Q and A - Glad You Asked

In addition to this column, members are welcome to post their questions in the general forum area of the APWA web site at www.apwa.net. There, other members have the opportunity to post their answers directly. We also retrieve those questions with broad appeal for the “Q&A” column.

Q. Ron Kirkpatrick, Director, Planning and Design Division, Fairfax County, Virginia, recently asked an “illuminating” question. Mr. Kirkpatrick’s question was posed as follows: “We are evaluating our current street light criteria and I wanted to know what criteria is used in other jurisdictions for new street light installations (other than lights installed as part of new development). I am interested in how locations for streetlights are selected and what factors are considered (traffic safety, crime, etc.). Do you have a suggestion on someone I can contact to see how other municipalities handle/prioritize street light installations?”

A. The Public Works Department in Kansas City, Missouri is currently in the process of reviewing and upgrading the street lighting throughout the city. This multi-year project was initiated after a long and involved planning process. In addition to giving Mr. Kirkpatrick contact information for Kansas City, APWA was also able to inform him of the availability of our recently revised publication “Let There Be Light.” While this public information pamphlet does not address all of Mr. Kirkpatrick’s questions, it does contain the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America’s lighting standards for highways, streets, and pedestrian walkways.

Have you developed the type of program management standards that Mr. Kirkpatrick is working on? If you have, please share them with APWA so we can share them with others.

Q. Richard Aten, Director of Public Works, City of Highland, Illinois, recently posted an interesting and highly timely question on APWA’s web site. Mr. Aten phrased his question as follows: “Will appreciate comment or experience on organizational provisions for implementing operations and management required under Phase 2, NPDES Stormwater Management. Has your community expanded public works to encompass full scope, assigned operations to streets & alleys division? If not, which department & division is to handle? If some functions divided with other departments, what are the design & results to date? Was a public advisory body established to steer the process? If so, what were the key features, missteps to avoid?”

A. The initial response to Mr. Aten’s question was to let him know that Johnson County, Kansas, has taken the lead on Phase 2 compliance matters in the Kansas City Metro area. You can see their web site from the Water Resources area of APWA’s Resource Center at http://www.apwa.net/resourcecenter/ResCent_Disp.asp?Section=waterres.

Another good place to ask your question is in the Environment Community of APWA’s new infoNOW service. Go to the Members Only area of APWA’s home page to learn how to do this.

But how about you, our readers: Have you information to share on Phase 2 with APWA and Highland, Illinois, on this subject?

Q. Tom Helm, Engineering Technician, City of Santa Rosa, California, was one of the first individuals to take advantage of APWA’s new infoNOW communities. Mr. Helm posted the following question on the Design, Engineering and Construction community: “We are interested in any other agency’s experience with archiving digital format project drawings. It seems simple enough to store them away, possibly to be used as a resource for details, notes, topography, etc. for future projects. One question is how to do this with a minimum of effort developing and enforcing a procedure for our staff, and maintaining the file organization. Another question is what other consequences might this archiving lead to? Has anyone had to produce them for legal challenge? Has anyone used digital drawings as “Record Plans”? Any other unforeseen issues?

A. In responding to Mr. Helm, we noted a lesson learned from APWA’s own archiving efforts. One point to keep in mind with respect to archiving digital data is “shelf life.” The fellow who runs the operation at the university where APWA’s archives are kept gave us a very good briefing on the whole process of archiving. One of the points he made involved shelf life. He used the 8-track tape and 5.25-inch floppy disk to impress on APWA’s staff that when storage mediums become obsolete, information stored on them may eventually not be recoverable. It sounds flippant, but paper, velum and papyrus are still the most dependable data storage mediums.

But what can you add to this discussion? What advice do you have for Mr. Helms? Please share you thoughts and experiences on this subject with APWA so we can pass them on to others.

Q. Robyn Cierniak with Stearns & Wheler posted a question on the General Discussion Forum area of APWA’s web site. Ms. Cierniak stated her question as follows: “We are looking to optimize a city’s snowplow response time. I’m looking for recommendations for software packages for tracking of snowplow routes and garbage collection routes.”

A. The union of Geographic Information System (GIS) software with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has resulted in the creation of the ability to monitor vehicle location and optimize routing/scheduling problems. Several members of APWA’s Contract Sweepers Institute have been using this technology to manage their municipal and parking lot sweeping for up to three years. Several of these sweeping firms have reported that these systems paid for themselves through increased productivity and profitability within one to two years. A quick check of APWA’s corporate membership list shows five firms offering the type of hardware and software systems Ms. Cierniak is looking for. You can find this information in the April 2000 issue of the APWA Reporter. Attendees at the 2000 APWA Congress in Louisville, Kentucky, also found 13 firms offering this technology.

Q. Thomas Wilcox, Road Program Manager, Sarasota County, Florida, has posed a really nice question. Mr. Wilcox would like to thank taxpayers and point out to them what is being done with part of their taxes. He phrased his question as follows: “We are trying to recognize the public’s recent approval of a One-Cent Surtax for construction projects by adding something to our Project Signs (4’W x 8’H) that informs the public that this project is financed by those surtax dollars.

Does anyone have a good example? I remember several years back on some DOT work in the Midwest, I saw some small add-on signs that said, “Your Tax Dollars at Work.” Any other examples you might know of would be appreciated. Or, if you have suggestions on some other way to get the word out please let us know.”

A. Saying “thank you” or letting people know the good things their taxes are helping to accomplish is something that governments at all levels might want to give more time and serious thought to. It would present one of the very best sides of government in a democracy. Well, how about it-have you any suggestions or examples for Sarasota County? If you do please send them to APWA so we can pass them on.

Glad You Asked…

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquires to:

John “Mac” MacMullen,
c/o APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd., Suite #500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2641
Fax questions to (816) 472-0405
E-mail: jmacmullen@apwa.net