Q and A - Glad You Asked

In addition to this column, members are welcome to post their questions in the general forum area of the APWA web site at www.apwa.net. There, other members have the opportunity to post their answers directly. We also retrieve those questions with broad appeal for the “Q&A” column.

Q. John Grandson, Fleet Supervisor, City of Duluth, Minnesota, recently posted an interesting question on the General Discussion Forum of APWA’s web site. Mr. Grandson’s question involves fleet “ownership” and was phrased as follows: “Do any APWA members have an internal service fund in place for their fleet operations? We are exploring the option of having our fleet operations division be the owner of all City equipment. We would then charge all of the user departments a flat rental rate for each vehicle or piece of equipment they use. This rental rate would fund our fleet service division as well as establish an equipment replacement fund. The management objective for doing this is to:

1) Assure the availability of funds at the time replacement is needed;

2) Smooth the year-to-year swings in the amount of replacement funds;

3) To simplify the annual budget process for equipment replacement. When users are charged a rental fee, an additional objective of user responsibility and accountability can also be achieved.

We would like to contact any members that have a system like this in place to see how well it is working out.

Thanks for any help that you may be able to offer on this topic.”

A. Mr. Grandson’s question is one of those “hit the side of your head” questions for most of us. We have all heard of municipalities that use this approach to managing public vehicles/equipment but to name those who do is almost impossible. Does your municipality use this approach or can you give Mr. Grandson the name of one or more municipalities that do?

Q. When Bill Madigan, Director of Public Works, Post Falls, Idaho, posted a “big box” question on APWA’s web site, he received enough first-rate replies to fill a big box. Mr. Madigan’s question was phrased as follows: “We have our first “big box” development submittal from Wal-Mart. My questions center on “traffic impact analysis.” I have a concern with some of the contents of the analysis we have received. I am requesting comments from those who have dealt with the Wal-Marts of this world, as to how they were to deal with, were their traffic projections accurate, did they contribute financially to ROW improvements such as signals, etc. I would appreciate any input.”

A. Mr. Madigan’s question prompted the following responses:

“Please contact Bill Morgan (406-657-3021 or MorganB@ci.billings.mt.us) for detailed information on this. We have gone through one Wal-Mart site here in Billings, MT and are now in the process of approving another “Super” Wal-Mart development. Bill is in charge of our site review team for our city. Generally speaking, we review the data submitted and try to verify the results. Wal-Mart, like any other major development, is required to construct ROW improvements (curb, gutter, sidewalks, streets, etc.) including signals. I hope this helps.” - John Nowak, Staff Engineer, Billings, MT

“Our procedures in Missouri City, TX (50,000 pop) are the same as John Nowak’s in Billings. We carefully evaluate the traffic impact analyses provided by the developers and have been known to question assumptions and projections and have had developers reaccomplish studies that we did not fully agree with. In all cases the developers have had to fund and construct improvements such as intersection improvements, traffic signals, detention facilities, and additional or joint use access/entry points to name a few. Yes, you get a lot of squawking from the developers, but if the site is right for them they will comply. We have worked with Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Super Target, Albertson’s, Signature Krogers, and are supersizing the Wal-Mart at present. We have also been working with two large planned residential developments (10,000 acres and 2,500 acres) where we require the same mitigating improvements. For more detailed information you may contact my City Engineer, Scott Elmer, 281-261-4287 or scott@ci.mocity.tx.us” - Lee Dorger, Director of Public Works, Missouri City, TX

“As with TX and MT colleagues, we (Highland, IL, pop. 8K) require traffic, stormwater and utility improvements. IDOT has driven most traffic issues on the super Wal-Mart under construction, but we requested or required through-site connections and capacity in sewers (including a lift station) and water, stormwater detention & landscaping (somewhat limited, as we have no code requirement yet. Where we run aground is with in-city and adjacent piece-meal development that aggregates to conditions that demand road or utility upgrades (at overall-public expense).

We’re working on subdivision code updates, so would appreciate comments or effective text on that sort of imputed cost (impact fees, escrow reserves, whatever works).” - Dick Aten, Director of Public Works, Highland, IL

The above exchanges were as beneficial to the participants as they were to those who visited APWA’s web site and read them. If you are not visiting the General Discussion Forum and have not joined the infoNOW Community, you are missing out on some of the most professional enlightening conversations in public works.

Q. Cynthia Driscoll, Project Management Specialist, Town of Groton, Connecticut, has asked APWA for help with marketing a recycling program. Ms. Driscoll’s question was stated as follows: “We are looking for ads that convey the positives of the recycling concept in a brief, but catchy and motivating manner. Does APWA have anything of the sort?

Currently, we have several brochures and lists of why recycling is beneficial and the protocol to follow. Yet, we first need to convince people of the entire idea before they are willing to look into the details.

I would appreciate any and all assistance on this.”

A. APWA does not have examples of catchy recycling brochures or program information flyers, so we were only able to help Ms. Driscoll by posting her question on the Environment Community of APWA’s infoNOW communities. Can you help? Have you any unique, catchy or motivational marketing materials for recycling programs? If you do have such materials, please share them with APWA so we can share them with Groton and other communities.

Q. David Scheel, Director of Public Works, Warren, Michigan, recently e-mailed a question of “sweeping proportions.” Bad pun, but irresistible. Mr. Scheel’s question deserves serious consideration because it involves an important but often-overlooked public works service-street sweeping. Mr. Schell posed his question as follows: “Our city is 36 square miles in size and is nearly fully developed into residential subdivisions (approx. 54,000 properties). In order to provide some advance notice to residents regarding street sweeping, we post ‘no parking/street sweeping’ signs (24-36 signs) in various locations throughout the section (one square mile) to be swept the following day. This is very time consuming (costly) with little or no significant removal of parked vehicles. No parking is voluntary as we have no ordinance to prohibit except in designated areas. I have considered equipping a lead vehicle such as the dump truck or flusher truck with a public address system to drive the streets ahead of the sweepers and announce ‘street sweeping in progress, please move your cars.’ Has anyone tried this or have a better idea that works?”

A. Using an advance vehicle might improve public response a little but it probably will not be a complete solution. If folks are going to ignore a sign they will probably ignore the sound truck as well. Have you thought of giving more notice than just one day and supplementing the notice with a little publicity in the local press? Having the signs up for two or three working days in advance of the scheduled sweeping might help.

Street sweeping is one of the more mundane public works services, but it is one of the more important functions performed to protect the environment. Removal of the tons of dirt, dust and street litter by sweeping and placement of this material in approved landfills takes this material out of the ecosystem and ensures that it does not enter storm drain systems and surface waters. The positive aspects of street sweeping makes good copy in local newspapers and should be of interest to editors.

Have you a suggestion for Mr. Scheel? If you do please share it with APWA so we can share it with others who have the same problem.

Glad You Asked…

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquires to:
John “Mac” MacMullen,
c/o APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd., Suite #500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2641
Fax questions to (816) 472-0405
E-mail: jmacmullen@apwa.net