Fail to Plan; Plan to Fail

By Kathy Rodgers, State Lead Maine

Providing Assistance with No Back-Up Plan Puts Everyone at Risk.

Emphasis must be placed on ensuring staff are cross-trained and appropriate documentation is available for continuity in operations.

A town manager in Maine, who found himself suddenly in charge of a small community water system, had quite the harrowing experience recently. Unfortunately, this avoidable story is not uncommon.  The small town’s water operator had suddenly taken ill and was hospitalized.  The back-up operator had passed away six months ago.  The community was quite remote, and the town manager was in desperate need of an operator who could help keep their two treatment plants operational.  The system had several treatment phases including pre-chlorination, filtration, aeration, and fluoridation that needed to be monitored and maintained.  After several days and several frantic calls later, they were connected to a licensed contract operator who was willing to drive two hours to investigate the situation.

Upon arrival, the contract operator was greeted by a very green public works employee who was set to be cross trained in the water department but had no working knowledge of the plants.  The public works employee confessed the regular operator, now hospitalized, had told him that all the information was “all up here” as he pointed to his temple.  It seemed the hospitalized operator had always felt his job was threatened and closely guarded operational information. That fear, which is often shared by undervalued operators, is unfortunate as it created a stressful situation for everyone left in his wake.

By the end of day one, the contract operator and the public works employee were able to determine where the maintenance logs and the test kits were located.  The seasoned contract operator was successfully able to show the public works employee how to run the daily test and record the meter readings.  Then the contract operator began searching for the operation and maintenance (O&M) manual or any standard operating procedures (SOPs), to figure out how the system worked, but to no avail.  There were no clear procedures found to follow to ensure the system was running properly.   Under stacks of unfiled paperwork, the contract operator was able to find an emergency response plan that hadn’t been updated in 18 years, which is recommended to be updated annually, but it was with very little detail and of little help.  With the assistance of contract operator’s administrative office, they were able to piece together clues as to how the facilities operated through state records and other pieces of information.

The alarms started sounding by day two.  Not that anyone really knew that alarms were sounding, as the hospitalized operator was the only one getting the notifications.  It was upon arrival to the plant that the public work employee observed the chlorine tank had run dry.  The proper ratio to prepare the chlorine solution was unknown.  The fluoride pump appeared to be unplugged.  Who knows why?  The public works employee was untrained in how to properly handle these dangerous chemicals. The contract operator stepped in again to help batch the chemicals and get the chemical feeds pumping.  The contract operator best recourse and advice was to encourage the town manager and the public works employee to reach out to their regular operator, while in the hospital, to get guidance.   Not an ideal situation for anyone.

This emergency could have all been avoided and continuity in service could have easily been maintained by having an O&M manual readily available.  The O&M manual serves not only as a tool for the operating and maintenance of the facilities for the personnel of the plant; but it also serves as road map for those who must step in when the primary operations’ crew is unavailable.   For the manual to be effective, vital information must be easy to find, quickly and efficiently.  The O&M manual is designed to give treatment system personnel and the back-up operator the proper understanding of techniques and references protocols necessary to efficiently operate their facilities.   Having an O&M manual which includes well written SOPs, and an emergency response plan will ensure that operations will be able continue in a situation when new or temporary staff must be trained quickly.

Moving forward the contract operator has been retained as the town’s back-up operator. His crew has already begun planning to assist with development of a functional O&M manual to eliminate this situation in the future.  The grateful town manager is now keenly aware of the need to document and to have a back-up plan in place.

When developing an O&M manual ask yourself:

  • What do I do on a daily and weekly basis to maintain my water or wastewater treatment system?
  • Do these activities or pieces of equipment that need maintenance involve SOPs, manufacturer’s specifications, or record keeping logs?
  • Do I have the right tools?
  • What documents or logs do I need to develop?

