ASK ANN

"I am overwhelmed every day with loads of e-mail messages. I know I'm supposed to read them and do something with them but I'm having a hard time deciding what to do with them after I've read them. Any ideas?"

Actually, you have three or four choices to make with every piece of paper or electronic mail that comes into your agency. The first one is easy: Read and discard immediately. It has nothing to do with your job responsibility. Hit Delete. The second is to keep it temporarily. It may require action and you may need to set it aside until you can act on it. Maybe it's a citizen's request for information or an invitation to present a program. Check the date, get the information, provide the response, and file it if it's for agency business. If it's for a lunch date, delete it. The third is to refer it to someone else who can actually take action on the request. Most people don't know who the responsible party is but they find a name and you're the lucky winner. Forward it on and it then becomes part of that person's record-keeping rather than yours and you can delete it. The fourth one is a small percentage, both of paper and electronic mail, but it actually relates to the core business function that you perform and you need to retain it for a period of time for your records. Check your records retention schedule and keep it for the prescribed period of time and in the appropriate manner and location. Overloading your e-mail files is much more frequently done now than the paper files. If your agency doesn't have a retention system in place, discuss it with your manager and develop one. Your IT folks will love you for it.

"We are working feverishly on our Self Assessment using the 5th edition of the Management Practices Manual, but we understand that if we want to move forward with Accreditation on this same manual we have to sign a contract before the 6th edition is released. When is that going to happen?"

The 6th edition of the Public Works Management Practices Manual will be released at Congress in New Orleans in August. Since it is earlier than our normal September date, agencies who have been working with the 5th edition and plan to sign contracts to commit to Accreditation will be given until September 15, 2008 to get their formal contract and application postmarked to APWA's headquarters office in Kansas City. After that date, all applicants will be required to use the 6th edition.

"I read something in the Utilities and Public Right-of-Way meeting summary on the APWA website about D.I.R.T. I'm not sure what it was. Can you explain?"

Confused me, too, when I heard them discussing it. After all, the right-of-way is usually pretty much made up of dirt and gravel, isn't it? Well, the D.I.R.T. really is an acronym for Damage Inventory Reporting Tool which is a pilot project being tested in several states. I don't have all the details but watch for articles in upcoming issues of the APWA Reporter.

"We recently had a surplus vehicle stolen from our storage yard. Our mayor thinks we should install an expensive security safety camera system around the area to protect these vehicles that are waiting to be sold off. That seems pretty expensive for items that won't bring much money when they sell. Do you have any other suggestions?"

I guess I'd need to know more about the security you have in place now before I'd plan on spending too much money. It's interesting how often I hear of agencies that don't even provided locked gates around their surplus vehicle storage yards. Or have left the vehicles unlocked, or better yet, have left the keys in the vehicles. I know of an agency that uses a watchdog to patrol their storage lot as a deterrent to thieves. Of course, the lot must be posted with the appropriate warning. Another agency has chosen to install "The Club" on their vehicles instead of investing in a security camera system which requires the maintenance and upkeep. There are alternatives but you can't beat good common sense. Keep the area well lighted. Lock it up. Lock the vehicles. Ask for regular security patrols. Try not to have the vehicles on the lot for extended periods of time before the sale. With the crunch for funds all agencies are facing now, every dollar counts.

"Where can we get information about the issues the national Technical Committees are discussing so we can talk about them at our chapter meetings?"

Each Technical Committee has a web page that includes the roster of their members and their contact information, the meeting summary for each month's meeting, a PowerPoint presentation about the work of the committee, their Business Plan for the year, and other pertinent information about their efforts. You can find them on the website at www.apwa.net, and on the left scroll bar under Technical Committees you'll find a link to each individual committee which will take you to their page. Use it. That's what it's there for. Call them. They'd love to share what they're doing!

Ask Ann...

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
E-mail:
adaniels@apwa.net