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. Michael Herr, Transportation Director, Polk County, Florida, recently faxed two interesting questions to APWA. His questions were phrased as follows:


“1. Polk County, Florida, has approximately 300 miles of local unpaved roads and 165 miles of unpaved collector roads to maintain. What has been the experience of other counties with using products to control dust?


2. Do other counties use municipal service benefit units or special assessment monies to fund routine maintenance and permanent improvements to unpaved roads?”


A. Brine solutions have been used as dust suppressants for many years; however, their long-term effect on vegetation and water tables has raised some environmental concerns. A quick check of the Internet             using the Google search engine produced a large number of solid hits on newer, more environmentally friendly alternative dust control materials that we were able to share with Polk County.


APWA has several good documents dealing with the formation and funding of Special Benefit Districts and we were able to share these with Polk County.


But what about your first-hand experiences with dust control materials and special Benefit Districts? Please share them with APWA so we can share them with others.


Q. Stuart Moring, Director of Public Works, Roswell, Georgia, has posted a question on APWA’s web site that is not getting the attention it deserves. Mr. Moring asked, “We have been asked by our city council to provide productivity indicators that we will track and report on as part of our annual budget request process. We have identified some standard things like tons of garbage collected, water taps installed, and number of work orders, but we have some concern about too much reliance on pure numbers that give no indication of the quality or level of service. I would be interested in guidance from others who have a similar system in place.”


A. Mark Smith, Director of Public Works, College Station, Texas, posted the first of two exceptionally good responses to Mr. Moring’s question. Mr. Smith replied, “It looks like you are measuring work load rather than productivity or effectiveness. Work load is a valuable thing to measure, but it is not really something you control. In College Station, Texas, we measure cost or man-hours per ton of garbage collected to gauge efficiency and customer complaints or missed collections as a measure of quality or effectiveness. We try to use the same thought process in all of our performance measures.”


Dennis Ross, APWA’s Director of Professional Development, posted the second response to Mr. Moring’s question. Mr. Ross’ reply noted that APWA offers a new publication, Public Works Performance Management (ISBN 0-917054-70-5), that contains information on performance measures and performance indicators used by public works agencies across the country. It is available at APWA’s on-line Bookstore at http://www.apwa.net/catalog/.


In addition to taking the time to post an “on the mark” response, Mark Smith also posted a question of his own. Are you taking the time to join the expanding group of cutting-edge public works leaders who are regularly visiting the General Discussion Forum on APWA’s web site?


Q. Charles Oyler, Upper Dublin Township, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, is the first person this spring to e-mail APWA with a question on sidewalk serviceability standards. Mr. Oyler stated his question            as follows: “Prior to the Township’s annual street recycling program, the Department walks every street in the program and inspects the concrete curb, sidewalk and driveway aprons for deterioration. Using a rather subjective criteria, property owners are notified to repair or replace sections prior to the street reconstruction. Extensive spalling, chipping, cracking or misalignment are grounds for replacement. But, there are other sections that may not be a hazard or hindrance at the time, but if not repaired or replaced will be a problem in the near future.


What criteria do various municipalities use to inspect existing concrete curb, sidewalk and driveway aprons to make the whole process more objective and assure equal treatment of our residents?


A secondary question would be: If communities permit the repair of concrete including the sealing of cracks, what type of materials have they found to work best?”


A. Documented sidewalk and curb maintenance programs are an important part of any public works agency’s Risk Management Program. Without objective standards established by ordinance and an ongoing program of inspection and correction, municipalities are at risk for an unacceptable level of personal injury claims and suits.


As a result of a cooperative research program with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, APWA has been able to gather a dozen or more ordinances governing sidewalk serviceability standards. These ordinances are available upon request.


Responding to the second part of Mr. Oyler’s question will require your assistance. If you have had any experience with the crack sealing and other sidewalk repair materials, please share them with APWA so we can pass them to Dublin Township.