“Thank you so much for the help you guys have provided. You have been wonderful to work with. We will certainly be in touch.” – Town Manager of a Little Town, Anywhere, USA

Shared Solutions Bring Small Victories in Regional Collaboration

By Derik Dressler, PA Regionalization Specialist

As a system operator, manager, or board member you can be overwhelmed by the challenges that your small system routinely faces. While large challenges often demand more complex solutions, I would like to offer some small victories in regional collaboration that have proven to ease the challenges small system’s face. RCAP Solutions has assisted with establishing partnerships among several communities in the last number of years to lessen the burden on the system’s responsibilities. In these systems, the operators work with other operators in times of need whether in an urgent situation or a more routine basis. I would like to present a few real-world examples that led to solving some of these challenges. In one case, the new operator of a small system had no previous operating experience. The operator needed significant guidance and help to proficiently operate the system. In working with the system, RCAP was able to find the operator the help they needed from a neighboring system’s operator. This partnership eventually led to an ongoing working relationship that has proved to be very beneficial to the inexperienced operator. In another part of Pennsylvania, a small rural system needed a certified operator for the small filter plant that served their customers. The owners of the system were burdened by this task and did not know how to make this happen. RCAP was able to provide a list of operators in the area that were willing to operate the system and assist in reaching out to the certified operators. Within a few weeks the system obtained the services of a certified operator alleviating the non-compliance of the system. One other small rural system in Pennsylvania was experiencing significant water loss but was unaware of the exact location of the leak.

The system does not have sufficient leak detecting equipment or the experience needed to operate the equipment effectively. In consultation with RCAP, assistance was found from a neighboring system. The leak was located quickly, and the repair was completed within two days of noticing the water loss. All three examples show how regional collaboration can be effective. Even though the examples are a very small scale of what regional collaboration can be it is important to note the significant impact it had on each community. It is difficult to determine exactly how much impact each of these seemingly insignificant or small collaborative measures may have had. If the operator had not reached out to a more experienced operator for advice on important issues, where could they be now? If the second system did not collaborate with a certified operator to operate the system and continue in violation, what would that have meant for the system? If in fact, the system in the third example did not reach out to find help on the major leak could have it dewatered the system or impacted other portions of the system? While often large challenges demand large solutions, the truth is that we often do not fully comprehend the value in the small victories in collaborating with one another.

As a manager, operator, or board member of a small water system, what are some challenges your utility will face this year? How might partnerships help meet these challenges? RCAP offers free training and assistance in regional collaboration and offers partnership tools to help facilitate your regional collaboration efforts. If this sounds interesting to you, please reach out to Derik Dressler, Regional Collaboration Specialist at ddressler@rcapsolutions.org or 814-571-0727.

RCAP Solutions Career Expo

Achieve Your Professional Goals With a Career at RCAP Solutions!

When: September 8, 2021 • 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Where: RCAP Solutions, 191 May Street, Worcester, MA 01602 (Upper Parking Lot)

Add To Calendar

This September, RCAP Solutions will be hosting a walk-in Career Expo (no pre-registration required). There will be an opportunity to meet with our Human Resources department and program managers, ask questions, and learn more about the benefits of a career with RCAP Solutions. On-site interviews will be conducted, so bring your resume and dress to impress!

We are looking to recruit talented individuals throughout Central Massachusetts, the greater Northeast, and the Caribbean in several areas, including:

  • Affordable Housing Property Management
  • Community Development & Environmental Services (Water/Wastewater Sector)
  • Small Business Development
  • Subsidized Housing Vouchers Administration
  • Housing Counseling & Programs
  • Information Technology
  • Accounting

For a full list of available positions, click here.

Please note: This is a mask-friendly event.


We are looking to recruit talented individuals who are:

Ambitious • Creative • Data-Driven • Diligent • Passionate • Positive • Problem-Solving • Fun!

And who have experience or an interest in one or more of the following areas:

  • Social Services
  • Housing Counseling
  • Case Management
  • Customer Service
  • Property Management
  • Water/Wastewater Operations
  • Engineering
  • Business Development
  • Community Capacity Building
  • Outreach Initiatives
  • Technology
  • Finance Administration
  • Office Administration

About RCAP Solutions

RCAP Solutions is the go-to resource of sustained success for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. Established in 1969 (as Rural Housing Improvement), we have supported the power and potential of communities for over half a century as strategists of community-wide well-being. Dedicated to nurturing strength, resilience and confidence in those we serve, we engage communities in the realization of a collective vision, creating and implementing a plan to guide them to self-actualized and sustained success.

