Kyle Clark, a student in Kansas City, MO, asks "Do any public works departments ever allow advertising on their snowplows or street sweepers like you see on city buses?"

Thanks, Kyle. To my knowledge most public agencies that are supported by general revenue tax dollars are not allowed to place paid advertising on their equipment. City bus services actually operate with their own revenue stream so they can set their own guidelines for generating funds. If public agencies were allowed to do so, the money generated would go back into the big "city pot" of money and could not be dedicated specifically to public works.

Public works agencies have been creative in decorating their snowplows. Several have contests for their residents or school classes or art groups to paint the snowplow blades. As you can imagine they are pretty creative. The blades are then usually put on display prior to the heavy snow removal season. The paint wears off by the end of the winter, the plow blades or cleaned and prepared, and another contest takes place the next fall.

"We are interested in developing mutual aid agreements for our public works department, similar to those that police and fire departments have. Does APWA have any samples available or anyone we could talk to about it?"

Yes on both counts. The APWA website Resource Center ( then emergency management) has several plans for various agencies that could give you a good jumping off point to begin working on yours. Another great resource would be the public works folks in Gainesville, FL. They just completed their Accreditation Site Visit, becoming the 48th agency, and the entire Chapter 8, Emergency Management, was documented as a Model Chapter. This means they have many great things to share in the art of public works emergency management. Feel free to contact Teresa Scott, Public Works Director, at

"The City of Hayward, CA is looking into ways to control illegal dumping within the city limits. Among the options we are exploring is the use of wireless "flashcams" which photograph violators and warn them that they have been detected. We would like to know if you have any information you could share with us about this equipment." Randall Smith, Hayward, CA

The equipment is being used for several purposes in many locations around the country. Phoenix is using it to record graffiti artists in the act. Other locations are using it for the purpose you mention, recording illegal dumping as well as surveillance of high crime or indecent exposure areas. Since the cameras are battery operated and equipped with a flash to allow for taking photos after dark, it sounds like it would be ideal for your purposes. The units cost approximately $5,500 each. If you are using the Flashcam and could provide additional information, you can contact Randall directly at

"Guess the pandemic flu excitement is over. Haven't heard anything about it recently. Do we need to worry about it any longer?"

Not sure I'd agree that it's "over" because I don't think it's even started in this country yet. Pandemic drills have been scheduled in several major cities across the country to enable local governments and businesses to work through mock drills to see how well-prepared they would be with communications and precautions should the flu pandemic actually occur. Chicago was the first to test their capabilities with the aid of a computer simulation. About 100 employees of five city agencies and private businesses watched on projection screens as the officials decided how to respond to power outages, staffing shortages at police and fire departments and a lack of basic supplies at supermarkets. Sorry to say, the public works department was not one of the city agencies invited to participate in the drill. Guess basic services like water, wastewater, operation of traffic signals, etc. won't be impacted!

Program organizers did note that they had not made some major decisions such as what would happen if the schools were to close. Who would take care of the kids? Would parents have to stay home from work? There are definitely some serious concerns to be addressed and public works players should be in on the discussions. Future tests of the simulation are scheduled for 2008 in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. If you have the opportunity, step up and insist that public works be part of the drills!

"I know we've joked about reusing treated wastewater for years but with the severe drought in many areas, is that getting closer to happening?"

Yes. I'm not aware of actual treated wastewater being used for drinking water purposes, but that may be happening already. However, several areas are working on plans to put highly treated water filtered from sewer lines back into the ground to boost drinking water supplies. The City of Huntington Beach, CA is finalizing a procedure that would put the treated water, already filtered extremely well through a reverse osmosis process so that it takes out even minuscule viruses, through a sterilizing process of heavy ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide, meant to break down anything left into harmless elements like carbon and hydrogen. The agency believes putting the water back into the ground will boost the amount of usable water from city wells which supply about three-quarters of the city's water.

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