ASK ANN

Q&A

"Our agency has attempted to compose a program to enhance the safety of the public with respect to the stormwater pipes, ditches, lakes, etc. At the same time, we want to perform cost feasibility of the proposed improvements versus the installation, maintenance and system performance. We have developed a survey and sent it to neighboring agencies to determine their practices but only received a few responses. We would be happy to send an electronic questionnaire to any agency that would complete it. Thanks for any help you can give us." James Koontz, Newport News, Virginia.

I know that everyone is busy with your own spring preparations, but if any of you would be willing to respond to the questionnaire, James would appreciate your doing so. You may contact him at the e-mail address: jkoontz@nngov.com. Can you help?

"We have a local business that wants to put tables and chairs on the public right-of-way (sidewalk) in a downtown business district for patrons to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, etc. Do any cities have ordinances that regulate this activity? Do they have to be fenced in? How much space do you allow?"

As warm weather begins to draw more of our residents to the outdoors, this is an issue that frequently surfaces. Business owners often don't understand the need to protect the right-of-way and think only of providing an enjoyable experience for their customers and increasing their bottom line. Right-of-way issues are often sensitive but the one overwhelming concern is that the right-of-way not be compromised, regardless of the issue of "free enterprise." A good sample ordinance can be obtained from Sam Gaston, Mountain Brook, Alabama at e-mail address: gastons@MTNBROOK.org.

"Our agency has recently begun a composting operation. Right now we're trying to find ways to use all the mulch. Even though we have many acres of parks and public grounds, we still can't use all the leaves. Any ideas?"

While I'm sure there must be many uses other than as mulch, I recently visited Newport News, Virginia as part of the Onsite Visit Team for Accreditation, and was interested in one unique method they are using. The agency has begun building berms in certain areas around city parks, etc. using a combination of 75 percent dirt and 25 percent loose leaves. The joint material compacts well and has provided good sound barriers, as well as "mini-hills" in an otherwise flat landscape. Hiking and biking trains, sledding during the unusual snows, and a variety of other uses have helped to utilize a great number of tons of leaves. For more information, contact James Koontz, Newport News, at jkoontz@nngov.com.

"Last year there was a program for public works employees who were pretty new to the field that was a part of the annual Congress. Is that program still in place and, if so, how can I get more information?" Vijay Sinha, Stockton, California.

So glad you asked. Yes, the Emerging Public Works Leaders Forum will be entering its fourth year when we go to San Diego, California for the APWA Congress. Congress will be held August 24-27, 2003 at the San Diego Convention Center. The Emerging Leaders Forum is specifically designed to benefit public works professionals who have been in the field, or in a supervisory position, for five years or less. Special sessions will be held on the association's role, purpose, and leaders; networking; career development; and participation in several special events, including an APWA Scavenger Hunt, a Get Acquainted Mixer, and the First Timers Meeting. The registration fee is greatly reduced for qualified Emerging Leaders at $225 which includes all the events and sessions during Congress. For more details please contact me at 800-848-APWA, ext. 3547 or by e-mail at adaniels@apwa.net. I'll be looking for your messages.

"We are in the process of developing plans for a once-in-a-lifetime construction of a new public works facility. Is there any help available so we don't miss something really important?"

"Coming soon to an APWA bookstore near you" will be the latest publication from APWA to be titled something along the line of "Development and Building Corporate Yards." The publication will be available for purchase at Congress in San Diego and on the website around that same time. It is a comprehensive publication which we believe you will find very useful.

Larry Waters, Project Manager, Lynnwood Public Works Department, Lynnwood, WA writes: "I am wondering how common the use of self-directed work teams is in public works operations and where they are used, how successful it has been."

This may be one of those areas where several departments are doing it but not calling it "self-directed work teams." Those who have used them are pretty well satisfied that the process is a good one. As is true with most "team" efforts, some few members tend to carry the bulk of the weight while an occasional shirker drags down the productivity. In the case of Palatine, IL, Andy Radetski, Director of Public Works, has outlined his program which includes performance evaluation where quality measures and goals are developed by each team. Some of these include pavement condition rating for the Street Team; number and duration of vehicle breakdowns for the Vehicle Maintenance Team; and customer hours of water outage for the Utility Team. For Andy's plan, contact him at aradetski@palatine.il.us. If you have a similar program, please let me know and I'll share more information.

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd.
Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to (816) 472-0405
E-mail: adaniels@apwa.net