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Columbus rolls out new e-alert system

January 26, 2018 GMT

Columbus is looking for better ways to connect with residents through its e-alerts system.

In the past few months, the city has worked to improve its website, cityofcolumbuswi.com to more prominently feature the e-mail alert tab on the left side of every page. Through the e-mail alert system, residents can sign up for news and updates that can come directly to their computers or smart phones.

City Administrator Patrick Vander Sanden has worked with Community Outreach Coordinator JT Cestkowski to improve the e-mail alerts option. It’s a valuable way for the city to connect with residents in a timely fashion.

“When there are news updates in those areas, residents can get an email sent to them with a news flash or some information about city government we would like people to know,” Vander Sanden said.

The alert system has become vital in the past couple weeks with Columbus receiving its first significant snowfall of the winter. With e-mail alerts, the city can notify residents when cars must be moved from city streets to facilitate plowing.

“The city has wrestled with parking rules for the last few years,” Vander Sanden said. “The base regulations have basically stayed the same: when a snow event brings snow to the two-inch level, cars need to be moved off the street for plowing and they need to stay off the street until the snow event is over and the public works department has cleared the street from curb to curb.”

In the downtown area, if more than two inches falls, cars should not park there between midnight and 6 a.m. to allow crews to remove the snow. Vander Sanden said the rule was established a couple years ago to allow public works to remove snow during the overnight hours while still allowing some downtown parking during the day.

“That has worked out pretty well,” Vander Sanden said. “But every year, with the first couple snowfalls, people get reacquainted with the rules and with the snow we had last week, it highlighted whether the city could help residents be better prepared for the winter rules when they’re reintroduced.”

Cestkowski, while working as a city intern last summer, was in charge of updating the city’s website. He saw an opportunity to improve the e-alert system and began developing better ways to reach residents. Cestkowski said e-alerts are a good way for residents to be prepared before a snow event.

“You can go the city’s website and on every single page, you’ll see a white button with a blue background,” Cestkowski said. “One of them reads ‘E-Mail Alerts’ and it’s generally on the left-hand side.”

After accessing the E-Mail Alerts page, residents can enter their e-mail addresses and customize the system to get the notifications they want.

“There is everything from snow alerts to calendar functions that automatically get e-mailed out to everybody so they all know when an event occurs,” Cestkowski said. “There is also a news function on there that people can receive if, for instance, they want to know when city council meetings are.”

Vander Sanden said the city also plans to use the system to inform residents of severe weather in the spring and summer. He wants to work with local law enforcement and the county’s emergency management director before the system is rolled out.

“We do have that capability,” Vander Sanden said. “If we would have a big storm blow through the city, people would be able to see updates on what’s going on with more immediacy. There are a lot of ways we can go with this, but the winter parking regulations are at the forefront right now.”