from the “Public Information” button on the website home page so that City services are always at your fingertips.
Service Department Stays Busy
The City of Pickerington is a carefully groomed place for residents to live, work and play.
As a result of the dedication of the 11 employees of the City’s Service and Utilities Department, new investors are taking a second look at the vibrant Violet City.
To attract new people to Pickerington while keeping it a wonderful place for residents to live, City crews stress attention-to-detail activities from picking up trash and debris along the roadways to the timely filling of pesky potholes.
City employees take the time to responsibly maintain beautiful hanging flower baskets in Olde Pickerington Village, care for City parks that invite children and sports enthusiasts to play, and rise to the occasion to perform at a minute’s notice when Mother Nature dumps a ton of snow on the City or when summer storms uproot trees or create other weather-related safety hazards.
In addition to these services, City Street and Utility crews are responsible for maintenance of 53 center line miles of roadways, water and wastewater operations, street sign installation, leaf pick-up, mosquito fogging, tree maintenance, grass mowing, and water meter reading.
While their “to do” list never seems to end, these crews know how important their job is to the residents of the City.
“I appreciate the proactive, attention-to-detail, results-driven approach that our City Services Department brings to work every day,” said Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance.
“All involved believe that a community’s success is based upon its establishing a status of continual improvement where our City’s collectively beneficial results are perpetual, visible and increase in frequency as time goes by,” he added.
To keep Pickerington’s residential neighborhoods in good condition, the Services Department has initiated an adopt-a-subdivision program.
“We choose a different subdivision each month and dedicate a day or two when all of our 11 Service Department employees trim trees, sweep streets, repair and replace signs, and paint hydrants in the summer months, said Pickerington Service Director Edward Drobina.
“The City has very hardworking employees who take pride in their jobs. I am very fortunate to work for the residents of Pickerington along with a great support staff,” Drobina said.
On the Utility side, to respond to sewer challenges even more quickly, the City has purchased a sewer jet trailer to relieve sewer backups.
In the past, the Department had to call in a contractor for sewer cleaning, according to Drobina. In 2013, the Department is also going to establish programs for water tank maintenance, valve maintenance and replacement, hydrant tracking and painting, and the cleaning and videoing of sanitary sewer lines.
These programs are designed to spot potential challenges before they become big problems for City residents so that Pickerington remains a beautiful place to call home.
City Profile: Jan Eichner
While some people worry about figuring their personal income taxes and getting them turned in to the City of Pickerington on time, Jan Eichner has about 11,000 taxes to calculate each year.
Since 1989, Eichner has worked in the payroll and income tax department for the City, including the last nine years as the tax administrator.
“I feel a friendly face, a sympathetic ear and a cooperative spirit in collecting and fairly administering taxes are musts for a local tax office.
We are there to help our citizens fulfill and understand their tax obligations,” said Eichner.
On Jan. 1, 2013, Eichner, who was the first parks and recreation director for the Village of Pickerington, will end her 32 years of service with the City and turn over the reins of the tax department to Kim Pulley, a former auditor with the state of Ohio and a private firm.
The Pickerington Income Tax Department is responsible for collecting the City’s largest revenue source, which provides funding for City services and programs for 18,000 residents.
“What I will remember most about Jan is her ability to interact with the residents and turn the not-so-pleasant job of tax collections into an opportunity to educate,” said Chris Schornack, Pickerington’s finance director.
“Jan has handled residents with grace, openness and humor,” he added.
When Eichner started with the tax department, Pickerington was a village of 600 people.
Under her leadership, the department was able to keep up with managing the income taxes of a rapidly growing City with just a few people by “embracing technology.”
“Jan initiated various upgrades to the software system, including electronic filing, which reduces the amount of paperwork received by the department while increasing the accuracy of the returns received,” Schornack said.
As a result of improvements in technology, taxpayers can now log onto an account they create on the City’s website and check what they owe and what they have paid.
When taxes are due, residents can even make credit card payments online and businesses can electronically pay their bills.
