National Public Works Week celebrates essential service providers

May 20, 2020

At its meeting Tuesday, May 19, Richland County Council recognized National Public Works Week, honoring the work of essential service providers in local government.

The 60th annual campaign, which runs through Saturday, May 23, takes on additional importance as the County’s Department of Public Works continues providing essential services during COVID-19.

For this year’s theme, “The Rhythm of Public Works,” residents are asked to think about the community as a symphony of essential services, working in concert to improve the overall quality of life.

The County’s Public Works department has 131 full-time employees working to provide a broad range of essential services and infrastructure, from repairing roads to improving water quality and picking up roadside litter. In a proclamation Tuesday, County Council called on residents and local organizations to “recognize the contributions which the public works staffs make each day to our health, safety and comfort.”

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, staff in each Public Works division are taking precautions to help ensure the County remains safe and desirable for residents, including:

  • Maintaining social distancing (6 feet apart) and using personal protective equipment (PPE) while in the field
  • Meeting virtually
  • Working staggered schedules
  • Disinfecting shared equipment and machinery

“The Public Works department has performed strongly over the past year, but I note the staff’s commitment to service has been incredible since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Maloney, who joined the County on Jan. 21 as director of Public Works.

“I’m excited to join the department, and I look forward to strengthening our ties to the community, to other departments in the County and to other public works in greater Richland County,” Maloney said

As Public Works staff continue to play a vital role, the department’s various divisions have undertaken a number of initiatives in the past year:

  • Roads and Drainage Maintenance is on track to complete more than 8,000 repairs in 2020. Staff have presented on public works in local schools and helped judge science and engineering projects for high schools and middle schools.
  • Solid Waste & Recycling is the Public Works division most affected by conditions from COVID-19, Maloney said. Solid waste collection has doubled by volume, and yard waste collection has more than tripled. The division has received 27,357 service requests over the past 10 months and is issuing more warnings for illegal dumping than usual – 162 over the same time period. Citations for illegal dumping are not being issued during the pandemic.
  • Stormwater Management is leading flood mitigation and water quality improvements, as well as outreach on the importance of clean waterways.
  • Engineering, along with Stormwater Management and the Office of Community Development, completed its new Land Development Manual. The Engineering division is handling service requests from residents, despite using fewer staff than normal.
  • GIS-Public Works helped create a one-stop website for residents that provides an array of information on COVID-19. The site is accessible at GIS also continues to track roads that are paved and dirt roads that require frequent maintenance.
  • Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport is celebrating its 90th anniversary and maintains 100 percent occupancy of its hangars.
  • Special Services cleans up illegal dumping and other roadside waste. Crews are picking up storm debris, moving waste items to the County landfill and helping with election setup.

May 17-23, 2020, is the 60th annual National Public Works Week. The American Public Works Association developed Public Works Week in 1960 to recognize the important contributions by public works employees to improve their communities.