Public Works_color.jpg

Director of Public Works Robert Mendoza presents his department’s 2019 annual report to the City Council. Among the department’s challenges during 2019 was cleaning up after the June windstorm, which diverted resources from other projects.

It’s been a busy 2019 for the city’s Public Works Department – and it looks like that will continue this year. That’s one of the many points made by Director of Public Works Robert Mendoza during his annual report to the City Council. Mendoza made his presentation during the March 10 council meeting. Like all department heads, he gives a summary of his division’s activities and accomplishments.

One thing that especially pleased Mendoza was receiving an American Public Works Association award for Warren Riverview Park. The honor was the Kansas Chapter and National award for Best Small Cities/Rural Communities Project of The Year.

Among the year’s highlights were completion of the automatic metering system, getting construction underway on Decarsky Park, which is expected to open in 2021, and an analysis of all paved roads, or the Pavement Management Plan survey.

Other projects he highlighted were playground resurfacing at Madison Avenue Central Park Splash Pad, High Park and Garrett Park, installing seven historical landmark site signs, and the demolition of the Skate Park building and skate surface extension.

Asked what his biggest challenge was, Mendoza was quick to reply with cleaning up and restoration of areas damaged by a June windstorm.

“That was the biggest wrinkle in the year for us,” he said.

It wasn’t just the cleanup work itself, but the way it diverted resources.

“The windstorm affected how we scheduled the rest of the year,” he said.

The department has 63 employees. It, along with the police, are the major operations for the city. It’s an entity that has become larger to handle a population closing in on 25,000.

Maintaining, fixing parks and streets

While the police may be visible around Derby, a lot of the work Public Works does is lower-key and not always seen by citizens, such as code enforcement. Much of its workload is in simply maintaining and fixing resources such as the parks and the city’s largest investment, its streets.

It’s fine with Mendoza that his department is more of a behind-the-scenes operation, especially if it means few complaint calls about such things as street repairs and fallen tree limbs.

“We’re the army out there taking care of things as they need service,” he said.

That includes mowing and maintaining 503 acres of city-owned property, 20 developed parks, 14 green spaces and 56 acres of right of way and drainage ditches.

The department’s arborists planted 149 trees, and pruned and mulched 863 trees. Also, 18 stream blockages were removed. Code enforcement opened 1,301 cases, had 1,272 closed and had 84 abatements. And during the winter season, there were 13 winter storm response days. In the wastewater division, there were 26 miles of sewer mains cleaned and three miles of sewer lines inspected.

Looking forward, Mendoza sees continued work in building Decarsky Park, implementing a water customer portal, taking on the water main replacement project along with the Wastewater Facility Master Plan and other projects.

With a continued emphasis on parks throughout the city and more traffic on local streets, Mendoza expects 2020 to carry on the development of the recent past.

“Every aspect of the department has grown,” he said.