During our first snowstorm of the winter, I hopped in a de-icing truck with long-time Public Works employee Darren Browning. I wanted to see firsthand how our road conditions were during our first winter wonderland of the season and make sure that our streets were safe.
I learned quickly there was a very important segment of our population who were unhappy to see a snow plow visit their street. These unhappy citizens would be the army of kids home from snow-related school closures who were sledding down our streets with excitement, celebrating the freedom that comes with an elusive Pacific Northwest “snow day.” As we drove through these temporary snow parks, I could feel their cool stares pierce through our vehicle and witnessed the mild panic in their eyes that we were here to put an end to their fun. I waved and gave them a “not-to-worry, just-passing-through” look. I was so glad that my first winter crisis was averted!
More importantly, I was reminded of the vital role that Public Works serves in our city. Sure, you may know some of the essential services they provide like infrastructure maintenance and civil engineering services, including street transportation and traffic control, storm runoff and surface water management, drinking water distribution, sewage collection, and wastewater treatment.
But what most folks don’t know, is that Public Works is actually part of our city’s first responders. Because they do not ride around in big red trucks with ladders, or have red and blue lights with loud sirens, it can be easy to miss the significance they play in keeping our community safe. In fact, they are federally mandated and recognized as first responders by the the U.S. Department of Homeland Security because of the crucial role they serve in saving lives and property.
In our city of 8.9 square miles, our public works employees maintain a vast 133 miles of roadway and 72 miles of sidewalks that criss-cross our neighborhoods. During a storm, they are called to repair broken water mains to ensure we get our drinking water and water to our fire hydrants, remove trees blocking our roads, and prevent stormwater from flooding our streets. They are out constantly both before and during snow storms, working 24 hours a day plowing, de-icing and clearing debris to prevent countless injuries, property damage, and to provide us safe access and travel to our local grocery stores to clear out the most popular storm-related food — frozen pizza.
So if you see a Public Works truck or crew out working, please give these unsung heroes a big thank you, a hug, a high five, and a thumbs up, because they deserve it.
— By Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson