Three Things to Know This Week (Aug. 7-13)

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  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, GetOutAndPlay5151 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.
  2. 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,Aedes_aegyptiAug. 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.
  3. 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.

Three Things to Know This Week (July 31-Aug. 6)

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Things to Know

 

  1. It’s still July but just barely. The new school year will be here soon! Are you ready?background-2091_640 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.
  2. 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 nno-2017departments 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.
  3. 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.

Putting a face with the City

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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.

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The Colony Customer Service representative Leigh Ann Wissinger, left, assists a resident with his water bill.

“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.

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Customer Service Supervisor Patsy Grimsley, left, and Director of Customer Services Molly Owczar.

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.

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Understandably, Customer Service staff, like Lisa Allen, spend much of their day on the phone assisting customers with a variety of issues.

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.

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Meter-readers from the city’s Water Distribution Department frequently check in with the Customer Service Department.

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.”

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The drive-through window for utility payments is staffed by the Customer Service Department during business hours but residents may utilize the night-deposit box 24 hours a day.

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.

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Processing your water bill isn’t the only service provided by Customer Services. They also handle a variety of permitting requests – all at the same counters.

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.”

Aquatic Park readies for summer season

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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.

The Colony Aquatic Park

The Colony Aquatic Park has been around for 30 years. The facility boasts a fresh coat of paint following off-season improvements. It is located at 5580 North Colony Blvd.

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.

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New window screens were recently installed at The Colony Aquatic Park on North Colony Boulevard.

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.

Indoor Pool

The indoor pool of The Colony Aquatic Park.

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.

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Aquatic Park maintenance staffers Joe Bustos and Raphael Wolff clean the outdoor lagoon at The Colony Aquatic Park.

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.

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The Colony Aquatic Park’s interactive Splash Zone will be buzzing with activity this weekend.

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.”

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Head Guard Mike Taylor records data after performing tests on the Aquatic Park’s water quality.

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.

The Fellowship Factor

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Community Center offers programs, services, and friendship

The Colony Community Center couldn’t be more aptly named. While its patrons are primarily senior citizens who enjoy the wealth of available programs and services, the core function of the facility is about building and maintaining a sense of community.

Diana Holland has been the Community Center Coordinator for almost 11 years. She’s seen a lot of changes during her tenure but also much that has stayed the same – especially the habits of her customers.

“We have some people who come just for one program or activity and they’re always here for it,” she said. “But we have others that come and stay all day. It’s just a matter of what they’re interested in and what works best for them.”

Chair volleyball

Chair Volleyball is a popular program offered by the Community Center but played next door at the Recreation Center.

Popular programs include Chair Volleyball, Chair Exercise, Line Dance, Tai Chi, Pickin’ & Grinnin’ jam sessions, and the Fun Time Bike Riders, to name a few. The Center also offers daily lunches and transportation through the Special Programs for Aging Needs (SPAN) of Denton County.

But you don’t need to attend a class in order to spend time at the Community Center. Maybe there’s a card game to join. Or, patrons can use the computer lab, shoot a game of pool, or play on the new Lucky Pucks table.

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This group of ladies gather for a game of Hand & Foot at The Colony Community Center.

“People can just show up and hang out,” Holland said. “The seniors that come on the SPAN bus and many that drive themselves might otherwise be home alone all day, but coming to the center provides them with socialization, exercise opportunities and a meal at lunchtime if desired. It’s very rewarding to see them laughing and having a good time.”

The Community Center currently boasts a paid annual membership of 578. Some have lived here a long time. Some are the parents of local residents who moved here to be closer to their family. Some have lost a spouse yet still feel comfortable coming to the Center to spend time and gain support from their friends.

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Community Center patrons take advantage of the Center’s Computer Lab, which offers nine computers for use.

Some are couples, like Mike and Patty Dunkle. Originally from Pennsylvania, they moved to The Colony about five years ago. Their son has lived here for 25 years. For the Dunkles, however, it was more than a desire for fellowship that spurred active involvement in the Center.

