- The first of THREE special events in The Colony this week happens Friday, Sept. 8, at The Colony Five Star Complex as Movies in the Park returns! Grab the lawn chairs and blankets and come on out for a FREE showing of The Lego Batman Movie (Rated PG). Gates open at 7 p.m., movie starts at 8 p.m. Concessions will be available for purchase. For more information, call Parks & Recreation at 972-625-1106.
- The annual Bow Wow Luau supporting The Colony Animal Services Injured Animal Fund is scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10, at Hawaiian Falls Waterpark, 4400 Paige Road. Concessions will be available for purchase. Limit two dogs per owner. Purchase your tickets online in advance and save $4. Day-of-event tickets are available for $20 per person. For more information, please contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 972-625-1106.
- Did you know that the Carson & Barnes Circus will be debuting its “CircusSaurus” show in The Colony this weekend, Sept. 9-10, at The Colony Five Star Complex? There are four shows, at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Discount tickets are available through Friday, Sept. 8, at The Colony Recreation Center, 5151 North Colony Blvd., for $12/adult (includes admission for one child). Child tickets can also be purchased for $6/child (for ages 2 – 11). You can also purchase tickets online at http://www.BigTopShow.com, or at the box office on the performance dates. For more information contact the Parks & Recreation Department at 972-625-1106.
- The Colony Fire Department has deployed resources to assist with the statewide emergency response to Hurricane Harvey. A TCFD Division Chief left Sunday morning as part of a communications and incident management team. On Sunday afternoon, an engine company was requested as part of a strike team associated with the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS). The team is comprised of members of TCFD, Flower Mound, Lewisville, Lake Cities and Southlake FDs, and was headed to north Houston. This morning, TIFMAS requested a brush truck as part of a strike team leaving out of Plano and headed to Rockport. They are expected to be gone at least five days. Residents wishing to assist victims of the hurricane are encouraged to make monetary donations to the Red Cross, which is operating three shelters in the D-FW area. Please do not take donated items to shelters as they don’t have the staffing or storage to support such donations. New/gently used clothing, toiletries and non-perishables may be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at Trusted World, 15660 N. Dallas Parkway, Dallas, TX 75248. Click here for more info.
- Motorists are reminded that the Texas Legislature passed a statewide ban on texting and driving back in June, which goes into effect on Friday, Sept. 1. Under the new law, drivers are prohibited from reading, writing, or sending electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle. Motorists may still talk on the phone while driving but only with a hands-free device. Violations are punishable by a fine but the new law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, they can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and a jail term not to exceed one year. Full text of the law is available here.
- Did you know that The Colony has an Adult Kickball League? This fun, active league for adult ages 16 and up plays games on Monday evenings at The Colony Five Star Complex, 4100 Blair Oaks Drive. Teams are made up of at least five men and five women, and can have a maximum of 20 players total. It’s fun for all ages! The fall season will kick off on Monday, Sept. 18. You may register at The Colony Recreation Center, 5151 North Colony Blvd., or online at playtc.com, through Sept 7. Call 972-625-1106 for more info.
- OK, it’s not actually this week but now is the time everyone needs to know that the first day of school in Lewisville ISD is next Monday, Aug. 28. Be prepared for additional traffic on the roads during your morning commute, including school buses. If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children – stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus. Also, observe school zone speed limits and watch for children on sidewalks and crossing streets going to and from campus. School is already underway in neighboring ISDs, including Little Elm (which serves The Tribute subdivision), Frisco, and Plano. Drive safe!
- According to the Red Cross, a decline in new and current blood donors has made it difficult for the agency to keep pace with hospital patient needs. By giving blood, you can help sustain a sufficient community blood supply. The Red Cross will be hosting a blood drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at the City Hall Annex, 6804 Main St. To make an appointment, click here or visit redcrossblood.org and use sponsor code “colonycommunity.” In less time than it can take to go out to eat, you can make a difference for cancer patients, accident victims, and others in need. Call 972-624-2246 for more info. (This drive was previously scheduled to be held at the Community Center.)
- Starting now and leading into Labor Day weekend, The Colony Police Department is putting additional officers on the streets dedicated to patrolling for impaired drivers. This is effort is possible thanks to a grant from TxDOT. According to a recent release, the additional enforcement should serve as a reminder and a warning to those that might contemplate operating a vehicle while impaired. The increased enforcement period began Friday, Aug. 18, and will continue through Sunday, Sept. 3. If you observe an impaired driver please contact The Colony Police Department by dialing 9-1-1.
