Cambridge Council gets closer look at city’s Public Works Department

By Rachel Kytonen

The Cambridge Public Works Department is responsible for maintaining 60.5 miles of streets, over 1,300 storm sewer catch basins and 3,555 street signs.

During his annual report, Public Works Director Steve Wegwerth informed the Cambridge City Council during its Jan. 17 meeting about the job duties and responsibilities of the public works department that encompasses parks, streets, Cambridge Airport and storm sewer.

Besides the statistics on miles of streets, storm sewer catch basins and street signs, Wegwerth noted the department is also responsible for maintaining 16 improved parks, 5 unimproved parks and 12 city parking lots. The department has 12 employees that are made up of 2.5 mechanics, 1.5 parks staff, 6.5 streets staff and 1.5 employees at the Cambridge Armed Forces Reserve and Community Center.

Parks 

Wegwerth informed the council the parks department mows 183 acres of grass every season. The department uses three seasonal employees that assist with park maintenance.

The department also maintains all amenities in the parks such as picnic tables and playground equipment, and is responsible for 14 miles of trails.

The department also is responsible for keeping the parks clean, and maintains all the facilities and fields at Sandquist Park.

Streets

Besides maintaining 60.5 miles of streets, the streets department sweeps the public streets in the spring, summer and fall, and sweeps downtown every other week to reduce pollutant load into the water shed.

The department also does pot hole, and curb and gutter and storm basin repairs; trims trees for right-of-way visibility; maintains sidewalks; paints parking lot lines; and is responsible for storm damage clean-up, storm pond maintenance, street signs, street lighting and repairs, crosswalk painting and directional arrow painting.

The public works department puts up flags for summer and holiday decorations, sprays for mosquitoes, prepares streets for special events, provides barricades and cones for street closure, maintains the building and grounds at the Cambridge Senior Center, removes weeds from medians and along fences at city hall and does minor repairs for all city buildings.

As far as pavement management, $50,000 per year is spent on crack sealing,  $50,000 on seal coating and $10,000 for patching. Wegwerth explained 14.3 miles of streets have been reconstructed since 2001.

Two full-time mechanics maintain 26 vehicles for the streets department; 10 vehicles/large mowers for parks; nine vehicles for water-waster; 17 police vehicles; and 12 fire department trucks.

Snowplowing

Wegwerth informed the council that policy states the streets are plowed after receiving three inches or more of snow; otherwise roads are sanded. On average, it takes four to five hours to plow curb-to-curb, and clean-up (sidewalks, cul de sacs) takes an additional five hours more.

Downtown snow removal takes an additional 16 hours each time it’s done and contractors are hired to assist with hauling snow to the dump site.

The public works department is also responsible for the operations and maintenance of the Cambridge Municipal Airport.

Airport snow removal takes an additional two to four hours and 400 tons of salt and 600 yards of washed sand are generally used per season.

Wegwerth noted the airport operates without using any general fund dollars. It’s funded through fuel sales, plan registration fees, hangar leases and state and federal grants.

Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer commended Wegwerth and his staff. Wegwerth has worked for the city for 28 years.

“We are indeed fortunate to have Steve [Wegwerth],” Mayor Palmer said. “Thank you for all the work you have done for us over the years, and please extend that to your entire staff.”

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