Snow Conference just around the corner
Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng.
Editor's Note: APWA's North American Snow Conference takes place April 25-28 in Lexington, Kentucky. In a departure from our usual President's Message format, the APWA Reporter recently caught up with President Kalynchuk to get his thoughts on the conference.
How have you benefited from attending the North American Snow Conference?
Actually, I have attended at least a half-dozen Snow Conferences, if not more. As I look back on my career, the conference has helped me in three key areas. First of all, there is the issue of networking. The first Snow Conference I went to was in Baltimore, and that was a real opportunity for me to start meeting people from other jurisdictions throughout North America. What I really benefited from was finding out that we shared a lot in common.
The second thing is the opportunity to see the latest technologies in snowfighting all in one location. I acquired several pieces of equipment and storage from various Snow Conferences, for example a salt storage dome for one of the communities where I worked. We went through a competitive process, but predominantly it was through the Snow Conference that we received the information on the dome.
Then the third issue is the opportunity to see case studies, where you can hear lessons learned and see how other people have dealt with challenges in snowfighting and road de-icing. It gives you an opportunity to see what possible solutions are out there, rather than reinventing the wheel.
What do you think the value of the Snow Conference is to APWA members?
Well, certainly there is the idea of "one-stop shopping." It really is an opportunity for you to go to one location and deal with all the issues in snow removal, from the issues of networking to equipment to case studies. So here is a place you can go and see what has occurred in North America in one stop. Also, not everybody can make it to the Congress, so this is an opportunity where people can be exposed to APWA and some of the services we offer.
Does attending the Snow Conference make our members feel inspired and energized to take on the challenges of winter maintenance?
Yes, and I believe timing is key with that. By having the conference at the end of the snowfighting season, after people have likely gone through a fairly tough year, it provides a good opportunity for you to debrief with your people, see what some of the issues are, and then be reenergized at how you can handle those challenges. Then people can start planning and looking forward to the next season. So it's a good time to actually have it at the end of the snowfighting season rather than at the beginning.
Do you have any tips for the first timers?
Very much so. What people should do is plan ahead, meet with their staff, and find out what the issues have been during that season. What they should also do, especially these days with fiscal restraints and tight budgets at the municipal level, is to make it as worthwhile for their organization as possible. Even though you may be in charge of one aspect of snow removal, go talk to your colleagues and find out the other issues, so potentially when you go to the Snow Conference you can start looking for some solutions to your individual problems.
Also, come with a lot of business cards and take the opportunity to network. It's a great place to meet people from all across Canada and the United States. And another thing is, take an opportunity to try and meet every equipment supplier and vendor on the floor. You may not immediately need their services, but down the road if there is something that you require, then potentially there may be a lead that you can follow up on.
And the last point, especially for someone who is new to the conference, is that after the conference do a brief report to your boss about what the benefits were of attending. For example, if your snow removal budget is $1.4 million, and the cost of going to the conference was $1,000 or less, then make sure to discuss that going to the conference was a good investment and point out the benefits you got out of the conference. I think that's a very important point, especially with tight budgets, to show that there is a benefit. In fact, when budgets are tighter then that's when people need to be at conferences, because they are looking for the cost-effective approaches.
Do you feel that the Snow Conference does a good job in addressing the most important problems that public works professionals deal with in winter maintenance?
Yes. Certainly these days there are a number of regional conferences throughout the United States and Canada dealing with snow removal. But the benefit to our conference is that it really is the international conference that looks at all the issues throughout North America. And I stress "international" since it does have the involvement of both Canada and the United States, because no matter what happens in what country, usually the issue migrates to the other country, and back and forth.
An example is the issue of the use of road salt in Canada, and the desire by Environment Canada to reduce its use in major metropolitan areas where over 500 tons are used each year. Environment Canada has issued a Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts. It encourages communities to prepare and implement salt management plans by 2006. Should the issue arise in the United States, it's likely that the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. will look to their northern neighbors in Canada to see how they've handled it.
Are there any particularly pleasant memories or a story or two you'd like to share from any of the Snow Conferences?
Well, I look back at the first international conference I ever attended, which was a Snow Conference in Baltimore, and I thought it was a really worthwhile experience. It was an opportunity to see a great city, but also to meet with colleagues right across the country. I guess a unique story is that our new hockey team at that time, the Edmonton Oilers, had just beaten the Montreal Canadians, which was a real dominant force in hockey in Canada, a dynasty. I had an opportunity to ask some questions of one of the presenters, a city engineer from Montreal, about what happened to his team. So it was kind of humorous. But with that said, it was actually after a very bad blizzard in Montreal, and he had made an excellent presentation of how they coped with that blizzard, which I certainly learned a lot from.
But there's another thing I always remember, which ties in with the issue of making sure you sell your boss on why you attended. I remember a fellow named Don Blood, from Brooklyn, Minnesota, who attended every Snow Conference. Every time he went back to his community, he always wrote the top ten things that he learned at the conference. That was a good lesson, to make sure that you are justifying why you are there. Then next year when the conference rolls around there will be no question that your boss will encourage you to be there.
Any final thoughts on the Snow Conference in general or on the upcoming one in Lexington?
Well, let's look in particular at this conference in Lexington. First of all, when looking at the program I'm very impressed. Yes, it deals with all the issues in snow removal. But there are some issues that can spill over to other aspects of public works, which I think is important. Just looking at the program, we're going to be talking about effective community outreach, and that applies to road maintenance as much as it does to snow removal. We're going to talk about performance measures. Once again, that's something that applies to all aspects of public works. And there was another session I noted—"How To Persuade and Influence Others to Your Way of Thinking." Without saying anything further, that's something that we need in all our jobs.
Another thing is that Lexington is just a great location. It's a beautiful part of Kentucky and it's something everybody should see. And then the last thing is that the Kentucky Chapter that's running this conference is doing a superb job, and they have very motivated people. Looking at the success we had in Louisville when we had the Congress there, I'm sure the Snow Conference will be an equal success in Lexington.
Note: See pages 21-24 for more details on the conference as well as a registration form. For more information, contact APWA at (800) 848-APWA or at firstname.lastname@example.org.