R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter
By the time this issue of the APWA Reporter hits your mailbox, there will be about six weeks left until National Public Works Week, this year held May 19-25. NPWW is your best opportunity to inform the public about how public works professionals contribute to everyone's health, safety, and comfort. The 2002 theme is "Committed to Our Communities."
How will your community be celebrating National Public Works Week this year? Will you be conducting an open house and tour of your public works facilities? Holding luncheons and dinners with prominent guest speakers discussing public works projects and civic affairs? Getting proclamations hailing NPWW signed by governors and mayors?
Perhaps you'll be involved in activities such as those that the Village of Mount Prospect, Illinois, is planning. This will be the 23rd year that Mount Prospect's Public Works Department has held an open house. On Saturday, May 18, they will open their doors at 9:00 a.m. and conduct tours of their facility for close to three thousand people, before closing at 1:00 p.m. All of their equipment will be on display.
Over the years, the staff has assembled a number of informational displays that they set up for their open house guests. The street department provides a full model which, when filled with water, shows the dormant sanitary sewer systems and where the water goes when it rains.
The department also sets up displays on snowplowing (providing information concerning how they plow streets, and why they do certain streets first); the leaf pickup program (informing the citizens how to prepare the leaves, and what things not to throw in the piles); the forestry program (discussing which trees are available for their share cost program, and various diseases that people should look for); and their solid waste program (discussing the materials that can be recycled, and how the citizens need to prepare them for pickup). They also provide information on their vehicle maintenance department and the equipment they maintain.
Before the doors open at 9:00 a.m., there can be as many as fifty people waiting to get in, according to Glen Andler, Mount Prospect's Director of Public Works, and winner of APWA's Harry S. Swearingen Award in 2001. Once the guests are in the building, they are free to walk through and visit the various displays at their own pace.
The department conducts an annual game that the children play in recognition of P.W. Paws, APWA's mascot. "We have paw prints that go down the hallway out into the main garage, and then the kids have a series of questions they have to answer," said Andler. "They look for a paw print on the different displays, and they look for the answers to the questions. They turn in their answers, and for the ones who score the best we give out two street signs with their names on it. After we know who the winners are, we make the street signs and have the kids come back with their parents. We take a picture and put that in the Village newsletter."
Banners, flyers, and Bozo Buckets
Years ago, the Village Board passed a resolution on National Public Works Week. Each year, on the Tuesday prior to National Public Works Week, the Mayor and Board acknowledge and read the resolution during the Board meeting. The Public Works Department then displays the resolution during their open house.
Articles concerning the open house appear in the Mount Prospect Times and Mount Prospect Journal, encouraging people to attend and find out what the public works staff does and the services they provide. On the Monday prior to the open house, Andler and his staff post over 100 banners throughout the community, advertising National Public Works Week and the open house.
In addition to the banners, they also distribute flyers to all of the schools, and ask the school administrators to have the children take the flyers home with them. "We also make up our own advertising bulletins that all the local merchants allow us to put in their windows," Andler said, "and we give them a bunch of flyers with the slogan that says, 'Come see the Works.' On the flyers we provide some bullet points of what they can see, and the merchants use them as grocery bag stuffers."
According to Andler, Mount Prospect's citizens look forward to the open house each year. "People will call and ask when it is," he said. "Several scout and school groups come through here on tours all year long, so we always promote the open house and tell them to watch for the reminder when it comes to their schools. So we really encourage the kids. The kids are able to get on all the equipmentâ€”we give rides on our aerial devices. We rent a few games like 'Bean Bag Toss' and 'Bozo Buckets' and things like that, and we give out prizes to the kids."
The Board also gives the Public Works Department about four or five thousand dollars to purchase giveaways, which are given to the guests throughout the entire complex to encourage them to move from one exhibit to another. In addition, the staff gives out free geraniums as part of the forestry display.
The Lions Club has been a big part of Mount Prospect's NPWW celebrations over the years. They donate money to the department, which the department uses to purchase hot dogs and cookies to distribute free to their open house guests.
A tangible benefit
There have been a number of benefits for Mount Prospect's Public Works Department in conducting the open house over the years. And, according to Andler, there has been one significant tangible benefitâ€”a new public works facility. "When we began the open house 23 years ago, we were located in an old facility downtown," he said. "If we needed any of the equipment, it could sometimes take us an hour to get the trucks out of the building, since it was really inadequate. In fact, we had equipment stored all over the place, in different satellite sites.
"In 1986 we went out for a referendum for a new public works facility, and it was approved by a margin of three to one, primarily because of all the open houses we conductedâ€”all the residents knew exactly what we were up against by coming to our facility and seeing how inadequate it was. So in 1988 we moved into a new facility. All our open houses paid off."
Mount Prospect's annual open house at their public works facility is just one of many celebratory events conducted each year during National Public Works Week. How are you planning to celebrate NPWW in 2002? We'd like to hear from youâ€”just go to the NPWW website at www.apwa.net/npww and click on "Tell us about your NPWW outreach."
In the meantime, in case you haven't made any plans, keep in mind that time is growing short. If you would like a "How To" guide for planning your NPWW activities, please let us know. Just call us at (816) 472-6100 or send e-mail to Jon Dilley, Manager of Marketing and Graphic Design, at firstname.lastname@example.org.