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2006 Department of the Year

2006 Department of the Year

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    The Glendale Public Works Department's Scholl Canyon Landfill serves five communities and contributes more than $8 million to the city each year in host and royalty fees. To extend the landfill's life from 15 to 30 years, the department conducted exhaustive financial and environmental analyses of alternatives like waste-by-rail and hauling to a more distant landfill before proposing the landfill be expanded horizontally and/or vertically.The Glendale leadership team, from left: (First row) Roubik Golanian, city engineer; Jake Amar, environmental management administrator; Yvonne Guerra, administrative analyst; Steve Zurn, director of public works, and Alina Morshidian, administrative analyst. (Second row) Michael Salehi, project management administrator; April Fitzpatrick, executive analyst; Mario Nunez, assistant integrated waste administrator; Stuart Tom, building official; and Albert Lee Jr., maintenance services administrator. (Back row) Shea Eccleston-Banwer, administrative analyst; Jano Baghdanian, traffic and transportation administrator; and Dave Cole, mechanical maintenance administrator. Photo: Keith Skelton/Black Star

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    “If we tell our story with honesty and integrity, we'll develop devotees of public infrastructure,” says Glendale, Calif., public works director Steve Zurn, pictured here on a recently renovated portion of the city's central business district. Repaving the area's streets and sidewalks is the first step in attracting additional retailers to locate there. Photo: Keith Skelton/Black Star

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    Public service director Henry Guzmán and 311 call center manager Catrina Whitlock stand in Columbus, Ohio's 311 Call Center. Residents can call the one-stop customer service center for all their city-related questions and problems. Photo: Denis LaRoche

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    After hurricanes like Katrina and Wilma, Hollywood, Fla.'s public works department immediately springs into action to clear fallen trees, downed power lines, and other hazards caused by the storms. Photo: City of Hollywood

Boulevard of dreams

Downtown renovation shows a public works department at the top of its game.

When Steve Zurn took the reins of the Glendale Public Works Department four years ago, his first goal was to get the city to sign off on rebuilding a key section of its central business district.

Launched in April 2005 and completed in October, the Brand Boulevard Improvement Project exemplifies how an effective public works department operates.

Citywide collaboration and cost-sharing. Public works required other city departments to participate in weekly meetings from project inception through completion.

Early on, engineers realized a water main along the boulevard could fail under the stress of paving vibration. As a result, Glendale Water and Power replaced the main immediately, at its expense, and also bought, installed, and rewired new street lights.

Ownership and control. Although the department hired out construction, public works designed all improvements and was lead agency on the project.

Superior customer service. Though construction didn't start until 2005, public meetings began in 2002. Once construction began, public works set up an onsite field office staffed by its full-time community outreach associate.

Recycling and reuse. Public works recycled 100,000 tons of rock, asphalt, concrete, and terrazzo into a road base that's less expensive and just as effective as conventional road base. The material was reincorporated into the repaving project and is still being used for other road repair, stretching capital improvement funds.

Federally compliant. To enhance safety, public works installed all new curb returns, improving Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

Incorporating the latest technology. Public works replaced in-pavement loop detectors with video cameras to coordinate signals at major intersections.

High standards

Congratulations to the recipients of our second Department of the Year recognition program, and to all the departments that were brave enough and proud enough to submit their operations to strict scrutiny. While they may not be recognized here, these departments' innovative people, programs, and solutions will likely pop up in the pages of this magazine over the coming year.

Entries are judged on eight criteria: a community profile, facilities and equipment, staff, budget, innovation, training and safety, constituent relations, and new projects. For more detailed information (and to begin preparing your 2007 submission), visit www.pwmag.com/pwdoy.

And, finally, thank you to the judges who so thoughtfully evaluated this year's submissions. We appreciate the gift of their time, effort, and expertise:

Pamela Broviak, public works director/city engineer, LaSalle, Ill.

John Keifer, public works director, Norfolk, Va.

Bryan Patterson, public works director, Chandler, Ariz.

Susan Vance, director, Butler County (Ohio) Department of Environmental Services