Our Town - Getting to Know You

Donna Lane
The DPW ... Part of your life, every day!
Issue Date: 
July, 2018
Article Body: 

This is the second of a 6-part series on the Town’s departments and key employees.
Have you ever stopped to think about how different our lives would be if we didn’t have the services performed by the Department of Public Works (DPW)? With only 50 employees, including administration personnel, the DPW provides essential services to the residents of Norwood every day, in three main areas: water and sewer, parks and highway, and cemetery management.
These services include maintaining sewer drains, water mains, and three sewer pump stations; maintaining our parks and playgrounds; repairing roads and sidewalks; removing snow and ice in winter; operating and maintaining two cemeteries, as well as the Winter Street Composting Facility; assisting with community events ... and more!
Asked what the biggest challenge is for the department, Mark Ryan, Director of Public Works and Town Engineer, said: “Getting everything done the way we want it ... like making all sidewalks cement and having no potholes in any of our roads. There’s not enough manpower or money to make everything perfect.”
Water & Sewer Department
Ryan’s knowledge of the inner workings of the town is extensive, and he was happy to cite statistics, starting with the Water and Sewer Department. He said there are 120 miles of water mains in Norwood that must be maintained. Years ago, the pipes didn’t have liners. The department checks the pipes frequently and if a leak is detected, they reline the pipes using special equipment. They also make sure the sewer lines are clear, flushing as needed to ensure the connection to the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) that deposits wastewater to Deer Island is clear.
In 2017, they coordinated and supervised a comprehensive leak detection survey of the Town’s water system, identifying and repairing four substantial water main leaks. The department has also provided assistance to more than 100 residents with blocked sewer lines and they have repaired or upgraded many more. And that’s only some of what they do.
They also maintain about 1,000 fire hydrants, as well as the two 4.5-million-gallon water tanks that supply water to Norwood homes and businesses. These tanks receive water from the MWRA; it is tested weekly to make sure its quality is meeting drinking water standards.
Ryan said Norwood residents use 2.8 million gallons of water per day on average. In summer, that number jumps to more than 4 million gallons per day. Can you imagine if this one service alone was not tended to?
Highway & Parks Department
The DPW operates the Winter Street Composting Facility, which is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for residents to dispose of leaves, brush, metal, fluorescent light bulbs, mattresses, textiles, books and other items, including Christmas trees during the season. This year, they made 2,500-3,000 cubic yards of compost from collected leaves and grass, which is provided free to residents; and they continue to work with the Board of Health in collecting hazardous waste twice a year. They also manage the single stream recycling program for the Town, in operation since October of 2008. According to the 2017 Annual Town Report, the program has reduced disposal costs to residents and increased recycling rates.
Norwood has very active sports teams and there are 24 athletic fields in town that support them. The DPW Highway and Park’s Department maintains all of these fields, “from snow-melt through Thanksgiving,” said Ryan, keeping them in top shape for Norwood’s young athletes. Before he retired, Jerry Miller, former Superintendent of Recreation, stated that these fields were the “envy of many other towns.”
This department also maintains all of the walking trails in Norwood and they provide fertilization and watering for the flower beds throughout the Town, as well as planting, caring for and removing trees as needed. Just recently, at the request of the Norwood Evening Garden Club, they removed overgrown shrubs at Hawes Pool Park, Guild Square and The Round so the garden club could renovate the plantings, most of which they installed over 15 years ago.
From April through November, they sweep the streets three days a week, and this year they distributed over 300 tree seedlings to the elementary schools to celebrate Arbor Day. They also maintain “Froggy’s” skating area during the winter and they help set up and clean up for parades, the Farmers’ Market and other town events.
Cemetery Department
Ryan credits Paul Rinali and his staff for the improved condition of the Highland and Old Parish cemeteries. Not only did the Cemetery Department prepare and conduct over 200 internments in 2017, they have improved the grounds as well. From the removal of overgrown bushes and failing trees to the installation of new trees, renovation of turf grass, sealing and identification of roadways, installation of monuments, foundations, and cremation vaults, the department has worked to ensure a peaceful, beautiful environment for all who lay in rest there. Their work has not gone unnoticed.
We’ve only touched on how much the DPW departments do that impact residents’ lives every day. Mark Ryan said it best in the 2017 Annual Town Report.
“It is a dirty job, performed many times during inconvenient times of the day and year,” Ryan said. “They respond faithfully to emergencies in order to provide services that many of us take for granted. They are true public servants.”
What’s ahead for them and for Norwood? According to Ryan, the next big project is annual paving, which is underway, to the tune of $1.2 million. There are another $1.4 million worth of water main improvements slated and $1.6 million sewer line improvements scheduled.
And one huge improvement that has been years in planning with the Commonwealth is the removal of the Prospect Street rotary and installation of lights at the intersection. It won’t happen until 2021, but it’s definitely something to look forward to.
Next time you see one of those orange town trucks or a crew working on one of the many jobs they perform, how about showing your appreciation with a smile, a wave and a “thanks for all you do.”
Donna Lane is a Norwood-based writer, lecturer and designer. You can reach her at [email protected].