Our Culture

Our belief in potential extends from the people we work with, to the team we work alongside, all the way to our ourselves as drivers of a brighter future. Our organizational culture inspires all members to embrace opportunities to develop and flourish in the achievement of value-driven goals. Our team is comprised of big-picture thinkers, positive outlookers, flexible operators, and compassionate advocates. Though our backgrounds, skills and diverse perspectives, we are brought together by our dedication to a better world.


A career at RCAP Solutions opens the door to many opportunities!

  • Personal & Professional Growth
  • Community Involvement
  • Flex Your Creativity & Ambition
  • Networking Opportunities
  • Generous Benefits Package
  • Employee Incentives & Events

For more information, please contact our Human Resources department:

HR@rcapsolutions.org

774-303-9403

Upcoming Training Opportunities for Homebuyers & Homeowners

Upcoming Training Opportunities

RCAP Solutions’ Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) offers many workshops and trainings which are designed to support and educate tenants, potential homebuyers, and homeowners on purchasing and maintaining a home. We offer both virtual and in-person events.

Over the next several months, we will be offering First-Time Homebuyer education as well as Post-Purchase classes for individuals who recently bought a home. Stay tuned to our calendar of events as more workshops become available.


First-Time Homebuyer Workshops

In this MassHousing approved, HUD and CHAPA certified workshop, attendees will learn about programs available to assist income-eligible first time homebuyers; understand the steps in the homebuying process; meet with professionals who will discuss what to look for in a homebuying team; and receive the necessary certification required by many first time homebuyer programs. Check out the flyer below for more information.

Jan 12, 19, & 26, 2022
5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Hybrid
Register Here

Mar 8, 15, & 22, 2022
5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Hybrid
Register Here 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


HomeSafe Post-Purchase Workshops

Congratulations, you bought a house! Now what? By attending RCAP Solutions’ HomeSafe Post-Purchase workshop you will sharpen your knowledge and become equipped with the necessary skills to maintain your home and finances. Check out the flyer below for more information.

Dec 11, 2021
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
In-Person
Register Here

Feb 9 & 16, 2022
5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Virtual
Register Here

Apr 30, 2022
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
In-Person
Register Here

 

 

 

 

 


If you have any questions, please email us at: HCECedu@rcapsolutions.org or call us at: 978-630-6772

SNO Mass Program Offers Incentives to Landlords

Supporting Neighborhood Opportunity in Massachusetts (SNO Mass) aims to assist families with housing vouchers in moving to communities with high-quality schools, parks and open spaces, and other amenities that help children grow and thrive. SNO Mass provides important benefits to landlords by helping connect our eligible, pre-screened tenants with available rental properties in these desirable neighborhoods. By participating in SNO Mass, we can help landlords meet their financial goals as a property owner and provide families with a place they are proud to call home.

Program benefits for landlords include:

  • Assurance of prompt payment of rent subsidy each month
  • Protection from tenant financial hardships as the voucher can absorb income loss
  • $500 signing bonus + additional $500 after the first year if you renew the lease with the original SNO Mass tenant, have another SNO Mass participant move in, or need to make repairs to the unit that exceed the security deposit
  • Potentially higher rent subsidy than you have been offered by other housing authorities in your area
  • Ready pool of pre-screened applicants who have access to financial assistance to help them settle into their new community
  • Decreased vacancy rates and reduced tenant turnover and related expenses
  • Single point of contact at our agency for any questions/issues that may arise

We have dedicated staff to help make the lease-up process as smooth as possible, and to reduce delays between application and move-in. We will work with tenants in advance to ensure they understand the responsibilities of maintaining their homes and lease obligations. Our staff continue to check in with families during the first two years in their new neighborhood, and property owners are also welcome to reach out at any time.

If you are a landlord who has available units, we would like to schedule a time to talk about this program with you and your property management team. Click here to see if your unit is located in a designated SNO Mass Opportunity Area and check out our SNO Mass FAQs.

We hope you will consider participating in SNO Mass, and becoming part of this important work, while at the same strengthening your bottom line.

Contact Us:
SNOMass@rcapsolutions.org
978-630-6648
www.rcapsolutions.org/sno-mass

RCAP Solutions Hires Residential Loan Fund Manager

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the addition of Ashur Gurbuz as Residential Loan Fund Manager, providing Home Modification Loan Program services to residents in the Central Massachusetts region. Mr. Gurbuz comes to RCAP Solutions with a diverse background in lending, banking, real estate, customer service, and management gives him a solid understanding of this critical housing program and the challenges that his clients may face.

