Education sessions at Congress

APWA has one of the finest educational programs in the public works community. What follows are brief summaries of just a few of the 144 education sessions at our recent Congress in Louisville.

DiverseWorks: Putting Minority Recruitment to Work for You
Have you seen the most recent forecasts of the 2000 Census which show that the combined minority populations in our country now outnumber the Caucasian population? These figures are concrete proof that with the change in demographics, there must be changes in hiring and contracting practices, as well.

Gabriele Mack, Diversity Manager for Sverdrup; Deby McDaniels, Louisville Municipal Sewer District; and Bernie Blackmon, St. Louis Municipal Sewer District, presented strong cases for businesses to reflect the increased diversity in the population by increasing the diversity within their work teams.

Creating a diverse workplace allows greater opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses to compete on a level playing field. Engineering firms often need to have a "local presence" if they are to be successful in winning bids. Teaming up with local minority or WBE companies brings benefit to both by demonstrating the ability to work together with people of color and women and a commitment to promoting growth in small businesses that often could not successfully compete in the bigger markets.

Cities, as well as companies, should make a firm commitment to utilizing firms with a diverse workforce while encouraging such in their own workforce. Developing a diversity program within a company requires a firm commitment of support and participation from the top officials, as well as committing adequate financial backing, to developing a program that provides support and training for each member of the team.

The old axiom, "Nothing breeds success like success" seems to be true within firms that have made the commitment to a diversity program as they continue to grow in the number of satisfied employees and increased business.

Best Management Practices and Regulations for Waste Transfer Stations
"Not in My Backyard!" With the drastic reduction of landfills being permitted falling from 8,000 in 1988 to only 2,000 in 2000, the battle cry of residents in local neighborhoods grows more vocal with each passing day.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) have formed a partnership to prepare Best Management Practices for Siting Waste Transfer Stations. Draft copies of the proposed manual are now available by contacting Steven J. Levy, Office of Solid Waste, MC: 5306W, EPA, Washington, DC 20460 or at

The proposed manual addresses the siting, design, operations, and oversight of waste transfer stations while taking into consideration the differences in urban, suburban, rural, and tribal situations. Designed as a tool for local decision-makers, the manual should be helpful to users at all levels of expertise. Also included is a "Citizen's Guide for Siting Waste Transfer Stations" which explains what a waste transfer station is, the benefits and potential impacts of waste transfer stations, and how they are controlled.

How to Handle Accidental Exposure to Hazardous Waste
Barbara Garrison of Beling Consultants, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, presented a session on what to do when you are dealing with accidental exposure to hazardous waste.

Ms. Garrison discussed a best-case scenario if exposure to hazardous waste was to occur: Employees would be calm and follow procedures; the crisis management plan would be clearly visible; and the case would not be newsworthy or reported to EPA or OSHA.

It's not likely, however, that a hazardous waste spill would be that simple. It is more realistic to realize that problems will occur. Ms. Garrison outlined a five-step plan to mitigate potential outcomes of exposure:

  • Address the needs of the exposed employees.
  • Determine what happened.
  • Develop a plan and determine how to implement that plan.
  • Demonstrate that health hazards have been eliminated.
  • Don't let it happen again.
By following these simple steps, the process is much simpler. A real-life example was given of a car maintenance facility that caused 20 employees to be exposed to asbestos. The presentation critiqued the incident and determined that the facility did a decent job following the five-step mitigation plan.

Cleaning up Local Neighborhoods through Citizen Volunteer Networks
How does one motivate citizen volunteers? This question has long been a mystery to many communities hoping to create greater citizen involvement. During the 2000 APWA Congress, Clarena Tolson, Deputy Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia Streets Department, offered insight through her presentation, "Motivating and Managing Citizen Volunteers." Ms. Tolson heads up "The Philadelphia More Beautiful" program, designed to do exactly what its title states. The program has grown into 100,000 volunteers, the cleaning of 11,049 blocks and 1252 tons of refuse collected by the city in 1999. In addition, it has received recognition from the U.S. Conference of Mayors as one of ten "Best Practices" programs across the country.

Recruiting a "block captain" is the first step undertaken when residents within a block decide to participate. These individuals are not selected by the city government but elected by the residents of their blocks to serve as the liaisons to the government and the motivators to their respective neighbors. Once a block captain is selected a cleaning day is declared. The city's sanitation department is notified of the cleaning day and upon completion the city works to remove the refuse collected and cleans the street. This becomes an ongoing, consistent effort on the part of the block residents.

The results have been incredible for the city. In addition to the pride and sense of responsibility that is created, participating blocks, when possible, receive expedited services and the block captains are the first to receive any information from the city relevant to their efforts and the community. Furthermore, the city will loan equipment for clean-up and donate any gifts it receives from local businesses to the volunteers to help them maintain their efforts.

Many participating blocks have seen a multiplier effect within their neighborhoods. Residents on nearby blocks see the difference and choose to get involved. Other outcomes have included tutoring programs held in homes once utilized by drug dealers being taken back and renovated for use by the neighborhood for children after school. Renewal has led to the start of garden clubs, town watches, graffiti removal and an overall sense of community. To further recognize the citizens' efforts, an awards banquet is held yearly bringing attention to the block that has made the most progress in cleaning up their neighborhood.

In order to get started, Ms. Tolson recommended several steps:

  • Decide what you want to accomplish;
  • Sell it to the elected officials. They will benefit by having the chance to interface with their citizens-the voters;
  • Sell it to the general public;
  • Create a partnership where both sides are making a commitment to the city.
Perhaps with these tips you can begin a program that will work toward the betterment of your own community. The possibilities are endless. For further information please contact Clarena Tolson in Philadelphia at (215) 686-5470.