Ask Ann

"I'm getting tired of all the "reality" shows on TV that aren't really real at all. Why can't someone write something about public works services, engineering, architects, etc?"

I share your frustration. Seems strange that the people who keep our cities running never get mentioned. Of course, let's not forget Jackie Gleason's old pal, Ed Norton. He's the only public works person I can ever remember on a sitcom. Since public works is not often considered to have enough sex appeal or drawing power for commercial television, we probably won't see shows appearing there. It is interesting to note, however, that cable shows on both the History Channel and the Discovery Channel are reporting up to thirty percent growth in viewers for programs that feature public works/engineering projects, such as the "Big Dig" project in Boston. Watch your local PBS station in the near future for APWA's "Spotlight on Public Works" segment that introduces public works to public television viewers. Our plan is to educate the viewers who watch public TV so they will be better informed when issues arise in their own communities.

"While traveling across the country participating in Accreditation site visits, I have noticed that agencies in western states tend to call their public works facilities "corporation yards." Can anyone share the origin of this name and whether it's used in other parts of the U.S. and Canada?" Jacquie Proctor, Berkeley, CA

Good question. While there has been speculation that the name came from areas where the railroads may have previously housed their facilities, I haven't heard anyone offer a truly historic response to the question. If you have an answer to share, please do so and I'll pass it along to those who want to know.

"Well, I thought I'd heard everything but now I hear that eBay, of all places, is launching an electronics recycling initiative. What's the deal?"

You heard right. The online auction giant has recently unveiled its Rethink electronics reuse and recycling initiative. While they are not trying to sell junk, they are launching a website that will show consumers and businesses how to properly get rid of old electronic equipment. It promotes reuse and recycling, facilitating the selling and donating of working computers by offering tools to aid selling and including a safe data destruction utility. It also provides information on third-party companies that will pick up computer systems and sell them on behalf of the owners. A directory is available to help businesses find a local asset recovery specialist to handle the disposition of multiple computer systems. Electronic components are becoming a major nuisance in landfills and this appears to be a very positive step. The website is available at:

"Our city has had parking meters for many years. They're old and hard to keep running. Our Council thinks we need to have them to keep the merchants happy in our downtown area, but they seem like more trouble than they're worth to those of us who have to work on them. Any suggestions?"

In my city government experience, parking meters, and whether to have them or not, has been the second biggest discussion after "should we have a leash law." It's certain that the old-time meters where you insert a coin for a limited number of minutes of paid parking are dinosaurs. There are some great systems, however, that seem to be very efficient, both for the city and for the user. These involve "pay and display" terminals. Miami, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Hollywood, FL are all using the new ones. The process consists of multi-space pay-and-display meters that can accept multiple means of payment and allow users to pay for the time they need, rather than the time the change in their pockets allows. Some advantages include: increasing city revenue because the system is electronic rather than manual; increases the city's revenues since people actually pay for the time they park rather than using the previous parker's leftover time; receipts are automatically printed for business purposes; and the parking terminals are operated by solar power, saving the need to lay power or communications lines. I'm certain the folks in Fort Lauderdale would be happy to visit with you about their successes since they've had these terminals installed for over ten years.

"Is anyone in cities having any luck with waterborne traffic paints durability? Especially on high-traffic intersections with a lot of turning movements? Many of our intersections and crosswalks have to be painted twice and still do not make it through the winter. We are a smaller city with a 24,000 population. We have tried inlaid traffic tape but it is often removed during snow removal." Richard Douglas, Street Superintendent, Hastings, NE

This is a question that only you PW folks can answer for Richard. Send me your answers or send them directly to him at He'll appreciate them.

"We received a request from a member asking for a sample Alcohol and Drug-Free Workplace policy. Does APWA have such a document?" Teri Newhouse, Finance Director, American Public Works Association

No, Teri, we don't. With the many variables between state and local government regulations, as well as changing federal requirements, we can't ensure that the information we would provide would be applicable to an individual agency. However, we are happy to refer our members to a website provided by the Department of Labor which will provide employers with free resources and tools to help you establish and maintain drug-free workplace programs that protect worker safety and health, as well as meet the needs of local government. While providing a wide range of documents on alcohol and drug abuse information, it also provides resources at the national, state, and local levels, along with state laws that may help employers in making your workplace alcohol and drug-free. Visit the website at

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) 472-1610