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Our Small Cities/Rural Communities Leader: Jerry Gibbs of Park City, Utah
TLA Engineering & Planning, Inc.
Member, APWA Small Cities/Rural Communities Forum
Park City Transit Center, built with FTA funding to meet Olympic and future demands (photo: Myles Rademan)
A glimpse at Park City
Long before Park City, Utah became a world-class resort city and venue for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, it was famous as the second largest silver mine strike in the U.S. Founded by prospectors in the late 1860s, Park City continued to mine silver until the early 1970s. All that remains is 1,200 miles of mining tunnels under the city. Today, Park City is a community with 8,000 permanent residents and 22,000 visitors on a busy day and now has two world-class resorts: Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. A third world-class ski area, the Canyons Resort, is only three miles from their city limits. In 2002, Salt Lake City was the host of the winter Olympics and Park City became the Alpine Heart by hosting all of the skiing, snowboarding and sliding events with the exception of the downhill. Not often in one's public works career do you have a major milestone and a once-in-a-life time opportunity. Park City's Public Works Department was responsible for the logistics accommodating and transporting hundreds of thousands of visitors, guests and residents during the Olympic Games.
As the Director of Public Works, Jerry Gibbs, P.E., is busy managing multiple functions: transportation, fleet services, water, parking, streets, building maintenance, and park and golf maintenance. What all does that entail for this demanding position?
Busload in/out during 2002 Winter Olympics at the Park City Transit Center (photo: Myles Rademan)
Challenges facing Park City and its Public Works Department
Park City has a mining legacy, which laces through its past, present, and future development. The colorful mining history has created challenges related to water quality and soils contamination. Mine tunnels have effectively dewatered much of the groundwater minimizing the ability to drill wells. Mine tunnel water contains varying levels of zinc, cadmium, arsenic, antimony and thallium. Utah is a water-right state, and Park City has rights only to a portion of the water they will need. In 1992, a culinary arsenic treatment plant was built to treat a portion of the mining tunnels and upgraded when Maximum Contaminate Levels (MCLs) were reduced to 10 parts per billion. Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) are being set on the receiving streams from the mine tunnels which may require treatment of the unused tunnel flows. Within five years, water will need to be imported from 14 miles away to meet future demands. The Public Works Department is working in tandem with other utilities in the area, along with federal and state agencies, to develop the solutions to meet the needs of the growing population.
Another concern for Park City is the rising cost for housing. Public Works employees are driving as much as 45 miles daily to come to work. The challenge is to maintain a healthy work environment with incentives for training, education, longevity, housing, transportation and a reasonable wage. The competition is fierce for employees between local business, the resorts and other governmental entities. Jerry and many of his fellow workers choose to live in the Park City area as a lifestyle choice.
Involvement in SC/RC
Jerry joined APWA in the mid-70s to take advantage of the opportunities to network regionally and attend the annual Congress and Exposition. Shortly after joining he realized how his community would benefit from this national organization. Park City is considered a small city, despite its world-class reputation as a ski destination. Jerry and his department face many of the same challenges of small cities and rural communities of limited staff and resources, while also tackling the issues of growing urban areas. Those various issues range from sustainable and quality water, storm runoff, wastewater, solid waste removal and disposal, infrastructure sustainability, the impacts of Homeland Security and limited revenue.
Recently Jerry became the Chair of the SC/RC. He attributes his drive to be involved "...because I believe if you want something to change, you need to become involved and take part in the change."
The Chair's goals for SC/RC
In addition to managing a successful public works department, staff and budget, Jerry is modeling how a committee chair drives a committee to focus on its goals. These goals include:
Jerry W. Gibbs, P.E., Park City Public Works Director (photo: Myles Rademan)
Jerry began his career in public works in 1975 in Nevada, Missouri. He quickly learned the value of APWA through his involvement in this organization. He continued to find the association and community within APWA stimulating when he moved to Park City in 1983 to become the Park City Public Works Director. "There's never a dull moment," says Jerry, whose professional life is exemplified by his willingness to step up and accept a wide variety of leadership roles. Park City and APWA are fortunate to have professionals like Jerry Gibbs, who are willing to share their talent, experience and gumption in order to make a difference in their communities.
Park City, Utah, Fun Facts & Figures:
City: 12 square miles
Service Elevation: 2,500 feet difference, deepest mine shaft at 2,600'
Streets: 110 lane miles
Parks and Golf Course: 110 acres, one 18-hole course
Public Building: 195,000 square feet
Transit: 1.8 million passengers/year
Water: 100 miles of water mains, 36 pressure zones, 18 water reservoirs holding 13.6 million gallons
Employees: 135 full-time and seasonal