In August 2014 as they were walking in a parking lot near SH 121 and Paige Road, Patty was hit head-on by a car, seriously injuring her leg. Emergency personnel shut down 121 at Josey Lane so a helicopter could land and transport her to Baylor Hospital in Dallas where surgeons were able to save her leg.

She spent the next two months in a wheelchair with a large boot on her leg. By December she was doing rehab and graduated from the wheelchair to a walker to a cane. As an extension of her rehab, Patty soon resumed her attendance at one of the Center’s exercise classes.

The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program meets at 9:15 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s not just for people suffering from arthritis. The exercises are tailored to each individual’s needs. The Dunkles attend twice a week, with the blessing of her doctor.

Mike and Patty Dunkle

Community Center patrons Mike and Patty Dunkle. Patty utilized the Center’s exercise programs to help get back on her feet following a serious accident.

“After a while, I got to walking around the house without a cane. They helped me so much here. The Community Center has been very good to us,” Patty said. “They do quite a lot for everybody I know. And we’ve met all these people, and that’s nice to have more friends.

“So many people have different things wrong with them. We’re not the only ones. Everybody helps each other with certain problems. You get to talking and you learn, ‘Oh, I have that, too!’ It’s been wonderful for us. We really appreciate the Community Center.”

Mike said there are roughly 30 people in the exercise class. “We’re on a first-name basis with most of them. We’ve gained so many friends but unfortunately we’ve lost a couple friends, too, because there’s a higher call.”

Losing members is the hardest part about working at the Community Center, Holland said. But Patty’s nine-month journey from the accident to walking without a cane is “pretty miraculous considering at first they weren’t sure they could save her foot or if she’d be forever confined to a wheelchair. She kept proving them all wrong.”

In addition to the exercise class, the Dunkles have also gone on some of the Center’s day trips to sights around the D-FW Metroplex. The seniors’ next outing is to the Dallas World Aquarium on March 21, for example, with upcoming outings scheduled to the Dallas Arboretum, a Frisco RoughRiders game, and the Garland Summer Musicals. In August, Holland is leading a group on a one-week trip to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and other attractions.

“People feel safer traveling if they’re with friends, in a group, and if there’s someone they know they can call if they need anything,” she said.

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Community Center attendees gather for lunch and to visit with one another throughout the day.

Much of the Center’s success is thanks to the many volunteers who are also patrons. During Bingo, for example, volunteers help with set-up, card verification, and trash collection. Even some of the classes, such as the Tangled Roots genealogy class taught by resident Alyce Rufi, are led by volunteers. Rufi was recently named the Volunteer of the Month for March.

“We could not operate without the volunteers. They provide so much help,” Holland said. “I even have a list on the bulletin board that shows how much volunteers do here.”

The Center is also supported by the Senior Citizens of The Colony, a non-profit that functions as a charitable organization for Center members. They sponsor the covered-dish dinners, organize parties, and conduct donation drives benefiting food banks at local churches. The Seniors also recently purchased two new shelving units for the Center.

Management of the facility’s space is a big concern for Holland. As the city has grown, so has the Center’s membership. They recently moved the computer lab to make room for another much-needed classroom. The Chair Volleyball class has spilled over into the adjacent Recreation Center. The exercise and line dancing classes are at capacity.

“We’re growing rapidly right now. We just hope we can keep up,” Holland said. While the Center has already come a long way since its inception in the old trailer behind the Government Center on Main Street, “our goal is to be busting out of the seams in this building, too.”

Adult Coloring Class

Dora Madariaga, left, shows off her work from the Community Center’s Adult Coloring Class. She is pictured with Diana Holland, the Center’s Coordinator.

The annual resident fee for membership is $10; $15 for residents with additional access to the Recreation Center’s fitness room; $18 for non-residents; $25 for non-residents and fitness; or $2 per day. At one time it was officially called the Senior Center but was later renamed to emphasize the facility’s rental availability on weekends for private parties and church groups.

There was initial resistance to the new name, Holland said, but everyone has learned to embrace it – just as she embraces the rewarding nature of her job.

