ASK ANN

"We recently had an employee attend a conference where they had drawings for some pretty big door prizes. He actually won a big-screen television. When he told everyone at the office, several people thought he should be required to give it to the department since the City had paid for his expenses and registration to attend the conference. He contends there's no policy that addresses it and the TV should be his. Who's right?"

The answer is: Whatever your code of ethics or professional standards calls for. And if they are silent or, worse yet, nonexistent, the answer is it belongs to the one whose name was drawn. If there was ever a good reason to review your agency and/or department standards, this is a good one. Every public works department should have a code of ethics, whether it's the one the city uses, the APWA Standards of Professional Conduct, or a departmental policy that has been approved by the agency. How else do your staff members know what is acceptable and what is not? And, furthermore, even if you have one, you need to review it frequently. The severity of the standards goes from one extreme to the other. Some agencies don't allow anyone to accept anything. Period. If hats are given by chemical companies, pens from consultants, cookies from little old ladies on the trash route, they all go into a centralized pool and a drawing is held so no one benefits directly from the gift. Others don't believe it's necessary to control things until they get to the level of baseball or football tickets, trips, etc. Only your agency can determine what is fair for your employees. But, if you don't have a policy, you can't enforce it!

P.S. You can find the APWA Standards for Professional Conduct on our website at www.apwa.net/Documents/About/Standards_of_Prof_Conduct.pdf.

"What do cities do about basketball playing in the street? Seems like the cheaper portable basketball goals get, the bigger the problem."

What's the matter with kids and young adults these days? I thought they were supposed to be the generation of couch potatoes! You mean they are really getting outside and playing? Amazing. Fred Whitley, City Engineer in Hampton, Virginia, shared some of the issues with me recently and a "friendly" bulletin they developed. Gone are the days of pickup games at corner lots. With the growth of subdivisions and cul-de-sacs we tend to see more games played in the city's right-of-way and this creates problems not only for pedestrian and traffic safety but often becomes a neighborhood nuisance. The staff members from Public Works, the Police Department, and the Neighborhood office met to discuss the issue and the outcome was the bulletin entitled "No One Wins When Kids Play Basketball in the Streets" that contains an explanation of the problems created by this activity. It concludes with a play on Nike's slogan, "Just (Don't) Do It." Whether it's Police or Public Works staff that responds to the complaint, they share the bulletin and the dangers and attempt to have the problem resolved without being too heavy handed. For more information, contact Fred at fwhitley@hampton.gov. Thanks for sharing, Fred.

"Orange barrel time is here again and we are faced with finding new ways to get the old message out that work zone safety is a serious issue. Any new thoughts on how we might do this?"

Those of us in the world of public works and road construction know that every year more street and highway workers are killed across the United States than the combined total of police and firefighters in the same period. One idea used by the Virginia Department of Transportation is a special training segment of the high school driver education curriculum. Since the inception of the program in 2003, 79,000 young drivers have heard the message. Another idea might be to provide public service announcements or articles to your local news media about steps drivers can take to save lives. Possible ideas to include could be: When you see the orange signs, be alert for changing conditions ahead. Slow down and expect the unexpected. Pay attention to your surroundings since lane shifts, construction vehicles entering and leaving the roadway or speed limits may have changed. Minimize distractions in these areas; don't change stations on your radio, talk on your phone, or eat. For more ideas, check out the Virginia DOT website at www.VirginiaDOT.org.

"The calls are coming in again: 'What can we do with our yard clippings? Why won't you pick them up with our trash?'"

Yep, happens every spring and summer. In our quest for having the best-manicured yards in our neighborhood, we spend lots of money on chemicals and fertilizer to make the grass grow and then complain about what to do with the yard waste. Something's wrong with this picture. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has some good tips on their website. One of them is "If you have a yard, allow mown grass clippings to remain on the lawn to decompose and return nutrients back to the soil, rather than bagging and disposing of them." Seems almost too simple to be true but many of us "old timers" remember when there was no thought of doing anything else. Encouraging composting is another great idea. Check the EPA website for other thoughts at www.epa.gov/earthday/tips.htm.

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