While Eichner enjoys her job and keeping pace with technology, she decided to retire this year as a result of personal tragedy and triumph.
In January 2012, she was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer of the lymph nodes and began chemotherapy treatments.
In May, her 45-year-old son Kevin passed away from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
A few months later, Eichner’s father died while she was in the hospital undergoing colon surgery to remove another cancer.
Eichner is now cancer-free and is being watched regularly to guard against any reoccurrences.
“They say, ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,’ and I feel I can conquer almost anything after this year’s events. I now know I am a survivor, in more ways than one, and can use my experience to encourage others in similar circumstances,” Eichner said.
In 2013, taxpayers will benefit from Eichner’s work long after she has left the department.
In the New Year, taxpayers will be able to e-file tax returns with a new online e-filing system.
In preparation for Eichner’s retirement and to keep the department running smoothly, the City hired Pulley in April as her successor.
“I am leaving my department in the very capable hands of Kim Pulley, and we have discussed that philosophy and she is onboard with it,” Eichner said.
“Of course, it is with mixed feelings that I leave a place that has been such a huge part of my life for so long. But I don’t live far and you can bet they will see my face often around City Hall,” she added.
Pulley, who holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Muskingum College, said she has “big shoes” to fill.
Already, she is impressed with the city that has grown over the years, but has maintained its “family-friendly” atmosphere.
One of the challenges of her new job is to help the city move forward in collecting delinquent taxes.
“Nobody likes to pay taxes, but we try to be as friendly and as helpful as we can be,” Pulley said.
Pulley will acquire all the tax duties of the department when the New Year rings in on Jan. 1.
We Are Pickerington Food Pantry By Susan Hite, food pantry representative
The PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington was founded more than 30 years ago by local churches dedicated to providing emergency food assistance to families in need residing within the Pickerington Local School District.
The pantry’s former home was in the basement of the Carnegie Building. In March 2012, the pantry moved to a larger site at 70 Cross St., where it continues to provide service to an increasing number of clients. It’s staffed by more than 70 volunteers and one part-time director.
Clients of the food pantry range in age from infants to seniors. Some visit our pantry occasionally while others require a greater helping hand after suffering a debilitating illness or loss of employment. All have reached a point in their lives when they need a helping hand to assist them in this basic need of food. The food pantry extends that hand of support in a kind, respectful manner, offering food and encouragement.
The holidays are a particularly difficult time of year for our clients. We offer special assistance by providing Thanksgiving and Christmas meal baskets. These baskets are assembled by local churches, civic groups and community organizations. Clients are especially appreciative of the kindness shown them during the holidays.
Community support is the lifeline of the food pantry. Individuals and organizations have cared for the food pantry in a variety of ways. Many want to know how they can help. Here’s how you can be a supporting member of this community effort:
Donate Your Time!
Time commitments can be as little as a few hours a month or as many as you can share! All really make a difference!
• Work in our food pantry: Sort and shelve food for distribution, assist with unloading and stocking of deliveries.
• Assist clients with shopping: Sign up for work during client hours, help register clients, act as a shopping guide.
• Work in our office: Answer telephones, assist with data entry, help with mailings.
• Organize a food drive: A perfect opportunity for schools, churches and civic groups. Collected donations may be dropped off during client hours or call for a special delivery.
• Donate fresh produce from your garden: Drop off donations during client hours.
Your tax-deductible contributions are essential to maintaining our food sources and housing them in a place accessible to clients.
• Checks and cash donations are accepted year-round and are tax-deductible. Make checks payable to PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington, P.O. Box 914, Pickerington, OH 43147.
• Support us during our annual Plaza of Lights campaign, through Dec. 31.
• Make a donation through payroll deduction at your place of employment. Call us for important information.
Remember us in your prayers!
70 Cross St., Pickerington, OH 43147 Phone: 614-834-0079 Client Hours: Mondays, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-noon
Olde Village Holiday
By Sandy Melillo, president, Olde Village Pickerington Business Association
Each year, the Olde Pickerington Village Business Association (OPVBA) hosts an Olde Village Holiday in Olde Pickerington Village.