“I love working with the seniors. When you have someone come up and say, ‘I’m just so glad I could be here today. I don’t have to sit and just watch TV,’ that makes you feel good,” Holland said. “But more than that, everyone has each other for support. They find each other and depend on each other.”

For more information about what’s happening at the Community Center, call 972-624-2246.

‘We felt called to do it’

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TCFD fireman nationally recognized for giving spirit

Before arriving at Dallas Fire-Rescue Station No. 43  the morning of Feb. 2, TCFD Battalion Chief Garrett Rice was told he’d be taking part in a documentary of sorts about fire services in general, in which he’d be speaking to the importance of firefighters living out their core values.

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TCFD Battalion Chief Garrett Rice, his wife, Jamie, and their six children sat down for a “documentary” filming moments before they realized the story was really about them.

That was until Sean Lee from the Dallas Cowboys walked through the door. As part of Ford Motor Co.’s “Go Further” campaign to acknowledge unsung heroes, Rice was actually there to receive recognition for the ways in which he represents the “ideals of the fire services and what firefighters stand for,” said his longtime friend Mark Combs, who nominated him for the honor. Combs is a captain with Dallas Fire-Rescue, and is on the team at Station No. 43, which was last year’s “Go Further” recipient.

Four years ago, Rice and his wife, Jamie, adopted not one but four children – an obvious act of love and compassion worthy of admiration. But don’t tell that to Rice.

“We don’t feel special but perhaps it’s a story that moves people, and shows a kindness that we all need to have toward adoption and children,” Rice said. “We felt called to do it. We’re a blessed family. Hopefully this recognition brings a spotlight to the need for foster and adoption families.”

The Rices already had two children, Aidan, who is now 14, and Jack, 10. “But Jamie came to me and said she wanted to adopt, perhaps to have a daughter, in particular,” Rice said. “I told her she was crazy but a couple months went by and one day I did some research and came to understand the need for adoption, especially large sibling groups and special needs. Once I saw the need it was easy to have a change of heart – to see that this was what we were being called to do.”

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Dallas Cowboy Sean Lee visits with the Rice family before unveiling an even bigger surprise than his appearance.

Working with Texas Child Protective Services, the Rices learned about four siblings in the El Paso area in need of a loving home. They sold his truck, bought a 12-passenger van, and made the drive to West Texas to meet the children. They spent about a day and a half with the kids getting to know each other a little and then broke the news that Garrett and Jamie would be their new parents.

A week later they were flown to D-FW. “It was really as simple as it sounds,” Rice said. In addition to Aidan and Jack, the Rice family grew pretty much overnight to include Eda, 13; Sean, 12; Mia, 11; and Lauren, 9.

The entire family was in attendance last Thursday at Station No. 43. Meeting Sean Lee was great but the real recognition came in the form of a brand new 2018 Ford Expedition.

“To see the new Expedition was amazing. It’s been almost a week but I’m still unable to process it,” Rice said. “It’ll be an improvement upon the ‘airport shuttle’ we’re driving now. I hardly feel worthy but the kids are worthy of enjoying a new ride with nicer styling and comfort.”

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TCFD Battalion Chief Garrett Rice and his family check out the new ride they will receive as part of Ford Motor Co.’s “Go Further” campaign honoring unsung heroes.

The presentation in Dallas was, in fact, filmed and made into a video available online featuring the new Ford vehicle, their partnership with the Dallas Cowboys and, this year, The Colony Fire Department.

“The adoption was our journey but if you met with members of my department, they’re all doing things just as special,” Rice said. “They’ve all given back to the community where they live and the greater fire services community. I’m proud to represent The Colony Fire Department, which is known nationally for being a department on the cutting edge of firefighting strategy and tactics. I think any of the guys could’ve been me. They all have a story to tell.”

Bugs and bubbles

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Wastewater treatment plant expansion well underway

Let’s be honest. It’s not pretty. We’d rather not talk about it. But there’s arguably no more vital a service the city provides its residents than the collection and treatment of wastewater.

