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Credit: City of Eugene

Contractors complete work on the weirs for Delta Ponds project. The Eugene, Ore., public works department has worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a number of other groups.
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Brickwork is in progress at the Charlottesville (Va.) Transfer Center. The center, shown in this artist's rendering, is due to be completed in the fall.

“Maintaining relationships is crucial to moving these projects along, whether you actually hit a big point of disagreement or not,” said Corey. “Our approach has been to try to anticipate what problems that might be coming up. Because we meet periodically with our partners, there are probably a number of problems that were prevented because we talked about them way up front, especially those involving staffing and the flow of funding.”

FOLLOW THE RULES

Monica Hobbs Vinluan, a National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) senior policy associate, said public works departments should keep an eye on administrative law—the body of rules, regulations, procedures, orders, and decisions issued by federal agencies.

For example, she said last year NRPA campaigned to reverse a June 2005 U.S. Department of Labor “fact sheet” that impacted the group's members. Federal agencies sometimes issue fact sheets to clarify existing regulations, avoiding the process of a formal revised rulemaking. In fact sheet No. 60, the department indicated that the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibited 15-year-olds from working as lifeguards at swimming pools featuring “elevated slides, artificial waves, or other amusement-type ‘rides' or mechanical devices.” For its fact sheet, the department had reverted to old child labor laws that had not been intended to cover water parks.

“The ripple effects of the revision would have had long-term and potentially detrimental impacts on the basic operation of our members' aquatic facilities,” said Vinluan.

Aside from the ban itself, she said it was unclear if 15-year-olds could work as lifeguards at a normal swimming pool at a water park, and how the change would be applied to pools operated by park and recreation agencies.

NRPA's Public Policy Division joined with the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the World Waterpark Association, and the American Red Cross to lobby the Labor Department for a reversal. “We felt that pulling together a few organizations representing thousands of different aquatic facility operators would have the most impact for our advocacy efforts with the department,” said Vinluan.

Coalition members met several times with Labor Department officials and arranged for them to visit a water park to observe 15-year-old lifeguards on the job and specific water park features.

Their efforts paid off in January. Labor issued a compliance letter that allowed trained and certified 15-year-olds to work as lifeguards at water parks, except as dispatchers or attendants at the top of water slides (because machinery might be present).

— Crow is a freelance writer based in Houston.

Water groups formalize mutual aid system

The nightmare of Hurricane Katrina has prompted water and wastewater utilities to lay the groundwork for their mutual assistance during the next disaster. Earlier this year, eight water and wastewater organizations pledged to encourage water utilities to establish intrastate networks to provide personnel, equipment, materials, and associated services to each other in emergencies.