RCAP/AWWA Small System Water Operator Training

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?  Operators, Managers and other utility staff of small water systems that are responsible for ensuring your system remains in compliance.   This class will cover Disinfection, DBPs, AWIA and much more.   This workshop is approved by ADH for Continuing Education Hours for Water.

 8:00 am     Introductions, Workshop Overview & Pre-Test

Disinfection Overview

Disinfection By-Products (DBPs)

Distribution System Infrastructure

12:00 pm    Lunch

1:00 pm    Distribution Water Quality

Large Building (Schools, Hospitals) Water Quality Issues

America's Water Infrastucture Act

4:45 pm    Q&A, Post Test, Evaluations   

Speaker:    Dinah Foreman, Communities Unlimited, Environmental Training Coordinator


AWWA Southwest Section - LA - Safe Drinking Water Act Compliance

This is a small systems workshop hosted by the Southwest Section AWWA and funded through an EPA grant to AWWA.

Lousiana Department of Health and Hospitals approved for 8 Renewal Credit Training Hours for Water Only licenses.

AGENDA

8:30 – 9:00 Registration and Introductions
9:00 – 9:15 SDWA Workshop Overview & Pre-Test - Ben Bridges

9:15 – 10:30 Disinfection Overview - Ben Bridges
10:30 – 10:45 Break

10:45 – 12:00 Disinfection By-Products (DBP’s) - Ben Bridges

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch - Sponsored by Thornton, Musso and Bellemin

1:00 – 2:00 DBP Treatment Strategies - Ben Bridges

2:00 – 3:00 Distribution System Operations: Flushing - Ben Bridges
3:00 – 3:15 Break
3:15 – 4:15 Distribution System Operations: Main Breaks and Cross Connections - Ben Bridges

4:15 – 5:00 Questions, Post Test & Evaluations


EPA Small Drinking Water System Operator Training - Texas

WHO SHOULD ATTEND? Operators, Managers and other utility staff of small water systems that are responsible for providing safe drinking water to the residents in the community. This training will provide information on drinking water regulations and operations.  This class is approved by TCEQ for 4 Hours of Continuing Education.

9:00 - 10:10 am          Sign-in, Introductions, Training Overview & Objectives, Pre-Test

10:10 - 11:30 am          Regulatory Overview:  TCR, RTCR, GW Rule, SW Treatment Rule

11:30 - 12:00 pm          Lunch

12:00 - 12:45 pm          Regulatory Overview:  Stage 2 DBPR, Lead & Copper Rule

12:45 -  1:45 pm         Disinfection Overview:  Cl2, Chloramination, TCR Samples

1:45 -  2:00 pm          Wrap-Up, Q&A, Post Test, Class Evaluation


Ready for the Future

Hebert is a small community along the banks of the Boeuf River in Caldwell Parish, just south of Monroe, Louisiana. Like most small, rural water systems, much of the operations of the system are placed on the shoulders of one person.

For Hebert Water System, that one person is Randy Mills. He’s been the manager of the water system for more than 20 years. Everyone who knows him is quick to credit Randy for guiding the system to its many successes.

In Randy’s hands, Hebert Water System has thrived. It has even won awards. Among its bragging rights, the Hebert Water System earned the title of the best-tasting water in the entire state of Louisiana from 2010-2012.

Recently, Randy started thinking about his retirement. Recent improvements had the water system on a sound footing. But before he could pass the keys to another manager. Randy wanted a GIS map for the system.

Herbert needed assistance with their Letter of Conditions for a USDA loan and was referred to Communities Unlimited. He soon learned we could offer an affordable GIS (Global Information Systems) mapping option.

GIS mapping uses satellites to accurately plot points on a map, which can be combined with other data to create a variety of maps, much like online maps that show the locations of restaurants, gas stations and shops. The technology can show a full map of the system itself or be queried to display only certain meters, valves, system pressurization hot spots, or whatever the operator needed to see. It’s similar to a person search Google Maps looking for only Italian restaurants.

Over four days, staff from Hebert Water System and Communities Unlimited collected points for the maps using a GIS receiver. The more than 1,500 points collected covered everything from customer meters to valves, fire hydrants and other important points within the water system.

Communities Unlimited returned to the Hebert Water System to train the staff on how to use the system. The training ensured that everyone could use the new GIS mapping system and that they could pass the knowledge on to future employees and board members of the water system. This means that the Hebert Water System will be able to continue to offer top-notch service to customers with a new generation of employees.

Randy said, “We appreciate you coming, explaining the requirements and helping us implement a plan. We could not have done it without you. It has been a pleasure to meet and work with you.”

For Randy, the projects with Communities Unlimited have allowed him to rest easy about his upcoming retirement. With a water system that is set for the future, he can be sure that those who come after him will have all the knowledge, skills and data they need to continue to provide top-notch water service to Hebert Water System’s customers for years to come.


Team Work Helps Ralston PWA Make A Course Correction

Team Work Helps Ralston PWA Make a Course Correction

The Town of Ralston, Oklahoma severs 145 customers and the Pawnee Rural Water District #5 (RWD). The RWD connects on at the south end of town. During the summer months of 2017, the water system had very low pressure in the southern area of the town, and no water was being provided to the Pawnee RWD.

Communities Unlimited, Inc. (CU) was contacted by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and asked to meet with Ralston Public Works Authority (PWA). Ralston PWA was put under a consent order because their wells needed to be upgraded to meet current regulations, or they needed to identify an alternate water source as well as not providing water to the RWD. As part of their consent order, they had to engage with a technical assistance provider ODEQ recommended CU. The first item that needed to be addressed was the PWA’s financial situation. Ralston had not increased its rates in some time, causing them financial distress and preventing them from updating their system components. CU performed a rate analysis, and it was approved by the board and went into effect in September 2017. They also needed to bring some past due bills current and make repairs to their service truck and backhoe. CU was able to provide Ralston PWA with $70,000 in financing. Both of these steps put Ralston PWA on the path toward financial sustainability.

Ralston PWA was able to correct the low-pressure issue by connecting the Pawnee RWD directly to the water tower. CU worked with the Oklahoma Emergency Management, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and ODEQ to secure emergency grant funds to install the line that corrected the low-pressure issue restoring water to Pawnee RWD. CU will continue to provide financial, operational and technical assistance to Ralston PWA to ensure their continued growth.


Training, Rate Analysis Turn Town Finances Around

GORDON, AL — Communities Unlimited, contacted the Town of Gordon at the request of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD).  CU first met with the Mayor Shana Ray and the town clerk, Lorie Mack in April 2019. While assisting with the preparation of compliance reports, CU found that the town needed more support.

The town was struggling financially. CU staff completed a rate analysis that made it clear the town needed to increase rates for both the water and wastewater systems to sustain them. The rate adjustment has improved the financial position of the utilities’ enterprise fund balance.

To improve financial monitoring and reporting, the Town of Gordon purchased the QuickBooks program. CU staff trained the town clerk on Quickbooks and town employees on basic accounting and financial record keeping. They are now on the road to financial sustainability. “You go beyond the call of duty to help the town,” said Mayor Ray.


Dermott Challenged in Quest for Community Sustainability

DERMOTT, AR — Dermott, Arkansas, had a lot of potential, with good job sources nearby, a large younger population and the desire to improve. But it also had several issues that were subverting its growth potential, and city officials weren’t sure where to begin to address the problems.

They needed a way to bring community sustainability to their city, as well as to bring their utilities and emergency services into compliance.

Dermott lies in the Mississippi River Delta region of southeast Arkansas in what has traditionally been a high-poverty area of Arkansas.

One of the goals of Dermott’s city leaders was to build the community’s sustainability by encouraging residents to start their own businesses. The building blocks were there, but city leaders needed a solid foundation on which to build.

The answers came when they applied for a foundation grant to help bring a grocery store to the city. In response to the application, a feasibility study was requested.

Communities Unlimited was called in to conduct that study. It was the start of a relationship that would give Dermott hope for much more than just a grocery store.

One of the goals of Dermott’s leaders was to jump-start local business ownership. Communities Unlimited brought in members of its Community Sustainability team to evaluate what tools would be needed to achieve this goal.

In late 2018, Communities Unlimited hosted a “How to Start a Business” workshop.

Fifteen potential entrepreneurs showed up to the workshop.

Of the 15 at the workshop, eight participants signed scopes of services to continue working with Communities Unlimited on developing their business ideas.

