Atlantic, Iowa’s vibrant, historic downtown and community traditions keep the past close, but that has not stopped it from modernizing and updating its utility operations.
While some small towns shy away from taking on cleaning and assessment duties, Atlantic is different. Early on, the city’s leaders realized that by bringing the equipment and software in-house it could work more proactively.
Weighing the costs, they saw that it was about the same to hire a contractor to perform the work yearly or make payments on its own equipment. The added benefit is the city can get more work done each year and more quickly address sewer emergencies when they occur.
“We are probably one of the most proactive small towns there is,” says Clint Roland, the city’s collections lead. “For a small town of [around] 7,000 people, we have our own combo vac truck, trailer jet and a brand-new camera system. We’ve just got a really good small community that works well. It’s just that good, small-town Iowa values.”
This proactive culture was on display in 2018, when the City decided it needed to replace the software it was using to document its sewer inspection data.
“We went from a process where … the guy who was [previously] in charge had the whole map in his head,” Roland says. “We had physical maps, but nothing was ever written on it, no notes were written on it. That resource left, and I took over the position. I was starting to have to remember things in my head.”
Roland realized that was not an effective way to manage the rural city’s systems moving forward, so he sought out a solution that offered a mapping feature. Roland and Tim Snyder, wastewater superintendent for the City, spent about of year searching, talking to contacts in the industry, countless demos and a couple of trips to the WWETT Show before they landed on WinCan.
“It boiled down to the WinCan software, matched with our new Envirosight Pathfinder camera system was the best option for us,” Roland says.
Preparing for the Future
With help from the WinCan team, Roland was able to map 936 manholes across the town using a small, all-terrain vehicle. “So, 20 years from now when I walk out the door, whoever comes in has an advantage,” Roland says. “They don’t have to re-learn everything. And now there will be a good history of everything so we can make some educated decisions on where we need work.”
Since implementing the software, the crew has not only documented the newly mapped manholes, but they’ve also backdated reports with previously-gathered data.
“We’ve always [televised]. We ran a different software before, so I could make official reports, but there was no GIS,” Roland says. “There were enough manholes out there that weren’t put on any physical map, we just kind of knew where they were. So, we wanted to get a true map together.”
Additionally, Roland has been able to mirror the WinCan software with the City’s existing maintenance software and run them concurrently. This allows him to create work orders to TV different assets so that it gets done rather than forgotten. When the reports are complete in WinCan, it can be downloaded into the existing maintenance software and anyone with access can pull the report.
Having accurate data centralized in one location also helps ensure the city is using its resources most efficiently moving forward, Roland notes. “We were spending some money and lining areas and doing some other work where I think that money could have been directed in other areas of town, but we had no real data saying ‘this area of town is worse than this one,’” he says. “[Through our systems] we are justifying to the City that this upfront cost [is] actually saving us on the back-end from hiring someone to come and do this work and give those reports to us.”
The software upgrade has also helped lessen the responsibilities of an already thinly spread crew, Roland says.
“I think we find the same issues every town does, … [but] for me to be able to relay that information onto people is a lot easier, so they actually see more of what’s being done,” he says. “It’s just made my life a lot easier.”