Friday, March 7, 2008
On the town with DPW Superintendent Gary Davis
Heading towards the Department of Public Works (DPW) main office on Lowell Street for an interview with Carlisle’s Superintendent of Public Works Gary Davis, tomorrow’s weather forecast comes across loud and clear over the car radio -- “snow beginning in the middle of the day; continuing late into the night with an accumulation of 9 to 12 inches.” This is nothing new for Davis in this winter of 2007-2008, and he isn’t hesitant to remind me that winter started early this year with our roads taking the punishment. “It rains, it snows, it thaws and then it freezes again. With all the ice there are more potholes on the roads,” says Davis.
Gary Davis, who grew up in Carlisle on Bedford Road and graduated from CCHS in 1973, started working for the DPW in 1974 under the guidance of his father, DPW head Roger Davis. When Roger retired in 1987 after 37 years of service to the Town, Gary took over as department head. He now has ten full-time DPW employees in the department, with the one half-time worker not coming back due to budget concerns. Each of the employees has a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. workday, but all can be counted on to come in when necessary to clean things up during and after a storm, reports Davis.
The DPW is responsible for the maintenance of 55 miles of Carlisle roads (including roadside tree and brush work), two cemeteries, the Transfer Station, grounds at the police and fire stations, the Town Hall, the Gleason Public Library, the Town Green, areas around the Tot Lot and ball field, the Center Park, the Carlisle School septic treatment plant grounds, conservation land parking lots and town footpaths.
Town funds, money in the yearly budget voted at Town Meeting, pay for road maintenance, which also includes brush clearing, catch basin cleaning, and drainage repair. “All DPW employees plow the roads, but sometimes if there is over two inches of snow on the ground, we may need to hire outside help to plow during the storm,” reports Davis. “It’s better to have snow storms without rush-hour traffic and school buses out on the road. It’s easier for us to work a snow storm that comes at night,” he adds. “We work with the police and when we hear where there are problem spots around town, we try to respond, even if it is 2:30 in the morning.”
A mixture of sand and salt is used to treat the roads after they have been plowed. More salt is used on the main roads, with less on dead-end roads and in the center of town, where sodium levels in drinking water have been a concern. “We try to use the least amount of salt as possible because of the wells in town,” says Davis. “The surrounding towns [with town water] seem to use more salt,” he observes.
State Chapter 90 funds are used for repaving and realigning roads. State funds were used recently for realigning the intersection of South and West Streets. Once the drainage problem on Stearns Street has been solved, it will be repaved, as will half of River Road, half of Rutland Street, parts of North Road and Skelton Road. This can happen only when the weather gets warmer.
The Transfer Station on Lowell Street is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., with two DPW employees on duty. Besides the three days that the transfer station is open to the public, someone is on duty there six days of the week, cleaning, hauling and transferring.
To use the Transfer Station, townspeople must purchase annual “dump stickers” for the bargain price of $15 and place them on the left front bumper of their vehicles. Working five days a week and using trash containers belonging to the town, one of Davis’s employees hauls 600 loads of trash and recyclables, per year, to various locations. “People need to be careful putting their recyclables in the right place,” stresses Davis. “The brown and green glass go in one container and clear glass in another. People also make mistakes throwing cardboard in the wrong container,” he adds.
As for the Swap Shed, which handles items for exchange, Davis says “it is a good thing and a bad thing; just another area to maintain, but good for most people.” Separating out TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, computer monitors and screens is important, but clearing out the mess in the Swap Shed at the end of the day is what concerns Davis. Tree and brush work, he mentions, is only accepted at the Transfer Station in the spring.
The DPW is responsible for maintenance of the Central Burying Ground on Lowell Street and the Green Cemetery on Bedford Road. With very little grass to care for at the Burying Ground, it is the heavy trees and grounds that need tending. On the other hand, the Green Cemetery requires a great deal of mowing and trimming. The month of May is a busy time for the DPW, getting the cemetery ready for Memorial Day services held at the end of the month. In the fall, cleaning up the leaves is a major project.
“Once a funeral director contacts us about a burial in Green Cemetery, we are responsible for digging the grave,” explains Davis. “The Wilson Chapel, which now has heat and lights, is also available for services,” adds Davis. There are plots for sale in the cemetery, and in the near future the cemetery will be expanding into an area towards the Banta-Davis Land.
In the winter, the DPW maintains the footpaths in the center of town. “The use is there and I feel we should maintain them,” says Davis. These include the paths from the police station to the fire station, from the ATM machine, past the library to the post office, from the library up to Church Street and the school loop.
“We helped build the pathways that are in already. We did the initial work,” he explains. “Once that work was done, it was followed up by the contractor. We do the tree and brush work on the pathways.” Thinking ahead, Davis is concerned that he will need more equipment if the DPW is to maintain future pathways.
It is obvious that DPW Superintendent Gary Davis and his crew keep a busy schedule all around town. And especially after a winter like this, they certainly deserve a big round of applause. ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito