Public Works Departments: The Unsung Heroes of the Everyday
To take for granted: verb phrase, meaning “to consider as true”, or “to underestimate the real value of…”
As children, we are taught never to take anything for granted, and yet still we do, every single day. Let’s think about our local communities, these complex social organisms that must be planned, built, maintained and administered almost constantly to ensure their smooth operation. So much work goes into these communities, but somehow we take that work for granted.
It is the public works department that oversees these important tasks in our local community, making these departments well and truly the unsung heroes of the everyday, bodies which work tirelessly and are somehow still taken for granted by those who benefit from their work the most.
A World Without Public Works Departments
A world without public works departments is not worth comprehending. In this world, mass transport systems would collapse, as would the vast majority of public buildings after years of neglect and degradation. Towns and cities would be unable to adapt to meet the demands placed upon them by increasing populations. Art and culture would disappear, education would flounder as both the infrastructure and the logistical and bureaucratic protocols necessary to maintain such a system crumble away; in short, the community would fall apart.
As humans, we like to think of ourselves as self-contained entities, making our own luck, our own fortune and our own ways in the big wide world. However – unless you are one of the minute percentage of Americans who are truly self-sufficient – you will rely upon the sterling work of a public works department each and every day of your life.
Changing Technology, Changing Work
The ongoing march of technological development is something of a double-edged sword for public works departments. While such development gives departments the state-of-the-art tools and high tech protocols necessary to deal with a changing world, it also puts pressure on departments to anticipate and pre-empt the changing needs of the community, acting accordingly to keep things from ticking over.
As technology changes and populations grow, the pressure on public works departments grows, which means that these departments must adapt to the new conditions placed upon them. This means adopting software platforms, digital image rendering and strategic mapping and integrating them into their everyday protocols and procedures.
Software such as asset management platforms, customer relationship management systems and other efficiency-boosting pieces of tech facilitate good working practices within the department, make it easier for department employees to do their jobs effectively, and ensure that our local communities remain great places to live.
Not only does this technology give public works departments the ability to keep our local communities clean, well-maintained and fully operational, they also help departments to operate within budget. Public works departments have an obligation to use public money responsibly and effectively, delivering the greatest benefit to residents, at the lowest possible cost.
This represents a precarious balancing act, and means that public works departments must walk a fine line every day if they are to provide what the community needs without draining public coffers. Without powerful software to keep track of assets, accounts and other data within the jurisdiction of the department, this task becomes a very difficult one indeed.
So, next time you catch a bus, take a walk down a city street, use a public library, visit a museum or stop at a traffic light, take a moment to appreciate the hard work of your local public works department as it surfs the cutting edge of technology in an effort to make your local community the best it can be. And never, ever, take anything for granted!