Gurbuz served as a Loan Officer for JG Wentworth Home Lending, where he provided a variety of housing loans to his customers, providing step by step guidance and customer service throughout the entire process of the loan. He also has experience as a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, where he assisted customers in buying or selling real estate, acted as a trusted resource for answers about the real estate process and supported customers through the closing process. Prior to this, he was a Branch Manager at Santander Bank where he received the “Top Performer Award” for customer satisfaction, and Assistant Vice President at Bank of America, where he was ranked nationally for his sales and relationship management skills.

The Home Modification Loan Program distributes financing to disabled persons and their families, to make structural and accessibility improvements to homes, allowing individuals to remain safely independent. Funds are delivered through a state-funded loan program of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission in collaboration with the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). RCAP Solutions is the direct administrator of this program for all of Worcester County and parts of Norfolk and Middlesex Counties.

“Mr. Gurbuz is a great complement to the Home Modification Loan Program,” said Lovette Chislom, RCAP Solutions Director of Housing Counseling & Financial Services. “I believe it is critical for our lending staff to be able to draw on their experience to help ensure the satisfaction of our clients. This program has experienced a high volume of interest this year as caregiving families would like to keep their loved ones at home due to concerns around the pandemic. Ashur’s compassionate and engaging personality will help our clients to feel at ease and supported during this difficult time.”

Ashur Gurbuz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Assumption College in Worcester. Mr. Gurbuz is a licensed Real Estate Agent, a HUD Certified Housing Counselor, and a holds a Mortgage License, which makes him well qualified to handle a variety of homeownership issues that may arise during the lending and construction phases of the program.

The Home Modification Loan Program is part of The RCAP Solutions Housing Consumer Education Center, the organization’s front door to the public for all housing and emergency assistance programs. This includes financial and economic assistance programs such as Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA), and HomeBASE. There are also education and training programs, such as first-time home buyer and financial empowerment classes, and counseling support including pre and post homebuyer services and landlord/tenant assistance.

For additional information about the Home Modification Loan Program, please contact Ashur Gurbuz, Residential Loan Fund Manager at: (978) 630-6725, agurbuz@rcapsolutions.org or visit: http://www.rcapsolutions.org/home-modification-loan-program.

About RCAP Solutions:
RCAP Solutions is a thriving integrated community development corporation working with a multi-faceted suite of services and opportunities. Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions’ mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

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Testimonial – Town of Grafton, Vermont

Check out this testimonial from the chair of Grafton, Vermont’s Water/Wastewater Study Commission!

RCAP Solutions assisted the town in completing two surveys of their drinking water quality and wastewater management. Because the town has no central community system, residents rely entirely on individual water sources and wastewater disposal systems.

Through the Vermont Department of Health, our staff was able to acquire drinking water test kits, at no charge, for residents who rely on private wells. Fortunately, the water tests did not identify any contamination issues.

Nonetheless, RCAP Solutions encouraged the town to take a closer look at high-priority properties throughout the area. The town continues to improve their water and wastewater infrastructure, with RCAP providing strategic guidance and recommendations for state and federal funding opportunities.

This work is made possible because of the generous support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival is now live!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: March 23, 2021
CONTACT: Lara Hooper, (603) 271-4071
des.nh.gov
twitter.com/NHDES

Join us for the 2021 Virtual Drinking Water Festival!

Concord, NH – Over the past three decades, thousands of students have learned about protecting water at the New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival. This year the Festival is virtual and kicks off today! The 2021 Virtual Festival also includes the third annual Poetry Contest for third, fourth and fifth graders, making this a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Math) educational opportunity.

The 2021 Virtual Festival is packed with over 40 videos and activities that connect with student’s daily lives and explore how to keep water clean. Major themes include the water cycle, watersheds, groundwater, wildlife, the human water cycle, Water Heroes (career fields) and the Poetry Contest. Engaging lessons range from calculating a personal water footprint to finding costly silent toilet leaks and learning how caddisflies stabilize streambeds against erosion. The online lessons and activities are designed for students in third through fifth grades, but with the timeless importance of clean water, students in other grades (and adults) can benefit from them as well. All materials are free and openly available. Students participating in the Poetry Contest should submit entries by April 30, 2021.

