Public Works is evolving with the times

DOWNEY - During the week of May 15-21, officially titled as National Public Works Week, many Public Works agencies across the nation celebrate their role in creating and maintaining communities, reinforcing the mission of thousands of their employees that are dedicated to building and maintaining infrastructure, and providing services for the purpose of improving the quality of life of the citizens of their communities.During the last couple of decades, budgeting challenges and ever increasing regulations and mandates have tremendously impacted the way Public Works entities operate and deliver services. As a result, an important facet of conducting our business has challenged the industry to reinvent Public Works to not only meet these issues, but also to turn them into opportunities to shift the paradigm of a traditional Public Works agency model to a new model. This new model is more nimble, pro-active, creative and innovative, so that it can strategically address future challenges such as additional regulations related to stormwater and water quality management, waste reduction, and sustainability and "greening." Here in the Downey Public Works Department, our goal is to provide the best level of service possible to our citizens. In order to achieve this goal, we employ a unique model of entrepreneurship in a public organization which promotes innovation and "thinking outside of the box" to find new solutions to old problems which are more effective and cost efficient. During the last six months, we have paved Downey Avenue (Fifth Street - Gallatin Road), Paramount Boulevard (Alameda Street - Brookmill Road) and currently we are in the process of re-paving 38 street segments in various residential neighborhoods throughout the City. Lakewood Boulevard Phase 3A reconstruction and beautification project is well underway and will be completed in July. This project involves utilization of full depth pavement reclamation which saves the City about $400,000 when compared with conventional methods of paving, and, for a City first, we will install L.E.D. street and pedestrian lights which will save the City about 80% in energy and maintenance costs. Soon we will start the City's annual Slurry Seal program (a form of pavement rehabilitation) as part of which streets located in the northeast quadrant of the City will be sealed, protecting valuable investment in the City's infrastructure by extending the life of pavement and reducing cost of future maintenance. We have just completed the City's Water Master Plan which is the "blue-print" for much needed projects including construction of two new groundwater wells and replacement of many miles of old and unreliable water main lines, guaranteeing that we will be able to deliver good quality water and meet future demands. As part of our commitment to meet the State mandated 20% reduction in consumption of water by the year 2020, we have proposed a new water rate structure which promotes conservation. We continue to expand our system of recycled water and develop other means of conservation to protect this valuable natural resource and make sure that our future generations will be able to rely on quality water as much as we do. When it comes to meeting the very stringent standards of managing stormwater and preventing pollution, Downey has always been on the leading edge of innovation and promoting opportunities to make stormwater cleaner. Rather than sending all of our stormwater through storm drain pipes to the ocean, we use some of it to irrigate landscaping and storing it in underground tanks which then puts the stormwater back into earth. Our unique design along the center of Steve Horn Way has been duplicated by many other cities. We have also modified the City's landscaping palette and are now planting more drought tolerant species, including California natives and plants that reduce our overall carbon foot print. Recently completed landscaping of median islands along Imperial Highway and frontage road islands along Florence Avenue from Julius Avenue to Hopeland Avenue and Woodruff Avenue to the San Gabriel River are good examples of this strategy. We have also been diligently promoting opportunities to put the "PUBLIC" in Public Works by forging partnerships with our citizens in completing projects that are important to the community. For example, at Crawford Park recently, the voices of the neighborhood were heard and the Public Works Department acted by demolishing the former park office/restroom facility that had become an attractive nuisance. Also in a collaborative volunteer effort involving neighbors of Crawford Park, Keep Downey Beautiful and Neighborhood Watch programs, much needed trimming and cleaning of the perimeter landscaping at Crawford Park was completed last weekend. Early next year we will embark on a major renovation of Treasure Island Park. This project will include construction of a decomposed granite walking trail; installation of new site furnishings; educational and way-finding signage; irrigation system improvements and new infill landscaping to complement existing trees. The plant palette will include California native trees and shrubs indigenous to the San Gabriel River watershed. This project will provide an attractive rest stop and interface with the adjacent Rio Hondo channel bike and walking trail system. The design elements of this project were formulated through a formal needs assessment survey of neighbors of the park, in cooperation with the "Unity in the Community" neighborhood association. More importantly, the great majority of the cost of design and construction was secured by the Public Works Department through a Prop 84 River Parkways Grant from the California Resources Agency. We will continue our efforts in finding economically sustainable and practical solutions to meet our challenges by considering the long-term interest of the community and by devising balanced solutions which will benefit the residents, businesses, environment, and the City's identity and character.

********** Published: May 5, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 3