- Active families make for a healthy community! We encourage you to Get Out & Play with us from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9, at Kids Colony Playground, 5151 North Colony Blvd. Our Parks & Recreation Department brings the fun, you bring the energy! We will have all kinds of games to play including kickball, disc golf, 9 Square in the Air, and much more. Bring your brothers and sisters and all of your friends, and come play! This FREE event is recommended for ages 5-12. A snack will be provided for all participants at the conclusion of the games. Call Parks & Rec for more info at 972-625-1106.
- In response to a positive pool test for West Nile virus in mosquitoes last week, truck-mounted adult mosquito treatments are scheduled for 9 p.m. Monday,Aug. 7, in the Wilcox Park area. This is the second of two scheduled treatments for that area, the first of which occurred Sunday night. Click here for more information, including a map of the treatment zone. Click here for info about the city’s overall mosquito control program and personal protection tips. Please bear in mind the city only sprays for mosquitoes in response to a positive test for disease in a given area.
- Traffic flow through the parking lot in City Hall will be altered overnight starting at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7, through 6 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8. Contractors will be performing routine maintenance on a cell tower, and will be blocking the western-most part of the lot. Thru-traffic will still be able to pass under the awning (9-6 clearance) to access either the utility billing or library book drop-offs on either side of the building. Click here for more details, including a map.
- It’s still July but just barely. The new school year will be here soon! Are you ready? If not, don’t miss Parks & Recreation’s annual Back 2 School Bash from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1, at the Recreation Center (5151 North Colony Blvd.). Two sessions are held: the first at 5 p.m.; the second at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for both sessions. The event is FREE for residents ($3 for non-residents) but registration is required and space is limited. Stop by the Recreation Center to register or call 972-625-1106 for more details.
- After you’ve gathered your free school supplies next door, stop by The Colony Police Department for National Night Out 2017. TCPD has partnered with multiple city departments to host an Open House/Touch-a-Truck event from 6 to 9 p.m. at its headquarters (5151 North Colony Blvd.). Come on by and visit with your local first-responders in this event aimed to build police-community partnerships. For more, email CRO@thecolonytx.gov or call Officers Koiner or Lee at 972-625-8273.
- The Colony City Council normally meets on the first Tuesday of each month but in light of the aforementioned events, the first regular meeting of August will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2. Click here for the agenda. The Council is also scheduled to conduct a special session at 6 p.m. Monday, July 31, to consider making appointments to city boards and commissions. Call the City Secretary’s Office at 972-624-3105 for more info.
Customer Service team proud to be your first call
The mission of the Customer Service Department for the City of The Colony is simple. Identify your problem and help you solve it. The nine-member team receives countless calls in a given day regarding a variety of issues but one directive remains constant no matter the concern.
“If a resident is on the line or in the lobby, it’s an absolute priority,” said Molly Owczar, Director of Customer Services. “You’ve called or come by City Hall for a reason. You need an answer so that’s what we focus on: getting that answer immediately.”
They may not have that answer at their fingertips but they will get you in touch with someone who does as soon as possible.
“We generally get them connected to the right person at that moment. Very rarely do we have to take a number and get back to a customer,” Owczar said.
At one time in its history, The Colony had separate departments for utility billing and permitting. About five years ago, however, the two departments were merged to form one, unified Customer Service Department.
Owczar joined the city right around that time. She has been the only Director of Customer Services the city has known. Among her first priorities after becoming director was to review and update existing policies and procedures to make sure they were customer friendly as well as business friendly. Part of those ongoing updates included cross-training all staff to handle any request at any window in the City Hall lobby so customers never need to switch counters if they have more than one service need.
Whatever it may be, Owczar and her staff relish their role as one of the most forward-facing departments in the city.
“Given the daily interaction we have with our residents, for many we are the face of the city,” she said. “Our specialties are utility billing and permitting but we have to know a little bit about everything. We deal with every department in the city at some level.”
Yes, most of their work revolves around assisting customers with their water bills. But they also process many other frequent requests such as garage sale permits, special event permits, sign permits, food-handler cards for food establishment employees, and landfill passes, to name a few.
In 2016, for example, the department issued over 3,000 permits of all kinds. The same as each counter in the City Hall lobby, applications for these permits are available in one spot on the city website.
The key to maintaining a high level of service is to be proactive, not reactive, Owczar said. Most of the staff members have years of experience but any new hire goes through a rigorous training program managed by Owczar and Supervisor Patsy Grimsley that involves shadowing and constant feedback.
It may sound simple but the most important skill a Customer Service employee learns in their training is the art of listening.
“We never want to reply with a readied response or come across as abrasive,” Owczar said. “It’s really just common sense. Treat people how you’d expect to be treated.”
As a result, Owczar estimates they receive more compliments from customers than complaints. Feedback from contractors requesting permits has also been positive, noting the team’s overall responsiveness and efficiency.