The Virtual Water Festival and Poetry Contest is now available at our new website www.nhwaterfestival.org. There, you will find the virtual lessons and also information about how your school can participate in the free in-person annual festival in May 2022.

As a member of the New Hampshire Drinking Water Coalition, RCAP Solutions is a proud partner of this event.

Photos courtesy of NHDES

Meet the RCAP Solutions Housing Experts

RCAP Solutions “Housing Help” Webinar Series

In the spring of 2021, RCAP Solutions hosted a 3-part Zoom webinar series for tenants, homeowners, landlords, and all other interested parties. Attendees heard from the experts about our robust housing programs including; emergency rental/mortgage assistance, subsidized housing options, and much more. Participants had the ability to ask questions and the presentations were made available afterwards on our YouTube channel.


Watch the recordings below!

Part 1: Webinar for Landlords & Property Owners

Part 2: Webinar for Tenants & Homeowners

Part 3: Webinar for the General Public

RCAP Solutions Is Here to Support Landlords and Tenants

Given the unprecedented circumstances that landlords have faced over the past year, RCAP Solutions wants to ensure that you and in turn, your tenants, feel supported during these times. We offer a wide variety of programs which assist income-eligible tenants with paying their rent. These programs, designed with both parties in mind, pay subsidies directly to the landlord.

Our flagship program, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, is currently seeking participants who have available units to lease. All landlords are encouraged to participate, including those currently renting to HCV tenants! By participating in the HCV Program, we can help you meet your financial goals as a property owner and provide families with a place they are proud to call home.


Why should you participate?

Many landlords participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program because payment is guaranteed. Landlords do not have to worry about late or missed payments for the voucher amount since it is paid directly from RCAP Solutions.

Some of the benefits of participating in this program include…

  • You will get timely and dependable payments from RCAP Solutions
  • You will get your full rental payment
  • You will receive regular inspections
  • You may request annual reasonable rent increases
  • You have the opportunity to help low-income, elderly, disabled, and veteran households, as well as families with children, by providing affordable housing

New/Prospective Landlords – How to Participate:

Becoming an RCAP Solutions landlord is simple! To become a landlord with the HCV Program, you will need an HCV tenant.

To get your property seen by HCV families, you can market your unit with us! We have partnered with GoSection8, which allows you to list your rental units online. Listings are available to potential Housing Choice Voucher families seeking housing in the private market. To list your available units with us, visit AffordableHousing.com and select “List Your Property”.

If a voucher family requests to rent your property; conduct your usual screening, fill out and submit the request for tenancy approval (RFTA) – which the voucher family will have, and prepare the property for inspection. You and the voucher family will sign your lease and then you and RCAP Solutions will sign the Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract.


Current Landlords – How to Participate:

Landlords who are currently renting to HCV tenants are also encouraged to list their available and upcoming units at AffordableHousing.com. In addition, property owners should check out our webpage for a list of additional programs.


Need assistance with listing? We’re happy to list your available units on your behalf. Please download and complete the Property Listing Form by clicking here.

We have dedicated staff to help make the lease-up process as smooth as possible and to ensure inspections and move-ins take place in a timely manner. We will work with tenants in advance to ensure they understand the responsibilities of maintaining their homes and lease obligations. Our staff will continue to check in with families and property owners are welcome to reach out at any time.

We understand that times are difficult for both landlords and tenants. We hope you will consider participating in the Section 8 program and become a part of this important work, while at the same time meeting your financial goals. Our team has a long history of supporting both parties through our programs and services. If you have questions related to your rights/responsibilities as a landlord, we’re here to help.

For more information, visit www.rcapsolutions.org/landlord-services/, or contact us at RentalAssistance@rcapsolutions.org or by phone, 978-630-6602.

And for the latest updates, follow #ListAndLease and #RCAPHousingHelp on social media.


Check out our informational webinar for landlords!

This spring, RCAP Solutions hosted a 3-part Zoom webinar series about our robust housing programs including; emergency rental/mortgage assistance, subsidized housing options, and much more. The first webinar, which provided information for landlords and property owners, can be found below.