Mayor’s memo: Public Works important part of city services
The sounds of construction will be heard on Martin Street this fall as renovations begin on Police Headquarters, the Municipal Court and the Hargray Building. And in early 2018, construction will begin on a new Fire Station 81.
But before all that could happen, the city had to answer the question of where to relocate our Public Works facility to make room for the new fire station.
After evaluating multiple sites and exploring several potential land purchases, the city announced the purchase of an existing building at 1618 Plantation Ave. on five acres.
This building is ideal in several ways. The city does not have to purchase land and construct a new building.
The existing 15,500-square-foot structure (plus 1,500 square feet of covered space) fits the Public Works Department’s needs nicely without extensive remodeling costs. At least for the short term, the city has two paying tenants, providing a monthly rental income.
This address was in Jasper County, not in the Hardeeville City limits, and thus this purchase does not reduce the tax income and the city was able to annex this additional five acres. And, all these benefits came at a price lower than we projected to buy land and build a new Public Works Facility.
The purchase of a “move in” ready building, below budget, is yet another example of the city’s intelligent management of its growth. The City Council applauds the management team for their diligence throughout this process.
As Hardeeville continues to improve and add to its infrastructure, the city is fortunate to be guided in these projects by Rhett Lott, city engineer and department head of Public Works. Rhett also oversaw the construction of the new library on Main Street, supervised the renovation of the old City Hall building and provided support to SprintTurf, the company that installed the new artificial turf field. Rhett will also be on site at Police Headquarters and the Hargray Building when work begins there.
In his “spare” time, Rhett also oversees our contractors for mosquito spraying, street cleaning, garbage collection and bids for equipment purchases. Rhett has had a busy year, performing every challenge with a high standard of performance. No, Rhett is not Superman, just a super dedicated guy.
As I write this, the high winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Irma are buffeting the city, and so it is appropriate to note that Rhett and his team are facing another busy week as trees and limbs are starting to fall.
Their first priority after the storm will be to clear the roads for emergency vehicles. Last year after Matthew, they did a remarkable job, clearing roads in record time.
What we all take for granted is the enormous job that our Public Works Department does year round.
Hardeeville covers 55 square miles and that’s a lot of mowing. And that includes caring for roadways and culverts that are technically not the city’s responsibility, including Highways 278 and 17. You will also see our crews out there picking up litter on these roadways. They maintain the storm drainage ditches along 30 miles of roadways. They service 86,400 square feet of city buildings, and nearly 55 acres of parks and public property. And all this gets accomplished with only nine men reporting to Rhett.
Now consider this work is getting done at times in extreme heat; what an amazing job these guys do.
As Hardeeville continues to build, the responsibilities of Public Works will expand.
There will be more buildings to maintain, inside and out; more holiday decorations to put up and take down; more recreation events to set up and clean up; more streets to clear storm debris; more equipment to maintain.
Expansion needs were factored into the selection process of the new facility and the city will look to add storage in “zones” to minimize the transportation of equipment. All things considered, this was a critical decision for Hardeeville’s future efficiency.
The growth that Hardeeville is experiencing will require new infrastructure, and more police and fire personnel, but let’s not forget that Public Works is an important core function of city services, and Hardeeville is very fortunate to have such strong leadership and a hard working, caring, team. They have earned our respect.
Thanks to Rhett and all the Hardeeville Public Works professionals.
Harry Williams is the mayor of Hardeeville.