As one branch of the city’s essential services, Gloucester DPW is busy serving the city during this pandemic. Sanitation, disinfecting and water management are critical public health priorities. Regarding construction and infrastructure work, the Governor gave specific instructions that limit construction projects with safe and rigorous controls so as not to expose anyone uneccessarily to bigger groups. Big DPW jobs may involve layers of interactions among larger crews, city staff, police and partners which is inherently at odds with any social distancing mandate. At the city level, Mayor Romeo Theken and local administration are following the Governor’s advisory on construction to a “T”. It would be unsafe if every town did something differently. “The Mayor is adamant about the use of PPE,” stressed Mike Hale, the Director of Public Works. “She’s spot on with daily notifications and advisory on essential and supplemental guidelines. And she shares directly any Federal and State communications.”
Gloucester DPW has
- reduced crew size and staggered staffing level to limit potential exposure
“We have plans a,b,c,d,e as far as staffing goes. Look, the Gloucester DPW staff is fantastic! They want to be here. They’re willing to work; they feel it’s their public duty. The ability to work right now is essential for the staff and the city. DPW work is hard to catch up on under normal circumstances. And we had caught up on so much. We won’t fall back.” – Mike Hale
- modified ride sharing (from groups of guys in a truck to 1 or 2 per individual vehicle)
- prioritized smaller jobs and/or
- specific jobs where bigger crews can be spread out more and the project is still manageable under covid-19 constraints
- assigned work that can start and finish without disruption (for example if a building is re-opened it’s good to go)
- dispatched crews inside schools cleaning, deep cleaning (management of school disinfecting started the Saturday following the Friday school closing), and traditional maintenance work (i.e. old doors that need replacing)
At Gloucester’s O’Maley middle school campus, DPW is making good progress on a courtyard improvement phase they’ve long planned. Three raised planter wells were removed and three lower planting beds with 16 new trees are coming.
“Lots and lots of concrete panels are being replaced.”
The scraggly boarder gardens around various walls facing the street will be attended to; DPW is teaming with Generous gardeners for the flower beds. The anchor will be relocated within a flower bed along the building.
Wow– even at this stage, the project mitigates the outdated elements that felt harsh. Looks fresh, and it’s easy to envision the future plans so full of life!