Caution: Hell Is About To Freeze Over

A Look Inside Public Works - Part I

As the title says, so reads the red, white and black warning sign leaning against the whiteboard in the office of Clinton's Director of Public Works.  It appears to be the only non-essential item in the room. In fact, it is the only item of decoration in this spartan and meticulously arranged space.

Nothing on the walls except a whiteboard showing in neat arrangement, projects and personnel assignments. There’s a bulletin board with each paper pinned straight and evenly spaced carefully in rows and file cabinets with each drawer labeled uniformly with raised letter plastic tape. One large wall clock maintains its lonely vigil on the day. A small round conference table with rolled drawings sits in the corner diagonally opposite the director's large "L" shaped desk with two computers and many papers spread out, but not messy.

Looking out the large window to the yard I see vehicles lined up and evenly spaced along the far side of the paved and absolutely clean area. The outside as well as the inside shouts no nonsense organized and I can't help thinking it all looks so military.

Why am I here?

After Irene came and went, I thought it was a good time to look at one of the organizations that played a significant role in the recovery efforts. I wanted to take a closer look at a department whose many and varied responsibilities are unknown to most of Clinton's residents. I made the above observations while waiting for the director to arrive from an unanticipated call just before I arrived at 8:30am for my appointment.

Who is the director and what does he bring to the job that accounts for this look of ultra organization? 

As a retired school teacher who served 33 years in the New Haven School system, one of the many subjects Peter Neff was certified in and taught, was school and classroom management.

At one point he was heavily involved with information technology in the New Haven School System and later in the beginning of the Clinton town-wide technology upgrade program.

He is the former chairman of the Clinton Board of Finance. He also served as police commissioner and member of many town building committees of which overseeing school additions (Joel) and renovations, (boiler replacement at the Morgan School), are examples.

A long time resident, Peter is thoroughly familiar with the workings of the town.

Overseeing a cadre of 12 full time employees and an administrative assistant, his department is responsible for all grounds and building exteriors in the town. DPW has taken over functions from Park and Recreation, Harbor and some from the Board of Education.

Approximately 78 miles of roads, streets, drainage structures, culverts and 1,900 catch basins must be maintained, repaired or rebuilt.

Sidewalk maintenance and installation along with street signs and right of way maintenance add to the task. Of course snow plowing and sanding in the winter, grass cutting the rest of the year and some town trash containers are also under his direction.

The transfer station, as well, is his department's responsibility. Though not normally thought of in connection with the Public Works Department, it houses and maintains the town's fuel depot, shooting range, school bus depot, pest control and trash pickup.

Until recently it also housed the dog pound but, now Clinton is sharing Madison's facility.

Construction administration services have been done for other town projects such as Town Marina Upland construction, Esposito beach upgrade, Waterside Lane Bridge repairs, Chittenden Hill Road and Pleasant Valley Bridge re-decking projects.[1]

Until Next week

Arthur Isaacson

[1] A list of projects handled by the Public Works Department and those planned is at the end of this article.


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