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New Tools, Same Service

New Tools, Same Service

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Everything and nothing's changed since PUBLIC WORKS was launched in 1896. Hanley Wood LLC bought the magazine from the third generation of the founder's family in 2003. I searched in vain for someone who could tell me about this man. Why this particular topic? Was he an engineer who wanted to fill a unique information void? Or a publisher who'd spied a potentially profitable market?

Stymied, I turned to the magazine itself (we have every issue going back to January 1920). Though I didn't find an answer, I spent hours lost in fascinated wonder. Materials and tools have evolved, but a century later the concerns are the same. In 1920:

  • Cincinnati wanted $400,000 for a plant to process 250,000 tons of garbage a day.
  • New York City was expected to appeal an order to pay paving contractors $419,000 for delaying by 2 ½ years the surfacing of a 4.1-mile, 182-foot-wide stretch of Grand Concourse and Boulevard in the Bronx.
  • The Davenport Water Co. in Iowa raised monthly rates from 60 to 70 cents for 2,000 gallons and unmetered rates from 30 to 35 cents for 20,000 gallons.
  • Boston firefighters relinquished their American Federation of Labor charter.
  • A consultant said Scranton, Pa., could save $25,000 a year by replacing 1,300 arc lamps with nitrogen-filled tungsten streetlights and powering them from its own electric utility using the 60 tons of garbage residents generated every day.
  • Readers generated most of the content, using the magazine to communicate their experiments and comment on each other's experience:

  • West Orange, N.J., Town Engineer Charles Winston shared his $5.55/lineal-foot design for a combined sewer and gutter.
  • Bridgeton, N.J. (pop. 15,000), Public Works Commissioner W. Dayton Frederick explained how he used an air compressor to ensure consistently adequate aluminum floc formation at his 2-mgd filtration plant.
  • Arthur Peterson, superintendent of public works' crematory division in Spokane, Wash., provided the landscaping plans for “giving an attractive appearance to buildings and grounds.”
  • First Division Engineer James Sturdevant's three-part series on how the New York DOT built highways covered both concrete and macadam.
  • Though engrossed in local needs and local politics, they were all planning, designing, building, and maintaining the nation's lifelines as growth spread from east to west. The magazine you hold was the only way they could learn from each other's successes and failures vis-à-vis new processes, equipment, and technologies.

    Your role — and ours here at PUBLIC WORKS — remains remarkably unchanged. Though we both have new tools at our disposal, sometimes the oldest and simplest option provides the optimum solution. With each communication innovation — telegraph to telephone to personal computer and the Internet — this magazine remains the jumping-off point for continuing your dialogue in the medium you prefer.

    I know because I receive them all: telephone calls, letters, and e-mails. Call my direct line at 773-824-2507; e-mail sjohnston@hanleywood.com; or write to Hanley Wood Business Media, 8725 W. Higgins Road, Suite 600, Chicago, Ill., 60631.

    Stephanie Johnston,
    Editor in Chief

    Whatever works for you

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