Curation of In-House Talent Shows in Ferndale DPW (video)
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 14, 2015)
Ferndale Department of Public Works Director Loyd Cureton has been the cure for stagnation, the curator of a dynamic team, and a cost-saving crusader since he came on board two years ago. The accomplishments are impressive, as is the group of men and women who do the hard work to keep the city clean and functioning.
Changes made in the past two years have saved the City hundreds of thousands of dollars, particularly due to the focus on hiring, training and getting the right equipment to do the jobs themselves.
“Many communities try to save money by cutting jobs and contracting out. We’ve done the opposite,” Cureton said. “We have kept the same amount of staff, but we’ve been training the people who are here with more specific skills and as we’ve lost people we’ve hired in new people based on their skills.”
At an early morning meeting, Cureton introduced members of his team with pride, noting who is the best at electrical, fabrication, concrete repair, leaf pick up, sign making, tree maintenance and removal, engineering etc.
“What it does is because we bring the work in house, we’re more responsive to the community because the expertise is right here. These are good people with good intentions. This is their community, and they take pride in the work they do. It’s not just going from one city to the next doing work. They care, and there is more of a sense of accountability” Cureton said.
The spirit of teamwork showed in particular last year as employees gave their all, both in the challenging winter and the devastating flood. “These guys put in twelve hour days, slept, and then went right back to work. Everyone pulled together because we are a team. It’s almost like a family.”
Another major innovation that’s new to the DPW is the development of a state-of the-art sewer maintenance program. “A major part of this program involves the use of the newly acquired sewer televising equipment. Through the process of tele-cleaning, cleaning while televising, we have been able to greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our sewer cleaning operations. Tele-cleaning has also allowed us to try different cleaning heads and get a real time evaluation of which heads work the best in certain pipe conditions such as roots, mineral deposits, etc.. Perhaps the greatest advantage we have found in regards to tele-cleaning is that when we televise a sewer segment and find defects such as roots, we can use the proper tools to clean the sewer at the same time as we televise, thus eliminating the need to go back at a later date,” he said. The equipment gives video feed in real time, so the operator can see what is in the sewer and even show homeowners as they are working. “When a property owner questions whether their sewer lead the problem, we are able to show them the video and verify the problem is not within the City’s mainline sewer. By going through this process, it has saved the DPW time and money by not having repeat calls regarding the same sewer problem. It also gives the homeowner peace of mind because they can see for themselves what may be happening” Compared to the cost of contracting out televising jobs, the equipment has paid for itself multiple times over, plus it gives the DPW the tools to do more efficient maintenance on the system.
This pairs well with City Council’s decisions to welcome a sewer line insurance program for homeowners, eliminate some water department fees, and lower water rates.
While doing big projects in house is an obvious money-saver, the DPW also looks for the everyday ways to save money and increase what projects they can do hands-on. One example is that by purchasing a new printer, they can do more signage on their own. “Just take a stop sign replacement for example,” he said. “It costs $60 for a new stop sign. Now when we need to replace one we can take an old sign and print the face for only $12.”
Other points of pride show in the extra initiatives to decorate City Hall for the holidays, the repairing of the clock tower which had not worked in at least a decade, and taking over the maintenance of 8 Mile Road from DDOT.
Having skilled employees and giving them the freedom to excel at their jobs has also proved invaluable to the department. For example, when a rotary brush snow remover became damaged, as it frequently did, one guy bought a blade off E-Bay and custom fabricated a plow attachment that is stronger and works better than anything they could have otherwise acquired.
The emphasis on finding the right people and training the longer-term employees is backed by the creation of a positive work environment. From the beginning Cureton instituted mandatory team meetings in the morning, to make sure everyone is on the same page. An old animal shelter space on the DPW property was converted into a meeting room and break room and cots were purchased so that if employees work long days and wanted to sleep between shifts they feel welcome to.
The welcome atmosphere is not just limited to the crew either. Cureton credits the city’s leadership with being involved in the processes, and City Council with having the foresight to invest. As positions needed to be filled, the city helped in the hiring process and gave him the resources to attract people with the skills he was looking for. And when he’s requested equipment purchases and training, the City has understood the need. “You start spending that kind of money and you have to have the support of management. There is this attitude that they’re not going to let any of the departments fail.”
Mayor Dave Coulter often speaks with pride about the changes in the department in the past couple of years.
“The jobs performed by our DPW staff may not make headlines but they are the foundation of what makes Ferndale work,” Coulter said. “Loyd brought his long experience in this field to help lift our team to new levels of customer service, and I think you see it reflected in an attention to detail and a commitment to doing the work with pride. And by bringing more of the work in-house, we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars over what we used to spend on contractors, and I would argue with better results for our residents. Knowing that we’ll be asking voters at some point to renew our infrastructure bonds for our roads and sewers and such, it gives me more confidence knowing Loyd is working on a realistic and affordable plan for what our community will need.”
For more on the City of Ferndale DPW see http://www.ferndalemi.gov/Government/Departments/Public_Works.
Curation of In-House Talent Shows in Ferndale DPW (video)