Friday, November 18, 2016

By Small and Simple Things...

In my faith tradition, there's a scripture that says "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass." In local government we do a lot of big things, but from day to day we do a lot of seemingly "small and simple" things that collectively make a community great. In this post I want to bring some attention to some of the recent "smaller" projects of our Public Works Department. And the best part: by doing some of these projects with staff expertise rather than contracting them out, we saved lots of tax payer money! #StretchingYourTaxDollars

Ballfield Renovations and Groomer Equipment
The three big items when it comes to baseball and softball field renovations are infields, backstops, and lights, and each year we try to tackle these improvements at several fields. This year we are renovating 2 infields, replacing 2 backstops, and replacing lights at one field. We are also purchasing infield groomer equipment that will allow us to better care for the infields during and between seasons. Below is a picture of a field getting its infield renovation a few weeks ago. This field had previously gotten new lights and backstops, and is now a first class facility!
Renovated infleld, lights, dugouts, and backstop. 
Recreation Complex Bathrooms
Last year we completely demolished and rebuilt two restrooms at the Complex, and we are currently performing major renovations on a third (expanding the footprint, installing all new plumbing, new roof, new garage door, etc.). And to top it off, by doing most of the work with our own staff rather than contracting it out, we are getting it done for less than half the cost! #StretchingYourTaxDollars
New bathroom near the tennis courts. 

New bathroom near the high school soccer fields. 

Bathroom renovation underway near the t-ball fields. 

Recreation Complex Painting Projects

Sometimes a new coat of paint makes a world of difference. In addition to the new bathroom buildings in the Complex, our Parks Division staff has been repainting other bathrooms, picnic shelters, and concession stands to put our best face forward.


Jaycee Football Building, Before and After.
Repainted Soccer Concession Stand.
Repainted Dudley Park Bathroom.

Repainted Dudley Park Picnic Shelter.

Recreation Complex New Soccer Goals

The Parks Division bought eight new sets of soccer goals (16 individual goals). These are both lighter and easier to secure to the ground, so they are easier and safer to move and to play around.
New Soccer Goal and Net at the Complex.

DIY (Do It Yourself) Salt Brine Mixer
We don't have to worry about snow and ice yet (knock on wood!), but when winter hits this year it will be easier to pre-treat the streets with salt brine (a salt water mixture) to keep ice from adhering to the streets, because our crews built their own mixer. For about $1,000 in materials, they built a mixer that would have cost over $10,000 to buy commercially. #StretchingYourTaxDollars
Salt Brine Mixer Built by Public Works Staff

Downtown ADA Improvements

We recently completed a project to replace or install 23 ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant sidewalk curb ramps. These ramps not only allow individuals in wheelchairs to travel more easily, but also people with less severe mobility impairments, parents pushing strollers, and young children on bikes.
New wheelchair ramp near AT&T Building on Front St. 

New ADA curb ramps near Municipal Court at Front St and New Madrid St.

Street Sweeping

The Street Division replaced our old and unreliable street sweeper with a new model this year. Not only is it more efficient (it picks up about 4 times as much debris in the same amount of time), it can also travel at normal speeds when not sweeping, so it can travel to work areas and to dump sites much faster. It also has a suspension (unlike the old sweeper) so it's easier on the drivers. Not only that, many of the parts such as hoses and valves can be replaced from any hardware store instead of having to buy an expensive specialized part.
New street sweeper right after its daily cleanout.

Demolitions

Public Works recently completed the demolition of 16 unlivable houses and one commercial structure as part of our efforts to clear dilapidated buildings. These demolitions were 100% funded by CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds at no cost to the city. #StretchingYourTaxDollars
The gravel lot above used to be inhabited by a termite infested dilapidated
building which was demolished by Public Works using grant funds. 

Airport Terminal and Operations
The Public Works Department created an Airport Division this year and took over operations of the airport. We also completed construction of a new terminal building and are preparing to demolish the old building.
The new airport terminal building is now compete and open for business. 

DIY Animal Cages

Code Enforcement and Animal Control Officer Jamie Williams designed and constructed the cage below for use by the Animal Control Division. In the past Jamie has also designed and constructed specialized skunk traps that keep both the caged animal, and any humans nearby, safe and happy. #StretchingYourTaxDollars
Animal cage designed and built by our own staff. 

