City of Portland, Maine delivers 24/7 message during National Public Works Week

Michael Bobinsky
Director of Public Works
City of Portland, Maine

The population of the City of Portland is approximately 65,000 and is the largest community in the State of Maine. The city's borders extend into the Casco Bay area and include five island communities to which basic public works services are provided.

During National Public Works Week, the city's Department of Public Works has several planned activities designed to draw attention to the many roles and contributions public works services have on the community. The varied services provided by the employees of the Department of Public Works compliment and support these activities by developing and implementing sound capital improvement projects; providing efficient solid waste and recycling services; and ensuring that our streets and utilities are properly maintained and functioning, traffic control systems are effective and promote safety, and streets and downtown sidewalks are cleared of snow and ice during winter emergencies. The city is responsible for a total of 325 miles of streets and 250 miles of sidewalks. The citizens of the city rely on our "everyday" heroes to ensure that their quality of living is maintained and advanced.

There's nothing quite like a dog and chips during a National Public Works Week outing.

The Department of Public Works has a total of 166 full-time employees and a small contingent of seasonal employees who are involved with assisting our Engineering, Island Services, and Portland's Downtown District (PDD). The Department provides services in Engineering, Traffic, Streets and Utilities, Construction, Fleet Services, Island Services, Portland Downtown District, Customer Services, and Administration. The Department recently went through a strategic planning process, where a new Vision Statement was created along with a set of employee-initiated Operating Principles, which have served as the basis for a recent reorganization of the Department. In addition, an internal Steering Committee is being formed which will lead the Department's implementation of APWA's self-assessment program, with the goal of obtaining national accreditation by 2006.

The theme of this year's National Public Works Week is "24/7: Focused on Our Community." The recognition that the services provided by our employees are directly connected to our communities that expect 24/7 coverage is most important. In addition, city, state and national officials are becoming keenly aware of the role public works departments have in responding to and advancing the goals of homeland security in our cities and towns.

  Sometimes we all need a little help getting down.

The Department has several initiatives and promotional events designed to draw attention to the fact that the city's public works services are delivered in a highly reliable and professional manner and serves as a direct partner with public safety in ensuring its citizens of the highest quality of living possible. Specific events planned include the following:

  • Portland City Council to adopt a resolution proclaiming National Public Works Week as the week of May 16-22, 2004.

  • The Department hosts an open house at its main operational and administrative facility, inviting the public to observe latest equipment, mapping services, and other technology used in maintaining the public's infrastructure. Information flyers on a wide range of Department services will be distributed, including solid waste and recycling, winter parking bans, bulky item, landscape, and construction debris disposal, hazardous wastes, and current and planned capital projects.

  • Several job shadow classroom tours will take place during National Public Works Week where middle school students will spend the morning participating in actual "hands on" assignments including working with GIS mapping software, website updates, traffic signs, and much more.

  • A planned reintroduction of a Department mascot known as "Jack Hammer" who will be on hand during open houses and special presentations to help promote the importance of the Department's relationship with the community.

  • An annual Employees Appreciation Lunch, which is provided and served by the Department's supervisory and managerial staff. This special luncheon is to recognize all the employees who provide the day-to-day service delivery to our residents of Portland.

  • A special video is being prepared which will show the basic services provided for by the Department and aired during the week of May 16-22, 2004. In addition, the Public Works Director and other staff will participate in a local cable television broadcast concerning public works services in the City of Portland.

  • City and Departmental websites updated with information promoting National Public Works Week.

  • Installation of a large street banner over Congress Street, announcing National Public Works Week.

  • Display of National Public Works Week posters installed throughout the various floors and work areas for Departmental employees to see.

  • Departmental informational displays at the Portland City Hall main lobby area.

All of the work taking place during National Public Works Week will be a springboard for our interactions in the community. Getting the public to understand the broad range of responsibilities we have and our impact on the daily lives of people is definitely the main goal.

Michael Bobinsky can be reached at (207) 874-8801 or at mbobinsky@portlandmaine.gov.

Editor's Note: If you would like a "How To" guide for planning your National Public Works Week activities, please let us know. Just call us at (800) 848-APWA or send an e-mail to Jon Dilley, Manager of Marketing and Graphic Design, at jdilley@apwa.net.