St. Charles Public Works Department, City of St. Charles, Mo.
Service area: 20 square miles
No. employees: 109
Annual budget: $34 million (operating and capital)
Services: Streets, Storm Water, Traffic Signals, Wastewater, Water, Engineering (construction & design), Fleet & Transit
Approximate cost: $1,500 (spread throughout operating budget)
Five tips from St. Charles Public Works Department
1. Plan as early as possible.
2. Get the word out well in advance and consistently publicize the event. National Public Works Week is toward the end of the school year, when it’s easier for students and school administrators to lose focus.
3. Have plenty of ear plugs on hand for ear protection from the many horns being blown throughout the day.
4. Involve employees; they must be the ones on the ground planning and running the event.
5. Invite people and feed them. Have food/drinks available to get people to come. Invite mayor/councilmembers.
Since 2003, St. Charles Public Works Department employees have annually recognized NPWW with a one-day event interacting with hundreds of children and adults at the Missouri city’s Mueller Road Soccer Park After demonstrating various pieces of equipment, they help kids up into the driver’s seat.
Equipment trading cards,the brainchild of Public Works employees,are a perennial favorite. A picture is taken of the equipment/vehicle and sent to vendors for trading cards to get printed.
“Every year we add a new card,” says Director of Public Works Debra Aylsworth. “They have a photo of a piece of equipment and have a brief description on the back. The kids absolutely love collecting them.”
St. Charles Public Works Day also includes an art project. Dennis Boswell, retired streets superintendent, painted SpongeBob SquarePants on one snow plow blade, and graciously comes back each year to do touchups. Teams of children write their name on two others. The blades are used that winter, and then painted over again for the next year.
No need to worry about kids getting behind the wheel of a piece of equipment, as no one is let in unaccompanied. Employees from all Public Works divisions sign up for the equipment station they’d like to manage for the day. They also built stairs to make it easier for the children to climb up and down and in and out without injury.
Aylsworth got the idea for the event after she and the former director of public works attended an educational session on public relations at the APWA’s 2001 Congress and Exposition. The focus was how to spread the word about the value and service public works provides, so they decided to start this annual event.
To plan Public Works Day, a committee of 10 to 12 meets from January to March. Employees spend the afternoon on Thursday cleaning equipment and making final preparations for Friday. Then on Friday, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., 100 employees participate,unless, of course, there’s an emergency.
Since it’s a small cost with a big return, the event hasn’t been subject to cutbacks.