Even residents moving away from the community have made a point to reach out before they left.
“Sometimes a resident who is moving will call us or send us an email to say goodbye, which I think is really nice,” Owczar said. “Or, they’ll call just to thank us for everything we’ve done for them since they’ve been here. It’s nice they even thought of us before they left.”
Sometimes staff will even help out residents or businesses from other cities if possible. For example, the nearby Castle Hills area shares a zip code with The Colony, and Customer Service often gets calls from businesses in that area regarding permits. Rather than turn them away outright, staff keeps a list of relevant phone numbers handy so the caller’s next call is the right one.
Owczar also noted that Grimsley is particularly adept at assisting some of the community’s elderly customers.
“People sometimes come in and think they can get their driver’s license or vehicle registration renewed at City Hall, which they can’t,” Owczar said. “But if time allows, Patsy will take the time out of her day, help them go online and renew their documents for them. She’s even gone out and helped them to their car.
“We want to go above and beyond. This is about providing our taxpayers with the best service possible. If we can help them, we will.”
Rather than view these responsibilities as a weight, the Customer Service team embraces them as a badge of honor. “When customers walk in the door, that we are the ones who get to take care of them is an honorable position to have,” Owczar said.
Although the city provides a variety of payment options that can save them the trip, there are many customers that still choose to pay their water bills in person at City Hall.
“Over time we develop personal relationships with many of our customers,” Owczar said. “Some will come in, stand at the counter and shoot the breeze with us. We know their children or their family. We feel very much a part of the community.”
The hardest part of the job is when they have to process disconnections of water service for outstanding account balances. It happens every week. Currently, a disconnect takes place when a customer is one week past due on their second unpaid water bill.
Owczar stressed that it’s important for residents having trouble paying their bill to contact the Customer Service team as soon as possible, rather than letting their account lapse.
“If they can’t pay, as long as they call us the day before the disconnection date, we can try to make arrangements,” she said. “Depending on the circumstances, we might be able break up the balance or give them some extended time so they don’t have an interruption in service.”
Starting in the first quarter of 2018, the process will change where disconnects will occur after only one bill past due. The reasoning behind that change is because, as things are now, whenever a customer is disconnected they have to pay the full balance (two bills), a $20 disconnect fee, plus a possible increase in their deposit up to $100. Moving toward a one-bill disconnect process is meant to minimize accruing large balances.
Another recent policy change already in practice allows residents multiple extensions to pay their bill over a 12-month period. Previously customers were allowed only two extensions per year.
“We do not come here in the mornings every day to see how many people’s water we can disconnect. Our goal is simply to collect the money for service used by a resident or business,” Owczar said.
Another goal is to educate customers about their water usage in the hopes of minimizing the amount they owe. The department publishes a wealth of information about sprinkler use, swimming pools, plumbing leaks, and more.
“Water conservation is usually the main topic of my talks with the students who visit City Hall on school tours,” Owczar said. “Even though they’re kids, I give them handouts about water-usage facts. I try to teach them about how many gallons of water you’ll use on average if you run the tap while brushing your teeth, that sort of thing. Hopefully these are things they can go home and talk about at dinner with their family.”
At the end of each day, Owczar hopes she and her staff members fulfilled the city’s mission to provide quality, compassionate service.
“Based on talking to residents who have moved here or talking to other cities and reviewing their policies, I believe we’re achieving that goal,” she said. “This city as a whole is unique. It starts from the top down, with City Manager Troy Powell and Assistant City Manager Tim Miller. They set the tone by defining our core values. We strive to exemplify those values and be customer-focused 24/7, 365.”
Opening weekend features free admission for service personnel, first-responders
Summer is coming! And that means fun in the sun and in the water. Staff members at The Colony Aquatic Park have been working hard the past few months in preparation for the annual throng of visitors that will soon descend on the facility.
The Public Swim Season at the park officially begins on Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29. The pool will be open from 1 to 4:50 p.m. each day. Military, police, and fire personnel will be admitted free with service ID during that time.
Elise Knox, Aquatic Park Manager, said she’s already been seeing the signs of summer in the media.
“As soon as swimsuit commercials start showing up on television, I start counting them,” she said. “When we’re up to four commercials per day that have some sort of swimsuit in them, that’s when people start calling like crazy to ask about what’s happening here in the summer.”
Public swim for the summer begins on June 2 and runs through Aug. 27. The pool will be open from 1 to 6:20 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 1 to 4:50 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Weekday public swim includes two half-hour swim breaks for kids, giving adults free reign over the pool from 3 to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 5:30 p.m.