Visitors to the celebration may participate in carriage rides, listen to stories of the season being read at the Pickerington-Violet Township Historical Society, hear carolers singing as they stroll throughout the village, receive a holiday treat from Deblin Designs, have a picture taken with Santa and his elves, or enjoy a number of other activities planned for the evening of Friday, Dec. 7. The evening is highlighted by the ceremonial lighting of the Village Tree by City of Pickerington dignitaries.
The OPVBA is a membership organization representing and promoting businesses located in Olde Pickerington Village. It is the purpose of the group to unify the businesses, examine challenges faced by all and increase awareness of shops and offices located there. For more information about the OPVBA, please contact any member of the organization or visit the website www.pickeringtonvillage.com; a list of members may be found there.
All are welcome to attend the Olde Village Holiday celebration on Dec. 7, beginning at 5 p.m. and continuing until 8:30 p.m. Shops and restaurants will be open during the event.
It’s Not Too Late to Winterize By Chad Lucht, Senior Urban Specialist, Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District
The leaves have been raked and the lawn has been mowed for the final time. There are things around the house that one should do to prepare for winter:
Start with the lawnmower and other gas-powered engines. Use a fuel stabilizer to help them start more easily in the spring. A good stabilizer can be found at any auto parts or home improvement store.
Next, if garden hoses will remain outside, disconnect them from the outside spigot to prevent damage to the pipes. Drain the hoses to prevent a water leak in the spring. It is always a good idea to drain hoses, even if they will be hanging in the garage, basement or other structure for the winter.
Then, to prepare your rain barrel for the winter months, drain the barrel, remove the diverter and install the winter cover to keep water away from the foundation of your home. The barrel may remain in its location outside as long as the water is drained from it.
Finally, check the gutters on your home to make certain they are securely attached and free from leaves and debris so they will function properly.
Now that your summer equipment and your home have been prepared for their winter nap, it’s time to wake up one piece of equipment: the snow blower! Check all the fluid levels and start the snow blower to ensure everything is working properly. Nothing would be more disappointing than waking up and having to shovel snow by hand.
Technology Advancements in the Fire Service: Mobile Data Computers
By John Eisel, Violet Township Fire Chief
Technology has played an ever-emerging role in our industry, just as it has in every other, improving efficiency and access to information with the goal of improving service delivery.
The role of the Mobile Data Computer (MDC) has become a vital link to providing service in several ways.
Each response vehicle in our fleet is equipped with several technology pieces to make this successful. It begins with a ruggedized mobile laptop computer that is mounted in each vehicle and wired to the vehicle’s power system. The computer is loaded with specific software that includes a state-of-the-art mapping program, developed by firefighters, which provides directions to the crews responding to incidents.
Prior to the mapping program, paper maps that detailed each subdivision in our service area had to be maintained. In some cases, new maps were drawn by hand and copied, and each map book had to be updated, requiring much time and talent to be sure they were accurate. Updates to the current mapping program are accomplished with a simple jump drive and require minimal time. Future plans are to have all map updates pushed back through the system, requiring minimal or no labor to update.
The files from which the maps are developed come from each county’s Global Information Systems (GIS) files, and are formatted for our use. This provides the most up-to-date and accurate files available, including the ability to view overhead Ortho files (similar to a satellite view).
The MDC is also connected to the Internet through a secure device that provides a broadband connection to the dispatch center. This allows crews to view the address, nature and type of call they are responding to, and any specific instructions or information that the crews may need. This program is a direct link to the dispatch center that provides real-time, accurate information in regard to emergencies.
This interactive information program is linked to the mapping as well and will automatically link the address to the map. We also have the ability to identify any special hazards that may exist for a particular address or building. Target maps can also be linked to specific addresses, which can include building plans, photos and specific, detailed instructions.
By having this technology and a link to the World Wide Web, the possibilities are endless and continually evolving. These devices have assisted us in providing a more efficient service and the ability to access resources in time of need.