The approach in Dermott is a perfect example of how Communities Unlimited doesn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to community sustainability. Representatives from Communities Unlimited started by meeting with city or town leaders and getting a feel for the town from the inside out.

Understanding that one of the best ways to build a community is to build community pride, Communities Unlimited works with those who have been successful in town, longtime residents with a sense of pride and history, and those with ideas on how to grow the local economy. They can be strong pillars in revitalizing a community.

While working with Dermott leaders on community sustainability, Communities Unlimited staff discovered the city had utility issues it was trying to address.

Dermott was looking to obtain funding to pay for several water and sewer system improvements, including rehabilitating its aging water tank and improving the wastewater system, which was facing regulatory compliance issues. The city was asking for about $4.5 million in funding for the improvements.

As part of obtaining the rate information, Communities Unlimited conducted a rate study for Dermott and determined the city would need to increase its water and sewer rates in order to facilitate the water and sewer project. The city council agreed and increased the rates.

The water and sewer project brought forth another issue. It was discovered that the city lacked a proper map for properties within the city limits.

Mayor Walter Donald asked Communities Unlimited about GIS mapping. The plan is to initiate a GIS mapping project about the same time the water and wastewater improvements are being made, so the water and wastewater system can be mapped properly as it is upgraded and new meters put in. It will also update the maps for emergency services.

Dermott was still looking to get its own grocery store. But the earlier feasibility study revealed one couldn’t be supported with Dermott’s current population.

But representatives of Communities Unlimited had a plan: opening a farmer’s market. The seasonal market could serve as a test run for a grocery later down the line. It could also give local farmers a place to sell their fruits and vegetables and fuel the entrepreneurial spirit growing in the city.

Dermott has several projects underway, and several goals yet meet. But one thing is certain — Communities Unlimited will be there every step of the way.


Healthy Communities, Healthy Businesses, Healthy Families

Communities Unlimited, Inc., resides in the space of solutions. We take a community-based — yet regional — approach to solving the challenges that threaten our communities’ survival and provide the resources needed to sustain healthy communities, healthy businesses and healthy families.

Healthy Communities: Defining healthy communities from the outside is a significant endeavor. However, the people who call a rural community or a low-wealth neighborhood home know exactly when their community is healthy and when it is not. Creating the vehicle that allows residents to become leaders to define, plan and implement strategies to make their communities healthy was the work of our Community Sustainability efforts in 11 communities in 2019. Residents who serve on the board of their local water or wastewater system understand the importance of keeping their water and sewer system in regulatory compliance to ensure the community’s health. Building the capacity of water operators and the boards across 528 distinct communities was the work of our Environmental Team in 2019. Often, communities require capital to upgrade or maintain key water and sewer infrastructure. Communities Unlimited’s Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) played a key role by making 24 emergency and interim loans totaling $2.8 million. A strong local economy is an important driver for healthy communities.

Healthy Businesses: 131 healthy, locally owned businesses we worked with in 2019 come in here. Rural communities in the South are marked by a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Yet for decades, state and local leaders have been waiting on jobs to arrive from outside corporations. All the while, they overlooked the base of small businesses in their own communities that are contributing quality of life services, jobs and sales taxes. By helping local leadership teams build entrepreneurial ecosystems, we are shifting this mindset. By providing intensive managerial assistance through our Entrepreneurship Team, budding entrepreneurs are turning their dreams and sidelines into small businesses that benefit their communities. CU’s CDFI utilizes its unique lending model to de-risk loans on the front end of the lending process, allowing CU to make successful start-up and working capital loan to low-wealth entrepreneurs who often have low or no credit score and little or no collateral.

Healthy Families: Small business owners generate wealth for their families and income and security for their employee’s families. CU seeks to impact multiple social determinants of health that lead to healthy families. In 2019, CU ensured that 308,000 families had safe drinking water. In the Mid-South Delta Region, CU worked with community leaders to create access to fresh, healthy produce through three new rural farmers’ markets in McCrory, AR, Sardis, MS, and Senatobia, MS, which are also creating additional income for local small-scale farmers. In Bogata, TX, CU worked with a local cooperative to develop a feasibility study for a grocery store that can provide fresh produce and healthy foods.

