Running a city requires oversight of a lot of moving parts with various departments and staff focusing on specific aspects of the operation. This month’s column highlights two of those departments: Public Works focuses on infrastructure and citizen services while General Services supports every city department enabling them to better serve the citizens of Cortez.
Phil Johnson, Public Works director, oversees 40-plus employees who are responsible for city infrastructure, core community services, information technology and commercial and residential development. “We take our jobs very seriously; maintaining city services and taking care of infrastructure,” he told me. “We work and live in this community, so it’s more than just a job.”
Infrastructure is literally the backbone of the city. It is expensive to install, costly to maintain, but even costlier to replace. As with most cities, Cortez has aging infrastructure so staff is always making long-range plans to replace and upgrade infrastructure as we can afford it.
Road maintenance and construction is obvious, but what’s less evident is the engineering that goes into the construction or major repair of city streets. Grade, road base preparation, installation of curb and gutter and ADA ramps, along with the installation of a storm system to handle run-off from snow and rain, are all part of the process. City engineers design street projects, the department issues a Request for Bids, then staff oversees private contractors who successfully bid a job. Snow removal, road sweeping, and, of course, pothole repair, along with the periodic painting of curbs, crosswalks, and striping, constitute routine street maintenance that staff handle.
Water from the Dolores is piped in and treated to exacting standards at the city’s Water Treatment Plant. It’s then transported through an intricate system of water lines to city homes and businesses. Major water line upgrades, like the Paradise Village project undertaken several years ago, require months of planning and budgeting, but staff must also be ready to quickly respond to unexpected breaks or leaks. We are fortunate to have great tasting water and a conscientious staff who makes sure that it’s available when we turn the faucet. Did you know that the city also treats water for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Montezuma Water District No. 1?
The Information Technology staff keeps city computers, email, and internet up and operating while also working diligently to maintain a secure system. Trash and Recycling services are critical Public Works divisions – I think we can all agree that without the services these folks provide, we would all be buried under a mountain of garbage!
Commercial and residential development is also overseen by the Public Works Director. Enforcing zoning ordinances, flood plain requirements and construction standards help ensure that development is orderly and finished buildings are safe.
Along with Public Works, General Services is housed at the Service Center in the Industrial Park. Under the direction of Rick Smith, this department has nine employees working in several divisions: Administration, Purchasing, Capital Projects, Building and Fleet Maintenance, and the Cortez Community Network and Fiber to Business/Home.
General Services oversees purchasing and asset disposal, develops specifications for new buildings and infrastructure and writes contracts insuring that city contractors are bonded and specifications are followed.
City buildings are maintained by Building Maintenance, which also monitors solar installations to track city savings on electricity, and small construction projects and repairs are handled in-house when possible. The Fleet Maintenance Division takes care of all city vehicles and monitors fuel consumption, buying fuel in bulk to save money.
There is a city shop where Marvin Cramer and crew are geniuses at fabricating products to meet specific city specifications. The bike rack at the Rec Center is an example of their work, along with railing installed at the golf course. Most recently, they fabricated special components for one of the city street sweepers – all made at considerable savings to the taxpayer.
General Services administers the Cortez Community Network, providing dark fiber for internet connectivity to anchor institutions in the community as well as the city. They also oversee special projects such as the recent replacement of HVAC systems at the Recreation Center and Welcome Center. Oversight of the remodel of the Journal newspaper building into City Hall was an especially well-executed project resulting in a beautiful, well-designed space that works for staff and of which the community can be proud. Citizens can be confident in the work performed by these two departments. Staff works hard to ensure the city is operating smoothly and services are being provided efficiently and cost-effectively.
Bravo to Public Works and General Services!
Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by Cortez City Council members. Reach her at email@example.com or during her office hours from 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.