Main Street Widening Project aside, Phase I of the city’s upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) on East Lake Highlands represents one of the biggest current construction projects in The Colony. Projected to cost $19.8 million, the project will increase the plant’s daily treatment capacity in order to keep up with all the growth taking place in the city.

In 2015, the plant treated approximately 1 billion gallons of wastewater. That’s up from 981 million in 2013. Its current daily capacity is 3.8 million gallons. By mandate of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a municipality must begin design of plant expansion when it reaches 75 percent capacity. Construction must begin at 90 percent capacity.

Having recently met those milestones, construction on the plant began in early 2016. The WWTP expansion project budget consists of construction costs, engineering services during construction, project administration, and quality assurance and control.

“All of these different components come together to ensure success of the project,” said Evan Groeschel, Project Management Analyst for The Colony Public Works Department. “Obviously there’s a lot of moving parts. This is the biggest job I’ve worked on in the eight years I’ve been with the city.”

All of the city’s wastewater enters the facility through a main line before being funneled into two “trains” (A and B), for treatment. The expansion project consists of adding a third train (C) to the plant, which will increase capacity to 4.5 million gallons per day.

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Surrounded by the signs and supplies of major construction, an aeration basin and clarifier treats wastewater. It is one of two structures that make up trains A and B at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Each train has two main processes that treat and clean the water. One process is called aeration, in which air is infused into the wastewater in such a way that it enhances the ability of naturally-occurring microorganisms to break down contaminants.

“The aeration basin is where the biological process of breaking down oils and fats takes place,” said Albert Pardo, an on-site engineer for Carollo Engineering, the city’s design and project management contractor. “And the bubbles control the way the bugs work.”

The second process along the train happens in the clarifier, which is a mechanical means of sedimentation that “allows all the solids to come down before the water on top moves on to further treatment and then out into the lake,” Pardo said. (Click here for more detail about the entire treatment process.)

The two processes are combined into one structure for trains A and B, but they have been separated into two larger components for the new train. “It’s the same setup, just on a much bigger scale,” Pardo said. The train C basin, for example, is a massive concrete structure with a capacity of 1.5 million gallons and multiple compartments for specialized treatment.

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The new aeration basin will hold 1.5 million gallons and is compartmentalized for a variety of treatments.

In addition to the C train, enhancements to the overall facility in Phase I include a new splitter structure to help evenly distribute the flow to the three trains; modifications to the existing treatment trains; a new effluent meter system to measure what’s going out to the lake; and a new chemical backup treatment system in the event the biological system fails, said Daemeon Stovall, Chief Operator for the WWTP.

Not to mention all the excavation, electrical work and piping required to, eventually, integrate the new components into the system. To top it off, all of this construction is taking place in a facility that must maintain operational integrity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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A new clarifier is being constructed alongside the new aeration basin. The two treatment components have been separated as part of the new train “C” at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“Our primary goal is maintaining treatment during the process in order to continue meeting the state’s requirements,” Stovall said. “If they have to shut down something for construction, we have to provide bypass systems. We can’t stop the wastewater from coming in. We can’t stop treatment. There is no acceptable limit of contamination the state will allow us to have.”

Safety and security is another big subject, Groeschel said. The plant has to stay secure at all times. Added construction traffic was a little disruptive, too, but they’ve adjusted to it. “Constant communication is the key so everyone knows what everyone is doing. That really mitigates a lot of risk with the operation,” he said.

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Project Management Analyst Evan Groeschel flips through one of the many large binders he keeps with information about the WWTP project.

Given the size and significance of the project, quality-control redundancies are built in. For example, all of the concrete poured is tested at two separate labs for strength and viability.

“Without those redundancies, you create a weak point – and it’s typically not something you can just fix down the road,” Groeschel said. “We have a responsibility to protect the investment our citizens are making in this facility. You can’t take even a little break in terms of ensuring quality-control standards are being met.”

Phase II of the WWTP expansion will extend the facility’s treatment capacity to 6.1 million gallons per day and take place when the city reaches buildout.

“It’s a good thing we’re doing this now because more and more new development is coming online every day,” Groeschel said. “This is all fueled by the city’s growth, both now and in the future.”