STRATEGIC BLENDING

Communities Unlimited’s five main program areas – Environmental, Community Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Healthy Foods and Lending – don’t work in isolation. They are strategically blended to solve challenges facing low-wealth neighborhoods and rural communities in the South holistically. This holistic approach led CU to be counted among organizations identified as Rural Development Hubs in the Aspen Institute’s 2019 report Rural Development Hubs: Strengthening America’s Rural Innovation Infrastructure.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT HUBS

Rural Development Hubs are further characterized by their ability to build and participate in collaboratives that deliver a broader array of services. Communities Unlimited has always worked under that assumption that rural challenges are too complex for any organization to solve alone. Take the sad phenomenon of persistent poverty in America, defined as counties where over 20% of the population have lived in poverty for over 30 years. Eighty percent of the 395 persistent poverty counties in America are rural, and 45% of all persistent poverty counties are located in CU’s seven-state footprint in the South. Persistent poverty is not an accident but the result of decades of divestment by corporations, bank closures, departure of national philanthropic funders and federal programs that never reach the communities due to matching fund requirements and challenging grant applications. CU cannot undo decades of divestment alone. It is part of the Partners for Rural Transformation, six Community Development Financial Institutions that together are working to eliminate persistent poverty and bring investment dollars into these communities while building local capacity to create affordable housing, launch small businesses, build and maintain water and sewer infrastructure, provide needed banking services and help local Native American leaders start their own CDFIs.

PARTNERSHIPS AND COLLABORATIONS

Partnerships and collaborations also drive CU’s work locally. When the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance struggled to get capital for the entrepreneurs graduating from its business accelerator and small farmers programs, it reached out to Communities Unlimited. We have made three loans to their graduates. CU co-leads the Memphis CDFI Network, which became a JP Morgan Pro-Neighborhood partner in 2019. The JP Morgan Chase investment drives a joint strategy that enables each CDFI to leverage its capacity building and capital strengths to layer affordable housing, mortgage lending and small business development to change the trajectory of two low-wealth, minority neighborhoods in Memphis.


New Tech Aids Cherry Tree Rural Water District

New Tech Aids Cherry Tree Rural Water District

Cherry Tree Rural Water District (RWD) expects a 40% reduction in revenues because of COVID-19. The system serves 268 households, 3 schools and 1 commercial customer. The revenue loss will be, in large part, to the early closing of schools in mid-March and the loss of jobs in an already persistent poverty county. Cherry Tree closed its office to the public after assistance from Communities Unlimited in purchasing and installing a payment dropbox. The system is working with limited staff, one full-time office clerk, and one full-time water operator. Office Clerk Brooke Davis had to bring her two children to work with her because of closed schools and limited childcare options. She is new to the water system, and like everyone else is working under continually changing circumstances. Brooke said, “I call [CU] for everything.” She has regular video conferences with Communities Unlimited staff to determine the best course of action in these unprecedented emergency circumstances.

Communities Unlimited is now working with most communities through video conferencing, introducing many to the new technology. We continue to utilize various technologies to assist rural communities in any way we can.


The Community Voice - Communities Unlimited 2019 Annual Report

The Community Voice - Communities Unlimited 2019 Annual Report

We are thrilled to be able to share our 2019 annual report! We have had an exciting year. We now have a total of 65 employees across our seven states and are continuing to grow every day. Not only have we grown in size but in our ability to strategically blend our services. The Communities Unlimited staff are creating a more significant impact than ever before by identifying and connecting communities and entrepreneurs to all the resources that Communities Unlimited can provide community sustainability, lending, environmental services, entrepreneurship and healthy foods.

We are partnering and collaborating as an organization with an ever-increasing number of nonprofits, foundations, private sector partners and philanthropic organizations, as well as being part of the formation of new collaborations. With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are partnering with the Urban Institute and the University of Kentucky to study the impact of infrastructure on health and are one of the Partners for Rural Transformation.

We are proud to have been featured in Empower by GoDaddy Docu-Series “Made In America,” which showed not only our work but the incredible drive and passion of the small business owners that we support every day. We have been recognized for our holistic approach to working with rural communities by the Aspen Institute. There are so many stories to tell and not enough paper to print them all. We’ve selected a few from throughout 2019 to illustrate that with a little support, anyone anywhere can live in a healthy community, work or own a healthy business and have a healthy family.

Read the annual report in its entirety in our About Us section and request a paper copy by emailing Reception@CommunitiesU.org.