A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 24

Day 24


Safety Meeting

Today was the first Thursday of the month and that means safety meeting day! The whole public works staff attends the monthly safety meeting, and the topic today was backhoe safety. If I get a chance I'll put up a post on it later this week because it was interesting and probably would make a good article.

Cemetery Maintenance

After learning about how to safely operate and transport backhoes, we met with someone who provides cemetery services. Right now we have one person who is responsible for all the maintenance in the two cemeteries we own. We do have some summer help, but there's still a lot of work to be done. And when our help goes back to school, we are back down to one person. Several members of the public have indicated they want increased maintenance services so we are looking at ideas for meeting their requests. One idea is to bid out the maintenance and see if it is cheaper to hire it out than use staff members. During the meeting today we learned about what services companies provide and what other cemeteries they take care of. At this point we are just researching. Our city council will have to make the final decision on whether or not we bid this out or continue to use staff.

Overweight vehicles

Something strange did happen during the morning. Someone called me to complain about getting a ticket from our police for having an overweight vehicle. He also wanted to ask me several questions about this. It was a little difficult answering all of them because our office only handles issuing permits for overweight vehicles. The police enforce the overweight vehicle limits on our streets. I did read him the ordinance explaining we do not allow any trucks over 6 tons on roads unless indicated otherwise and told him the ordinance was available online. So he paraphrased what I said to mean that he, as a landscaper, was not allowed to provide services to residents in our community. I tried to explain this was not what I said and that he could solve the problem by distributing his load between two vehicles to get it below 6 tons and that I've seen other companies doing this. But he did not seem to think this would be an option. I also tried to suggest taking his setup to a truck scale and working with the loading to get it below 6 tons. But he didn't know where a scale was and having only been here for two years, I wasn't sure where the closest one was either. 

He also asked many more questions that were more related to how the police ticket and how they determine when a load is overweight, but I could not answer him since we do not deal with that in my office. He was also frustrated because he must have called other cities and they gave him information that was different from what we were giving him. I tried to explain every city has different ordinances so that's probably why he was getting different answers from different cities. I offered to find out how we could issue him an overweight permit so he could legally drive his load on the streets, but he didn't want me to ask about the process. He kept suggesting we are only issuing tickets to drive up revenue, and he said it was a stupid law. Then he got angry and hung up on me.

Emergency Utility Work

Then right before lunch I received a call from a utility company asking for verbal approval to perform an emergency repair in our downtown. These make me nervous because it's difficult to quickly assess the situation and think of everything that needs to be determined in order to proceed with something like this. But the person said the work would only be in the parkway and was desperately needed because the whole area of the city south of the downtown had no service. So after he promised to be safe and use proper traffic control and restore the area within a couple days, I told him it was ok to proceed. After I got in from lunch, one of the engineers asked me who gave approval for a utility to bore under the railroad. What? I explained what I had given approval for. Then one of the other staff members and I decided to go visit the work site. Meanwhile the person who had asked for the approval called back and said he had no idea it was going to go under the railroad. So he agreed to meet us there. In the end, it all worked out. They ended up calling the railroad, and two guys from the railroad showed up to flag and assist. Our locator marked out what he needed to locate. And they started digging. Because I had to deal with all this, I ended up missing a meeting with a landscaper for our parking lot, but the project engineer was able to go instead.

Rating the Roads

Then we all finished up the day checking out the road conditions in the next area of town to be inspected.