With all those dates rapidly approaching, finishing touches to off-season improvements at the 30-year-old facility have been in full-gear the past few months. Visitors will likely first take notice of the aesthetic enhancements on the outside – namely a newly painted blue roof and colorful, inviting window panels.
Other completed or pending improvements include: new start blocks on the indoor pool; a new basketball goal; a water cannon for regulating water temperature in the outdoor lagoon; radiant heaters with timers in the dressing rooms; a new water fountain with filtered-water stream; and a variety of ongoing electrical maintenance work.
Much of The Colony Aquatic Park’s activities take place in the heated, indoor pool, which contains 165,000 gallons of water. It is 4-feet deep in the shallows, sloping down to 10 feet in the deep end. While not a full-length competitive pool, its size is very coach-friendly as it affords a more “personal touch” to instruction by enabling coaches to walk the entire distance end to end as students swim, Knox said.
Outside, the Aquatic Park features a “leisure lagoon” with two large, flat wings. “It’s the world’s best teaching pool,” Knox said. It has sets of steps on either side, a waterfall with a shelf, and a 4 1/2-foot area for games. “It’s great for a family party, as there are no surprises in depths. There’s room for both the little ones and the bigger kids.”
Other amenities at the Park include a children’s wading pool, an interactive Splash Zone, multiple shade structures, grills, lounge chairs, and a volleyball court. The various pavilions are available to rent for private parties.
While public swim is obviously a big attraction, the Aquatic Park also offers a wide variety of swim lessons for all ages, as well as fitness programs for adults. A full listing of programs is available online through the Parks and Recreation Fun Times Catalog as well as at www.PlayTC.com.
Competitive swimming opportunities are also offered at The Colony Aquatic Park, with various degrees of intensity. The Hammer Heads swim team, for example, is a fully competitive team that takes part in meets throughout June and July. Other teams are available for intermediate and novice swimmers aspiring to learn more about swimming as a sport.
Naturally, safety is a huge component of everything that takes place at The Colony Aquatic Park. As Knox often says, “swimming is the only sport that saves lives.” All of the facility’s various features are laid out with safety in mind so lifeguards and staff have clean lines of sight, Knox said.
Red Cross methods form the core of the Park’s classes, lifeguard training, and day-to-day procedures. “All of our lifeguards, all of our instructors, all of our classes are Red Cross certified,” Knox said, adding that her staff and volunteers have combined for over 300 years of teaching Red Cross methods. The only exceptions are infant swim classes, the methods of which vary by instructor.
As a matter of routine, the Aquatic Park participates in the annual World’s Largest Swim Lesson (WLSL), an event created by the World Waterpark Association in 2010 that “serves as a platform to help the global aquatics industry work together to build awareness about the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning,” according to its website. This year’s WLSL is on June 22.
Behind the scenes, the Park’s water quality maintenance systems are state-of-art. “We’re using the latest technology to monitor and automate much of our filtration systems,” Knox said. For example, when the system detects abnormal changes in water flow or chemical balance, it automatically alerts maintenance staff remotely so any problems can be addressed promptly.
The system also fine-tunes water quality and disinfection in ways not yet common at many public pools.
“People in backyard pools throw chemicals into a floating device and leave it. What we do is a couple of drops of chemical at a time, adding a little to the mix oh-so-gently,” Knox said. “Ultimately, we end up with less chlorine in our water than most people have their washing machines at home, largely because our primary source of water cleansing is ultraviolet light on all four pools. Most pools drip their chemicals but it’s not yet standard practice to have full UV treatment.”
The Park’s pump systems are also state-of-the-art, featuring variable frequency drives that enable staff to perform “soft starts and stops, which is much easier on the whole system, thereby minimizing the need for future maintenance,” Knox said. “If your pump is slightly oversized and run at a lower level, it’ll run more efficiently, build up less heat, and last longer.”
The facility is managed year-round by two full-time staff. When the busy season arrives, 60 part-time staff plus more than 50 volunteers keep the Park running smoothly all summer long.
Many of the volunteers and lifeguards have been with the Park for years, Knox said, thanks in part to the Park’s Volunteen Program, which invites youth ages 12 and up to take a training class and serve as assistant swim instructors. For more info, contact Volunteen Coordinator Wanda Brown.
That so many volunteers and lifeguards continue to return to the Park each summer, year after year, is a testament to the Park’s community-based approach. Knox and her staff aim to build relationships with their patrons not only to encourage use of the facility but also to keep them invested in its future.
“We’re a tight crew,” Knox said. “We are firm believers that what we do is all about customer service. Anyone who comes through the door, we welcome as part of the family.”
For more information about The Colony Aquatic Park and its many programs, click here or call 972-624-2225.