REVERE — Mayor Brian Arrigo and city officials are taking the first steps toward plugging a hole in the Department of Public Works, by temporarily moving operations from its current facility, which has suffered from years of neglect and is in poor condition.
On Monday night, the City Council unanimously approved Arrigo’s request for an $82,000 appropriation to pay for both a lease of land and the procurement of mobile trailers to temporarily move Department of Public Works (DPW) operations, Arrigo said in a statement.
The move comes in the wake of the recent spotlight on the DPW facility after Johnny Doherty, safety director for the DPW, posted a video on Facebook in July, which showed the poor working conditions in the facility, specifically the office in the Water and Sewer Division. The clip showed water-soaked walls and floors, with water pouring down from the ceiling, some of it being contained in recycling bins.
“This is our office in the Water and Sewer Division,” Doherty said in the video. “This is how we have to live, day in, day out. It rains more in the building. It rains through the light fixtures. There’s rats and flies and no one willing to help us — not a councilor, not a mayor, not anybody.
“We’re sick of it. We’re sick of it. No human being should have to work in these conditions. Everybody gets sick all the time. We’ve had enough. Someone please send help.”
Following the video, Joe Gravellese, aide to Arrigo, emailed a lengthy response on behalf of the mayor, which said that since taking office (about 19 months ago), Arrigo had been working to address the long-term systemic problems at the DPW, which included funding a $100,000 study to determine whether a new facility is needed or if the current building, estimated by the mayor’s office to be about 50 years old, can be repaired.
Public Works Superintendent Donald Goodwin said he’s been dealing with the issues of the facility for 18 years, since he took the helm at the DPW. He said the building has always been bad during his tenure — the roof is basically gone and there are water leaks, there have been electrical and plumbing issues in the past and the lighting needs to be upgraded.
“We’re very happy about it,” Goodwin said of the temporary move. “We’ve been working on this for the last year and a half since the mayor came into office. It’s just the first step in developing a whole new DPW facility. The one we’re working in now — it’s seen better days.”
Arrigo said the site identified to lease for use of the trailers is adjacent to the DPW facility on Charger Street, “which means the workers will continue to have convenient access to equipment stored in the current yard.”
The mayor said a number of other alternatives were explored, “but this was ultimately determined to be the best choice to ensure future efficient operations of the DPW.”
The move is meant to provide a temporary home while a long-term fix is determined, which Arrigo said could be complete reconstruction or repair of the current facility, or a move to a new permanent facility. Either fix is expected to be complicated and expensive, he said.
The temporary move will take place as soon as the new trailers are procured, which is expected to take several weeks.
“From day one of my administration, we have sought to address the long-term neglect of the DPW,” Arrigo said. “In the interim, the short-term solution of mobile units will allow DPW to operate in a safer environment for the next few years — an important goal, after decades of neglect of the current facility.”
Goodwin said the current DPW facility site actually works really well for the department because it’s nicely located and gives them access to the entire community. He doesn’t want the DPW to be relocated, but wants to see a new facility on the same site, which he said is long overdue. He said a new facility is the direction the city appears to be going in.
Goodwin said he expects personnel to be out of the current building by sometime in October or early November, and operating out of new office trailers. He said some of the trucks may be housed in the current facility during the winter.
Arrigo said his administration has begun to upgrade the DPW’s vehicles and equipment and a $1.5 million investment was made this year to start replacing the current equipment, which is mostly 12 to 20 years old. New purchases that have already been made include a new hot box for pothole repairs, a crane truck, two pickup trucks, three one-ton dump trucks, a trash compactor truck and a small chipper.
Arrigo said there will also be a focus on increasing DPW staffing levels, and the city is currently hiring for a DPW/Water and Sewer laborer position.
“We will not continue the decades of neglect of the DPW,” Arrigo said in a statement. “We will make these strategic investments, which will pay off in the form of improved public services.”
Ward 5 Councilor John Powers said he is in support of the mayor’s plans for a temporary move for the DPW.
“It’s long overdue, not just during this administration, but prior administrations too,” Powers said. “It’s been deplorable down there for a long time. That city yard just didn’t become that way overnight. I want to applaud the mayor for the action to get the trailers (and) also to purchase equipment. He’s moving in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.”
Powers said the plan has been in the works for a long time, referring to the study the mayor initiated. He said a new facility is long overdue, with either a new building on the current site, or another location that would house the employees and also the equipment.
But City Councilor-at-Large George Rotondo said that he’s dissatisfied — he said the mayor “is woefully behind the ball on this” and has dragged his feet. He said there’s a public servant who is now sick because of the building and the remaining employees are also in danger of becoming sick themselves.
“It doesn’t take a year and a half to get portable facilities set up,” Rotondo said. “The mayor can say how much he cares about the DPW facility … Actions speak louder than words.”