DPW Garage Woes: Lots To Do And Little Space To Get It Done
By: Diana T. Barth
On Tuesday afternoon, Charles J. Ruggiero, a mechanic at the Bourne Department of Public Works, was under a vehicle lift in the department’s main bay, readying one of Bourne’s largest trucks for the winter season.
The weather may have been beautiful of late, but Bourne’s DPW crews have been thinking ahead to the inevitable onslaught of snow.
Mr. Ruggiero was using the one lift in the work bay capable of handling heavy equipment that the DPW owns. Nearby was a smaller lift. That one is used when repairing smaller vehicles, such as the town’s police cruisers. In all, the four mechanics here maintain a fleet of 103 vehicles, from dump trucks and recycling trucks to fire department and council on aging vehicles.
Vehicle maintenance foreman Brian C. Wilson’s wish list, were he to prepare one, would include increasing the mechanics’ work space, and doubling the number of lifts.
The large number of vehicles that the DPW maintains does not include keeping all of the field maintenance equipment, including edgers, lawn mowers, chain saws, and the like in running order; or keeping the fire department’s generators and portable equipment working. The DPW also needs a dedicated space to work on small equipment.
Moreover, when looking at the big picture, maintaining those vehicles and equipment is just a part of what the DPW does.
While Mr. Ruggiero was working on a vehicle, others among the department’s 26 employees were at work elsewhere at the facility.
In a space that is more like a bay than a workshop, Thomas J. Parrott was cutting out a nearly life-sized wooden Santa on Tuesday, creating a new holiday decoration. Nearby some of the town’s oldest Christmas characters stand, statues of a man and a woman in winter clothing, some of the decorations put out yearly in Buzzards Bay Park and at the two traffic circles located at the east and west ends of Main Street, and elsewhere.
DPW crews were also on the road, putting up Christmas lights, working on the landward portion of the dredging project at Hen’s Cove, cleaning out roadway drains, repairing roads and clearing up the last of the debris from the last wind storm.
Selectmen, town department heads, and town residents have all said the DPW provides the town with the most “bang for taxpayers’ bucks” and have praised its staff for doing more with less.
The men who pick up trash also plow snow. Highway department workers mow fields and the sides of the roads that they also repair and plow, acting as a parks department and a highway department. Mr. Parrott, who has a line of his own on the DPW’s organizational chart as the department’s craftsman, is also a truck driver.
What the officials praising the department’s work often did not add until recently was that DPW personnel are performing those jobs from a very old and cramped space.
Built in 1969 on the site of Bourne’s then-small landfill operation, photographs from the DPW facility’s opening show a then-state-of-the-art garage, with office space and room for tool storage.
In the 42 years since that time, the DPW has greatly expanded, spreading out into empty spaces in several buildings located in a back corner of the landfill site. As the landfill grew into a multi-million business, however, the public works department had to shrink back to make way for ISWM.
Currently, it occupies a trailer, one concrete building, and a bay and some upstairs space in a second building. The tools, parts, and equipment needed for the department’s work are tucked into a large number of different small spaces. They are stored as efficiently as possible but not, Mr. Wilson said, truly efficiently at all.
Everything is grouped together by use, where possible, with least-used items stored the farthest away from the main work area. Field, lawn, and other summertime equipment is currently stored up a narrow wooden staircase going from the DPW’s main repair bay. That grouping does not mean that it will not take time, and several trips, for DPW personnel to gather what is needed for one job.
Given that the DPW has little time to wait for parts, the department keeps spares of almost everything they might need. It is rare that old equipment gets thrown away, just in case it is needed again. In an upstairs area of one building, for example, some historic items, like a huge bow saw that once lopped limbs off town trees, decorate the walls. The saw might be sold or discarded, but, as Mr. Wilson commented, as soon as you get rid of something, a circumstance arises for which you need it.
Department personnel do the best they can with the space they have.
What used to be office space for as many as three secretaries, for example, is now the department’s sign shop, where Assistant DPW Superintendent George Sala makes the town’s reflective highway and directional signs, as well as the wooden signs that mark Bourne’s various villages.
Department of Public Works Director Rickie J. Tellier noted that it was sometimes embarrassing to have to show outsiders the space, but the product coming out of the shop is very professionally done.
One small room nearby was painted sky blue and turned into a breakroom. Off that room, which contained an old stove and toaster oven, among other equipment, was a small bathroom with two narrow shower stalls, for use in case of exposure to hazardous materials or just to clean up after a long day on the job.
Since the room that was designed as an office more than 40 years ago has given way to a workshop, the department’s only secretary is now in a space just behind the landfill offices. It has little natural light, although the newly set-up Christmas tree brightens the dark, paneled room near to where Mr. Sala and Mr. Tellier’s offices are located.
The two men do not spend much time in their offices. Not only are they about town working, a lot of the DPW’s work is performed outside. Much of its storage space is outdoors, too.
Lifeguard stands and other beach-related equipment have been moved from the beach for the winter. They are still being stored outside, however, as are the vast majority of vehicles awaiting repair or not currently in use. Snow plows, not yet affixed to trucks, are lined up alongside one of the landfill’s internal roads. More problematic, while road salt is stored in a barn erected for that purpose, a sand pile sits uncovered nearby. Piles of differing sized gravel and stones are nearby, awaiting highway workers’ use.
Although department personnel are getting the job done, and then some, they could, they said, work even more efficiently with a better space.
The need to move those personnel elsewhere is now a priority in town officials’ minds. Selectmen and others have begun ranking a new DPW garage slightly ahead of the need for a new Bourne Police Department.
It has been made clear that not only do the DPW employees need a new space, but the still-growing Department of Integrated Solid Waste Management needs the area the DPW now uses. Landfill funds could legally be dedicated for use toward building a new DPW facility.
On Wednesday evening, the town’s Public Works Facility Building Committee met to continue discussing the ins and outs of making that new garage possible. On the agenda for that meeting was a discussion of modular building designs. Committee members and DPW and town personnel toured such a facility in Hingham in hopes of evaluating it in light of Bourne’s needs.
The committee hopes to have recommendations, and cost estimates, in place for next May’s Town Meeting.
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