Service in the City: Public Services Department

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When someone in the City of Georgetown takes out their trash, turns on the shower or flushes a toilet, they have the city Public Services Department to thank.

The department is comprised of three main divisions: water, including water treatment and distribution; public works, including street and sidewalk maintenance, trash removal, and civil engineering projects; and fleet maintenance, including maintenance of all the city fire trucks and police cars.

About 50 people work in the department, half in water and about half in public works. Three people work in fleet maintenance.

Three managers handle the day-to-day operations, and as department head, Jonathan Heald handles administrative responsibilities, such as communicating with city council, as well as long-term planning.

“I try to set the tone and tenor, as the director, for the department as a whole. I see where we’re going not only this year, but in 10 years, 20 years and further. Infrastructure lasts 50 years, so you have to think ahead,” he explained.

Under his leadership, Public Services employees treat the city’s storm and waste water, making it safe for either consumption or to be returned to the Sampit River.

The public works department keeps the city’s public land such as streets, sidewalks and parks clean, including trash and recycling pickup.

Civil engineering projects for the city, including park design and road maintenance, also fall under public works.

In addition, Public Services also manages the city garage, which performs repairs and maintenance on all of the city’s 200 vehicles.

In the future, Heald said the department is working to address much-needed infrastructure improvements and changes, and continuing with the neighborhood improvement program.

Adding the splash pad to Ben Cooper Park was one example of the neighborhood improvement program that will benefit the whole city, Heald said.

“The city is continuing to put more money into Ben Cooper Park because we think it’s going to be an anchor in that community. … Some people may wonder why the city should put money into East Bay or Ben Cooper Park, and they may be right, it’s not a necessity, but those amenities are anchors for underserved neighborhoods. … Hopefully it will be an anchor for some revitalization.”

The department is responsible for more than just community amenities like the parks. In general, it provides many of the day-to-day needs of the city.

“We are the ‘Sons of Martha,’” Heald said. “Every day we pick up your trash, sweep the streets.

“When you turn a faucet on, when you flush a toilet and it goes away, that’s us. [SC] DOT is responsible for most roads in the city, but we do maintain some of them, like fixing potholes.

“We maintain sidewalks. It’s all of those little things that make your life easy. What would happen tomorrow if you go to shower and no water comes on?

“Those are the things that make the city livable.”

He said he is thankful to work with such a dedicated group of employees.

“These guys are the salt of the earth. They are hard workers, who accept a lot of responsibility. We’re the guys during the ice storm who get in the hole [sewage lines] with freezing water… Our sweat, blood and tears go into the job because we care about this city.”

He described Public Services employees as hardworking and compassionate.

“We’re the worker bees, digging ditches, but we care for how we do it. We’re improving our wastewater treatment plant because that’s what we need to do to keep the Sampit clean.”

Heald has only worked for the city for 18 months, but said his role as director is a dream job.

“I came here because I saw a community that could really be something, that’s really something special. I wanted to be a part of that. I like to be a part of something bigger, to help grow something.”

Part of that process, he said, involves criticism and community feedback, which he said the department welcomes. To address a concern with Public Services, the public may contact the public works department during normal business hours at 843-545-4700, or the water department 24-hours a day at 843-545-4500.

Heald said he believes a sense of pride and community is what drives him and all of his employees.

“I love my job because I have a chance to grow this town to its full potential, and I get to do what I love to do every day.

“In 20 years, after all of this building and construction and planning, years of making the city better, I want to know that I did something that lifted it up. That’s what drives me.”

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