Upcoming Projects

This year's budget contains funds for several other Public Works projects and purchases that we are looking forward to, including purchase of 4 sets of standard bleachers and 2 sets of deluxe bleachers, new mowers for the parks, new mosquito fogging equipment, a snow plow blade for one of the pickups (for use in tighter spots than the dump trucks can fit), a trail link between the Complex and the former Bootheel Golf Course, paving a parking lot at Lincoln Park, and building maintenance at the animal shelter.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Public Works and Public Safety Appreciation

Fittingly, this week is both Public Works Week and National Police Week. Since Public Works and Public Safety make up 87% of City of Sikeston employees, we have a lot to celebrate! And it's appropriate to think about both groups of employees together, because so often they are working side by side to serve our community, especially in emergency and disaster situations. Last week in fact, we had street division workers and public safety officers working together to close streets, reroute traffic, and secure the site of a an old building that was damaged by high winds and was threatening to fall into the street and onto adjacent businesses. A few weeks before that Public Works and Public Safety worked together in an unexpected way when officers were pursuing a suspect on foot, and a Public Works employee who happened to be working nearby witnessed the pursuit and led officers to where the suspect had hidden. Please join me in celebrating our Public Works and Public Safety employees!

                                                Photo courtesy of Sikeston Standard Democrat

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stretching Your Tax Dollars - Part 3

Public Works saved $10,000 by building this salt brine mixer instead of buying one.
The tank is dual purpose and can be cleaned out and used for watering trees in the summer.
The pump is dual purpose and can be removed for pumping flood waters when needed.
These tanks can each hold 275 gallons of pre-mixed salt brine for applying to
the roads when there is snow and ice expected.
City of Sikeston staff is always looking for ways to save money and stretch the precious tax dollars we receive from our citizens. The latest example is from our Public Works Department, who this week put the final touches on a "home made" salt brine mixer. Salt brine is a mixture of salt and water that can be applied directly to the streets before snow and ice hits, or it can be sprayed onto rock salt to help the salt stick to the streets when it is spread.

The total cost for Public Works to build this salt brine mixer from existing equipment and some new materials was $1,001. When we sought bids for a ready-made salt brine mixer the lowest bid received was $11,846, meaning that our Public Works staff saved over $10,000 in taxpayer money using their own creativity and mechanical skills!   



Dark, Wet and Cold

City snow plows clear the airport runway after spending all night plowing the streets. 

I like to use this blog to show some of the "behind the scenes" work of city employees; things that the general public probably doesn't get to see firsthand very often. Last week we had very cold temperatures and one round of snowy weather in Sikeston. Both our Public Works and Public Safety departments are on high alert during winter storms, dealing with difficult and sometimes dangerous situations.

During the day before the storm hit overnight, Public Works employees (both Street and Park divisions) were on the streets salting intersections, hills, curves, and other areas that can be troublesome when there is snow and ice on the ground. Those crews went home at the end of their normal shift in the afternoon and were on call to return overnight whenever the weather arrived. At about 1:00 a.m. crews were called back in to start plowing the streets, and they worked throughout the night and into the next day.

Public Safety Officers were also hard at work doing their normal patrols overnight during the storm, but then around 5:00 a.m. the Department of Public Safety (DPS) also received a call for mutual aid at a fire at a manufacturing facility in a neighboring community. Sikeston DPS crews were on scene at that fire until around 9:00 a.m. Ironically, cold was perhaps as much a threat as heat to these firefighters, who were struggled to stay dry while spraying water in the extremely cold pre-dawn fire response.

Later that afternoon, DPS received another call for mutual aid, this time from the Scott County Sheriff's Office for help with a search for a missing person. DPS sent search and rescue personnel and our mobile command unit, from which the search could be coordinated in the sub-freezing temperatures.

While most of us were sleeping or staying inside where it was warm and dry, city employees in the Public Works and Public Safety Departments were plowing streets, spreading salt, working traffic accidents, and searching the woods for a missing person. I'm grateful for the public servants who keep our city community running even in the dark, wet and cold of a winter storm.  



Friday, January 15, 2016

Following Through on Promises


In November 2015, voters overwhelming approved a new 1/2 cent sales tax in Sikeston, for the purposes of funding Public Safety, Streets and Parks. The City Council pledged that half of the new revenues would be used to make our Public Safety salaries more market competitive, and the other half would fund new capital improvements in our Streets and Parks divisions. To demonstrate the city's commitment to following through on those promises made to the voters, we've just launched a new webpage where we explain what we've done with Public Safety salaries, and where we'll track the Streets and Parks projects as they are completed. #BuildingTrustThroughTransparency

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Annual Audit: Clean Again!

Did you know that the city undergoes an independent audit of its financial statements by a certified public accountant every year? And that the audit reports are available for free public viewing 24/7 on the city's website? The audit of the Fiscal Year 2015 financials has been completed and is now available at http://www.sikeston.org/financial_and_annual_reports/index.php

Once again, we received a "clean" or unqualified opinion on our finances. Highlights include: 
  • The auditor’s report expresses an unqualified opinion on the financial statements of the City of Sikeston (in other words, the auditor found no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses).
  • No significant deficiencies were found in the financial statements’ compliance with generally accepted accounting principles and the requirements of the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
  • No material weaknesses in internal controls were found.
  • No material weaknesses in compliance with federal award programs were found.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sikeston Proud Awards - Oct/Nov 2015

The “Sikeston Proud Awards” are the city’s program for employee recognition. Any city employee can be nominated by any other employee – supervisor, coworker, or subordinate. Each month the city’s department heads, HR director and city manager meet to review the nominations and select several employees to recognize. For October/November 2015, the winners of the Sikeston Proud Awards are the following:

Chuck Bolen, Skilled Worker (Public Works Department)
Chuck has been with the City of Sikeston for 8 years. He was nominated by a coworker for his attention to detail and dedication to the job. The nomination notes that Chuck runs the side arm mower and is very particular on how ditches are maintained, and he does his best to keep our city looking good.

Rhonda Council, Administrative Assistant (Governmental Services Department)
Rhonda has been with the City of Sikeston for 15 years. She was nominated by three different coworkers for her initiative, customer service, and assistance to fellow employees. In addition to providing administrative assistance to the city manager, Rhonda maintains the city and CVB websites, she routinely responds to social media inquiries, and she handles tourism related mailings.

Said one coworker, “I would like to nominate Rhonda Council for the assistance that she provides, not only to me, but everyone else.  She helps daily whether it is answering the phone, helping with the copier, software assistance, or the City’s website.  She never complains.  She will do anything to help anyone and she is one of the most professional acting employees we have.”

After a brief absence, another coworker said, “I would like to nominate Rhonda Council; she plays a huge part to the city.  I tried to fill her shoes while she was away and I was amazed at the responsibility she carries, and I think she does a great job.”

Vicky Lewis, City Collector (Administrative Services Department)
Vicky has been with the City of Sikeston for 22 years. As city collector, Vicky oversees collection of municipal taxes, licensing of merchants, liquor licenses, collection of franchise fees, TIF revenues – essentially any revenue received by the city is processed by her office. Her Sikeston Proud Award nomination reads: “Vicky is someone that if you have a problem she will try to help in any way possible.  She will stop doing her work just to help others and she follows up with that department or person until the work is done or until there’s nothing else that can be done.  I have worked with her for many years and I know she puts herself last in most situations.”

Chris Merideth, Communications Sergeant (Department of Public Safety)
Communications Sergeant Chris Merideth has been with the City of Sikeston for 14 years. She was nominated by her Communications Officers for her hard work, employee relations, and willingness to do the hands-on work of 911 dispatching. Her nomination reads, “We would like to nominate Sergeant Chris Merideth.  She has taken on 7 strong willed individuals and a division of the Department of Public Safety that is sometimes not the easiest! We are so thankful for all she does for us and the division, and for her hard work to keep us the best in the business. She goes all out for us on Communications Week and makes sure we are reminded how much we are needed in this department. Sergeant Merideth has so many responsibilities but she continues to sit with us daily and assist us in our daily tasks. We are so thankful for all that she does and we don’t tell her enough exactly how grateful we are!”

Tyler Rowe, Public Safety Officer (Department of Public Safety)
Public Safety Officer (PSO) Tyler Rowe has been with the City of Sikeston for 3 years. He was nominated by a coworker for his professionalism and the way he goes the extra mile with colleagues and citizens. His nomination reads, “I believe PSO Rowe demonstrates what it means to be ‘Sikeston Proud.’ PSO Rowe always arrives for his shift looking professional and with a great attitude which increases the morale of all the PSOs he works with. PSO Rowe is always willing to come in early or stay late if necessary to ensure that the city receives the level of protection and service that they deserve. PSO Rowe takes time to ensure that every citizen he interacts with has the best possible outcome. When PSO Rowe is not on a call for service he takes time to speak with citizens and to build an atmosphere of trust and understanding between them and our department. Although PSO Rowe is a new addition to the department, he goes out of his way to help any officer in need. I believe that PSO Rowe’s dedication to performing his job to the best of his ability every day exemplifies what it means to be Sikeston Proud.”

Andy Vanover, Sergeant (Public Safety Department)
Sergeant Andy Vanover has been with the City of Sikeston for 14 years. He was nominated by several coworkers for his decisive action to save an elderly man from choking. As reported by another officer on the scene, “We had an 80 plus year old male choking on a large piece of roast beef. The male is on hospice, in a wheelchair and very fragile.  The family was hysterical because he has a stint in his chest. While we were there the subject could not speak to us but we could clearly tell by his expression that his situation was going downhill. I was afraid to perform the Heimlich due to the stint. Sergeant Vanover stepped in and said he had to do something to attempt to save the man. He performed the Heimlich and a large chunk of roast beef came out. The family was so grateful to Sgt. Vanover. They could not stop telling him how much they appreciated him and DPS services. I believe that this could have been a bad deal if Sergeant Vanover hadn't made the decision he did in the time that he did. I just want to let you know the amazing professional courage that Sergeant Vanover displayed.” 

