Big contributions can be made by tiny crews. Just ask Kathy Clark, public works supervisor for “Illinois’ oldest town” the Village of Palestine. Two full-time and one part-time employee maintain about one square mile of sewers, streets, and sidewalks. That’s a stretch, but for the most part they make it work. “Frugality and forethought keep us out of trouble,” she says. “We always think outside the box to save money.”
For example, after a recent flood they needed a way to keep turtles out of pumps at the lagoon. “We had the track hoe man out there addressing a separate issue when it occurred to me to have him swing a piece of heavy sheet metal out in the lagoon, to cover the turtles' entry,” says Clark. “Never again will turtles clog the pumps.”
Instead of buying an excavator, her team rents heavy equipment and labor from one of the town’s 1,600 residents for what Clark says is a great deal. “He even donates his time to help move trees after a big storm.”
“The specialness of my crew is their work ethic,” Clark says. “They jump in when they see what needs to be taken care of and they can think on their feet.”
In 2004, Clark was working in the sewer department office when she noticed public works was falling behind on collecting brush as they chip-sealed streets. She asked the mayor if she could help. “I took a dump truck out and picked up brush,” recalls Clark. Sometime later the mayor mentioned wanting to hire someone to paint traffic markings. Clark volunteered and has been working full time in the department ever since. “I’ve learned what I know from the school of hard knocks, and learn more with each new experience,” says Clark.