ASK ANN

"I am looking to consolidate different building monitoring systems (HVAC, lighting, security and fire control systems) onto a single technology platform at our City Hall and satellite facilities. Can anyone tell me which building monitoring systems you integrated, what your approach was, how much it cost, and whether or not the final product met your needs?" Lance Newkirk, Assistant Public Works Director for O&M, City of Bainbridge Island, WA

With all the innovative technologies being developed for use in facilities operations, I would guess someone in our membership has given this a try. If so, please let us know your findings. For many years, maintenance and operation of public facilities has been the redheaded stepchild of public works. That's beginning to change as we look for ways to save energy, increase productivity, and trim our expenditures. You can contact Lance directly at LNewkirk@ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us or share the information for all of us on operations@infonow.apwa.net.

"For years we've heard about the possibility of requiring the producers of plastic containers to pay something towards the cost of municipal recycling programs. We've never seen anything come out of it. Is anybody paying up?"

You're right. For years the U.S. has discussed making the producers of the problem pay a portion of the costs for keeping the materials out of our landfills, but nothing much has occurred here. However, the province of Ontario, Canada, is seeing plastic container recycling rates climb as they adopt some far-reaching systems that are based on a producer responsibility model that forces packagers to pay for a good chunk of municipal recycling programs. According to Derek Stephenson, manager of Stewardship Ontario, fees are collected from industry to support recycling in the province. In Ontario, the government wants to build more of the costs of recycling into the product and requires packaging companies to pay 50 percent of the price tag to support recycling programs. They have a goal of a 60 percent recycling rate by 2008. For more information visit http://www.stewardshipontario.ca/

"Our city has a great web page and our citizens use it frequently for things like getting the Council Agenda, downloading forms, communicating with the elected officials, employment information and applications, and to obtain codes and ordinances. While that's well and good, it seems that there should be more customer service opportunities online. What could we suggest adding that might benefit our public works department?"

The benefits of E-Government are continuing to grow and the areas you mentioned are always the first made available. Public works departments are beginning to upgrade their portions of the websites to include service order requests (such as pothole repair), GIS/mapping data, and sending out electronic newsletters to residents and businesses to keep them informed of projects that may impact their daily lives, such as road closings. The exchange of technology should be just that: an exchange. The ultimate user should be able to get the information he or she needs in a timely manner, but the department is able to offer improved customer service and provide quicker response time. If you'd like to know what agencies may be using this technology, post the question on an infoNOW Community.

"Whatever happened to the Student Membership category that APWA used to have? We need to work on recruiting new staff members to our department to replace those who will be retiring in the near future. Seems like a student fee would be a good way to get them interested."

Have I got a deal for you! Be sure to watch the June issue of the APWA Reporter for information on how to cast your ballot for the creation of a new Student Membership category. APWA did have a Student Membership category a few years ago. The need to recruit new staff members, as well as chapter leaders, has created a new emphasis for this category. Your vote will be important in making this happen. Not only do we want you to cast your ballot, we would encourage you to begin seeking out students in the many career fields which comprise public works. They probably won't know about public works, so public works will have to do a better job of marketing to meet their needs.

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

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