Marie Walton, Account Clerk (Department of Administrative Services)
Marie Walton has been with the City of Sikeston for 18 years and works in the Collector’s Office in the Administrative Services Department. The Collector’s Office deals with tax collection, business licensing and collecting various monies owed the city.  As one of her nominations pointed out, “Citizens are sometimes not happy about calling or visiting her office.” Marie interacts with the public by phone and in person daily.  She treats every person with kindness and respect. A supervisor in her department reported that even when Marie had to warn a delinquent licensee that Public Safety would have to write them a ticket if they didn’t comply with the licensing requirements, “there was warmth and concern in her voice.” The supervisor also said, “So many times we get tired of the same questions and comments from citizens.  I am sure that Marie has heard them all, many times.  Still, Marie is dependable and works diligently at her position.  More importantly, she treats people like they matter, because they do.”

A coworker also nominated Marie for going the extra mile to make sure a bidder on a city project understood the insurance requirements associated with a bid. Marie went out of her way to contact the insurance company and obtain the proof of insurance needed by the contractor. Marie’s coworker said, “The contractor told Marie he really appreciated it and complimented her on how efficient she was. She made the call, told them what she needed and they took care of it. Problem solved. The contractor left our facility very pleased with the outcome of his visit. Sometimes it just takes a moment of our time & going that extra mile to make someone happy. The contractor was able to leave with something good to say about the City instead of complaining of what we don’t do. We should be proud.”

Derick Wheetley, Public Safety Officer (Public Safety Department)
Sergeant Derick Wheetley has been with the City of Sikeston for 10 years. He was nominated by a coworker for his selfless actions in the community, particularly outside of his official duties. As many people in Sikeston know, Sergeant Wheetley is a driving force behind fundraising for the Special Olympics in Missouri. After Sergeant Wheetley put on two recent fundraising events, a coworker said the following about him, “These duties do not belong to him because he is a Sergeant or a DPS employee; he instead takes them out of the goodness of his heart. He has taken the entire load since the resignation of another officer and he has not complained. Sergeant Wheetley continues to make the department and the city proud with his selfless actions.”


Friday, October 30, 2015

Stretching Your Tax Dollars - Part 2

Forms are laid for the foundation of a new bathroom at the recreation complex.
City staff members are constructing the building at half the cost of a private contractor.
Previously, I blogged about how the Public Works Department saved $25,000 in taxpayer money by taking a creative approach to completing major electrical projects at city facilities. Well, they've done it again! The city is currently replacing two restroom buildings at the Recreation Complex. When we've built restroom buildings in recent years the costs have been around $90,000 each as bid by private contractors. The Public Works Department starting exploring whether we could save money by constructing those buildings ourselves. What we found out is that our staff can complete the foundation, plumbing, and roofing work ourselves, and we only need to bid out the masonry work. By doing so, the cost of constructing these buildings was cut in more than half, meaning that we can construct two of them ourselves for the price we used to pay for one. This is just another example of how the city takes our financial stewardship seriously. Tax money is limited, so city staff tries to make it go as far as possible.

Adopt-A-Road Reboot

City employees and family members completed a litter cleanup on Linn St.
The City of Sikeston has had an Adopt-A-Road Program for many years, although it hasn't been very active the last few years. In an effort to revive the program, the city has launched a new webpage (http://www.sikeston.org/departments/public_works/adopt-a-street_program.php) and city employees adopted a street to kick it off. If you are interested in adopting a street please visit the webpage or call the Public Works Department at (573) 475-5636. The Public Works Department will provide trash bags for cleanup events and pick up the full bags left along the route, as well as post signs recognizing volunteer groups along adopted roadway sections. It's an easy way for companies, families, school groups, churches, Scout organizations, civic clubs, and others to give back to the community. 



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Actually, you DO have access to that...

Several years of budgets, audits, annual reports, and capital plans are available on the city's website.

I recently had a casual meeting with a citizen. We were talking about the budget and city finances and he said something like, "I don't have access to the whole budget document, but..." After he finished his thought, I politely corrected him and made sure he knew that he (and everyone else) is indeed entitled to that information and has access to it. All of the city's budgets and financial audits for the last several years are easily accessible to anyone, 24 hours a day and free of charge, at http://sikeston.org/financial_and_annual_reports/index.php. #BuildingTrustThroughTransparency