The flush of a toilet. The whirlpool in a sink drain. The channel of rainwater disappearing underground. Wastewater and stormwater infrastructure plays a critical role in the health and safety of our communities, but we don’t often notice it until something goes wrong.

That’s why the state of Michigan created the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) grant—a statewide program that helps local communities develop asset management plans for critical infrastructure.

One grant recipient, Northville Township, already had an extensive ESRI GIS system. However, they needed an effective way to track and report on their SAW grant activities. Northville selected Cityworks Online AMS and partnered with Ritter GIS, Inc, to implement the solution. The township quickly leveraged Cityworks’ capabilities and launched within a three-month timeframe.

The team defined work orders in the contracts module to monitor the overall progress of grant-related projects. They also defined labor, material and equipment rates to capture internal resource allocation for sewer cleaning and reimbursable SAW grant activities. As a result, the township easily and accurately reported on costs and expenses.

Some SAW grant activities, such as sewer televising and manhole inspection, involved several different contractors. Each contractor received a user login and customized inspection form. This system of engagement allowed contractors to report their observations from the field, providing instant results and alerting the township if additional repair or cleaning was required. Each vendor’s work also became associated with the asset in GIS, allowing for easy comparison of invoice amounts and completed activities.

“I am amazed how Cityworks brings so many different pieces together to provide our team with a complete view of the puzzle,” said Tom Casari, director of public services.

Beyond the Pipes

GIS-centric technologies have immediate applications beyond storm- and wastewater implementation, and the Northville Information Technology Department recognized the potential. Since the SAW implementation, the IT department has expanded Cityworks far beyond its initial scope.

For example, the Department of Public Services deployed Cityworks for facility maintenance, engineering, and water operations. The township integrated their utility billing system to track work orders for all metered services, allowing the customer service team to retrieve account information on site and in the field. Workers use mobile devices to report their observations and upload pictures of meter tags, which are automatically associated to the task and retrieved by the front office.

The facility maintenance team uses mobile devices to track repairs and ongoing maintenance in all township facilities—including extensive HVAC equipment. Township employees can submit facility requests through the app, and requests are routed for accurate time and material tracking. As they respond to each request, the maintenance team adds purchase and contractual costs to provide a thorough operational view.

The fire department developed custom templates to track all daily activities, from mutual aid and service runs to vehicle inspections and overtime hours. Activities once recorded across eight different files in Excel, Google Docs and Infopath are now available through a single access point with Cityworks. Even the IT department found a valuable use for GIS-centric technology. They use Cityworks to monitor help desk tickets and response times, and they implemented Storeroom for technology equipment inventory.

“Once we saw the power of GIS-centric technology, the capabilities seemed limitless,” said Shaun Nicoloff, director of information technology. “Cityworks has become an essential platform for our entire organization.”

Power to the People

Once township employees started using Cityworks and ArcGIS, it seemed only natural to engage the township’s single largest stakeholder group: its residents. In 2016, the township launched a citizen engagement application to provide residents and businesses with a quick and easy way to submit service requests. The app is integrated with the Cityworks Service Request API, which automatically generates requests in Cityworks.

What began as a targeted effort to manage vital water systems has evolved into a community-wide initiative. By adopting GIS-centric solutions across a broad range of departments, Northville found new ways to efficiently manage public services—all while better serving its residents and businesses.

By Doug Ritter, GISP, Ritter GIS


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