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The fast track to compliance: How Newcastle used Cartegraph OMS to respond to a state audit

City of Newcastle, WA

When you’re the first city to get audited under a new set of state regulations, the prospect can be daunting. That’s what happened in the City of Newcastle in the spring of 2016. The State of Washington Department of Ecology uncovered a range of deficiencies that needed to be resolved quickly. An expedited implementation of Cartegraph OMS was the key to a six-month turnaround on a ten-year backlog.

Challenge

Angela Gallardo, Newcastle’s surface water program manager, had only been with the department for 8 months when the letter came. “We were already working on changing our operations and maintenance processes – even before we found out we were being audited. So when I got that letter, my stomach dropped. We had been talking to Cartegraph, but weren’t up and running yet.” 

The audit, which was conducted in February 2016, was part of a new push to ensure jurisdictions were meeting stormwater quality regulations in the State of Washington. Municipalities are expected to be able to report on what stormwater assets they inspect, the results of those inspections, and what actions will be taken to resolve any issues found. They need to prove compliance with these requirements under their stormwater permits.

“The audit report showed a lot of deficiencies,” says Gallardo. For example, mandatory SWPPP inspections had not been well-documented. “Also, our inspection forms were missing some required items. For example, we weren’t looking for cracks in vault walls.”

The city was required to respond to the audit with a schedule for resolving each item cited. “If you’re not in compliance by the date you say, the next step is fines,” says Gallardo.

But how to achieve that?

Solution

Although Newcastle was using a paper-based process, most of its assets were already in GIS. The city had worked with Cartegraph on a data collection project, but had not yet implemented the operations management software. The audit notice helped convince the city council that Newcastle would not be able to capture the required information on schedule without implementing Cartegraph—and quickly. 

Gallardo had prior experience with Cartegraph and had a plan for organizing the data. Referencing the Washington stormwater manual, she set up condition categories in Cartegraph to reflect every potential deficiency for every asset. Cartegraph OMS was up and running by the end of May.

“We were able to show the state which tasks we would do to comply and how we would track maintenance,” says Gallardo. She documented the built-in task schedule with automatic notification; for example: clean basins within six months, fix facilities within one year, perform inspections every May, control cattails in September, clean-in-place next year.

The city had to hire on extra workers to meet the demands, but everyone was ready to use Cartegraph after a brief training session on their iPads. Throughout the process, Gallardo updated the state on their progress. And just six months after the audit, she wrapped it up by reporting that all deficiencies had been addressed.

“I knew it was going to be terrible that we got audited, but I knew it would be better after. It would help our elected officials understand why we needed these resources,” says Gallardo. “Now the city is in a much better place. We’re compliant – which we haven’t been for years, so that feels good.”

Results

Now that the audit is over, the city is using Cartegraph in its day-to-day operations.

If a routine asset inspection reveals an issue, the worker simply taps on that asset in the iPad, creates a task, and adds a photo if desired. If they have a question, they can reference the maps and asset data at their fingertips. Then tasks are assigned, prioritized, and notifications set up.

Back in the office, Cartegraph makes it easy for Gallardo to see if scheduled work has been performed, track progress, and prepare reports. “I can filter data by type of task or by person,” she says. “I can pull before-and-after photos to show, for example, how an oil spot has been cleaned up.”

Newcastle has experienced other benefits, such as:

  • Time savings. Before implementing Cartegraph OMS, an intern would spend three hours each day making maps, studying as-built plans, and preparing materials for field inspections. Now all of those pieces can be accessed directly from Cartegraph for iPad in the field.
  • Versatility. In preparing for a new vactor contract, Gallardo did a search for all assets with a vactor task assigned. These were exported for the contractor, who was then given temporary access to Cartegraph to update the data as he completed the work.
  • Employee morale. Cartegraph has helped move the team’s focus from deficiency to accomplishment. “The crews always worked hard, but now they get credit for their work,” says Gallardo. “Also, we can show the city when there’s a need for additional resources.”

Now, Newcastle is the go-to city for other municipalities struggling to comply with the new regulations. “I tell them if you have GIS data in place as required, Cartegraph is really easy to implement,” says Gallardo. “It’s a great choice for any jurisdiction.”

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