2011-10-27 / Front Page

How Jamestown works: DPW wraps up a busy 2011

BY KEN SHANE

The Department of Public Works for the town of Jamestown operates with a staff of 19 people, which includes Director Michael Gray and Geographic Information Services Coordinator Justin Jobin.

The staff is divided between the town side, which includes the highway department and the operator at the transfer station, and the utility side, which includes three people at the sewer department and three people at the water department. All of the employees work first shift, with weekend coverage for the transfer station, and the water and sewer plant.

The entire department is on call in the event of an emergency. These situations can take the form of downed tree limbs, snow, water main breaks, water emergencies in the treatment plant or in the distribution system, or problems at the sewer plant or in the collection system.

Gray has been with Public Works for over seven years, and he has been the director of the department since January. According to Gray, the department is currently wrapping up their annual paving program, at a cost of $250,000 to $300,000. The paving project is the largest project undertaken by the highway side of the department each year.

“The council has been pretty supportive of the program,” Gray said. “We’ve increased it to where we are today, and I’m hoping to maintain that to try to catch up.”

Another big project that the department is involved in is the Narragansett Avenue work in the downtown area. Once the crosswalks are completed – and assuming the weather cooperates – the paving of the town’s main drag will take place in the second week of November, followed by striping and clean up. That will end a project that has included installation of new sidewalks in the downtown area, and has been underway for a number of months.

Gray also hopes to get some drainage problems resolved before winter sets in. On parts of Clinton Avenue and in the Jamestown Shores area, sump pumps are discharging, which leads to a buildup of ice on the road. There are also some bad sections of road that need repair before winter. The other big priority is preparation for winter storms.

The capital improvement project to replace water distribution piping on Green Lane, which will be done in house by the department, will begin in the spring. If voters approve the bond measure in November, the department will also undertake the final closure of the landfill in 2012, a process that will also be done in house. It will take about two years.

Gray is aware of the impact of roadwork being done in the summer, but cites weather as a major factor in scheduling decisions. “You can’t do work when the asphalt plants aren’t open,” he said. “You’ve only got a short window to complete projects. Some people get frustrated because we’re out in the summer working on the roads, and they argue about why we can’t do it in the off-season. I’d love to minimize the impact to everyone, but you can’t do road work if you can’t get the asphalt to repair it.”

Groundwater considerations are also involved when there is digging being done, which necessitates that the work be done in the drier parts of the year.

“We’re a small department,” Gray said. “The demand in maintaining things eats up a lot of time, so you’re reducing your ability to do capital improvement projects. We have a great staff that is willing and capable of doing capital projects in house. It keeps the cost down. But we still have to do maintenance, and we still have to respond to people’s complaints and concerns. I think for the most part the public understands.”

Jobin has been with Public Works since 2002 when he was a part-time wastewater management specialist. In 2006 he began to work full time as an environmental scientist, assisting the town engineer with federal requirements involving storm water and sewers.

Jobin, a University of Rhode Island graduate, was also responsible for starting the town’s Geographic Information System computer mapping system. Jobin describes the system as being “like Google Earth for the municipality.”

The GIS is used to for such things as pavement management. Early on, Jobin did an inventory of all the roads and mapped the street conditions.

Among other things, Jobin helps out the Planning Department with computerized maps for the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan. He also does mapping for the Environmental Protection Agency phase-two storm-water program, and the sewer capacity maintenance and management operation.

Jobin’s maps have proven useful for land acquisition and land-use issues as well. One of his first tasks was getting the town’s assessor maps – which existed only in hand-drawn form – digitized and into the computer.

“It is pretty in depth,” Jobin said of his mapping system. “Everything is linked. It will bring in any inspection reports that were done, any sampling, any photos that were taken. So when a certain item is clicked on, all of that information will come up. In the future that can be used for work orders, and managing DPW as well. It does keep everything organized for us.”

These days Jobin is also working on updating the pavement management program. This summer all of the catch basins in Jamestown Shores were inspected so he is also doing follow-up mapping on that, as well as working with the sewer department to do home inspection of sump pumps to ensure that there are no groundwater discharges to the sewer systems which could result in overloading the systems.

An energy audit was recently done on all of the town’s buildings, and Jobin is expecting a report on that shortly. “The goal is to identify potential energy savings in town buildings, and come up with a project that the town council would approve to upgrade the buildings based on the recommendations,” he said.

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