Meet the new faces of public works
These are the faces of the new Cottonwood Heights Public Works team. They seem to get along well. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)
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By Cassie Goff | email@example.com
Previous winters in Cottonwood Heights have been extremely difficult for residents due to the contracted snowplowing services. This year, city officials moved public works entirely in-house. Working through transitional steps took the better part of this past year. One of the biggest necessities of the transition was to hire an entire public works team. This new team will be responsible for the snowplowing within the Cottonwood Heights city borders. Currently, they are anxiously awaiting the first snowfall.
One of the first tasks of the transition was to find a new public works director. In June, Matt Shipp joined the city staff to take that title. Shipp obtained his degree from the University of Idaho, where he also met his wife. He previously worked as a city engineer for Highland City, capital projects engineer and public director for South Jordan and as public works director of a small town in Idaho. Since the small town in Idaho was right on the border of Canada, he has a lot of experience with snow removal services.
In July, Public Works Superintendent Danny Martinez came out of retirement to join the Cottonwood Heights team. He previously worked for Salt Lake County for 30 years. The last 18 of those were spent overseeing the snowplowing services in Cottonwood Heights.
“It’s wonderful to have him,” Assistant City Manager Bryce Haderlie said.
By early August, the first job offers had been accepted and the core for the public works team was beginning to take shape. Operations Specialist Richard Dickey previously worked with Martinez in Salt Lake County. He is also familiar with snowplowing within the city and is excited to be on the team.
“We will do this right,” Dickey said.
Toward the end of August, Park Maintenance Crew Leader Ryan Gardner, Operations Specialist Mitchell Ackley, Operations Specialist Phil Egbert, Operations Specialist Eric Trigg and Operations Specialist Ellis Wade were hired and are ready to work.
In early September, snowplowing routes were established and training for the drivers began. They drove through their routes in new trucks, beginning to get a feel for the roads.
“Cottonwood Heights is a hard city to plow because half of it is on the hill,” Martinez said.
Around the same time, the city was having a hard time finding adequate candidates to fill the remaining positions for the team. Martinez expressed the idea to call Wasatch Waste and Recycling and request some of their seasonal employees. Four seasonal employees — Davis Fotu, Sione Tuione, Avaro Segura and Alden Olsen — were highly recommended and quickly completed the team.
“We know there’s responsibility on our shoulders. We are here and we want to help,” Tuione said.
By the end of October, the staff had finalized 10 snowplowing routes for the city. The designers created a system for seven or eight routes to effectively cover the city if the 10 routes cannot be staffed due to an absence, whether it be for a staff member or a truck.
Throughout the last few months, less experienced drivers have been driving through their routes with snowplow veterans to discuss tactics. Most of the drivers have had resident encounters while on the roads.
“People will even stop walking their dog to stare at us,” Trigg said
Ackley chimed in, “A resident even stopped me to say that he had paid for the truck I was driving.”
Despite training in teams, each driver will have a separately assigned truck with an accompanying route.
“I’m most excited about driving the new trucks,” Ackley said.
In each truck a GPS system has been installed. It includes a high-quality tracking system as well as specific tips and tricks for the drivers of every individual route. The city hopes this will eliminate some of the issues that arose in previous years, such as obstructive snow pilings and blockages.
The staff is prepared to work late nights and early mornings with some shifts starting around 4 a.m.
“We want to come in and do it right,” Ackley said. “We are excited to make a difference.”
The team is even working well together.
“We have a good group of people. They are the people we see the most so we want to get along, and we do,” Trigg said. “Danny picked the best people.”
While there is no snow on the ground, the public works team is working on tree trimming, pothole patching and other miscellaneous work orders. However, snowplowing is top priority, Shipp said.
“This is the title page of the story we will tell,” said Shipp.
Even though the members of the Cottonwood Heights Public Works team are confident about snow removal this year, they have one common concern. They will not be able to complete their snowplowing tasks adequately if cars are parked along the road. The city staff and Cottonwood Heights police are working to find solutions to this reoccurring problem within the city. For more information about road parking during the winter, please read http://cottonwoodheights.utah.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=109778&pageId=6020043.