After years of budget cuts, the Department of Public Works in Beech Grove has continued to make improvements through the last year and a half; including purchasing new and more effective trash trucks and conducting outside maintenance on the department’s facility, with inside aesthetics to be done this winter. Director Brad Meriwether said the department has been able to fulfill their duties better with new equipment and additional employees, which he credits to Mayor Dennis Buckley making the department a priority in the city.
“It’s putting some value in the Public Works,” Meriwether said. “We were never given a platform to get these improvements before. It was more about we have to cut x amount of dollars, where will that be? I think people appreciate it. We touch every person, every house, on a weekly basis. We are constantly out there cleaning up things you don’t want to see, making a cleaner community. I think sometimes we get overlooked. But if we didn’t pick up the trash, people would notice.”
Meriwether said this summer employees are presenting a contract to unionize, which was initially presented at a June 24 department meeting. To give the contract more consideration, the Department of Public Works board will host a special meeting to thoroughly look over the proposed contract on July 15, 7 p.m. at the City Council Chambers.
“They’ve always felt the need to unionize and feel like they have a collective voice amongst the department,” Meriwether said. “They want to collectively bargain like police and fire where they have a voice and speak about the things that matter to them. They can hold on to some of the good things that Mayor Buckley has given to them. Between the board of works and the men, there will probably be some changes and compromises, but I feel they will come to an agreement as a whole.”
Since Meriwether took on the director position in 2008, he said it’s been a good experience learning to work on the projects around the city, including the largest one ongoing, the Main Street Project. With additional resources, he said they have been able to maintain trash pick-up as well as help individuals within the community as they call for assistance on trash and repair-related needs.
“It always comes back to people. Anytime you have a job in the public sector you get to make an impact on people’s lives. It’s a small community so people know that if they need help, whether with their trash or we can sometimes customize our duties to help with another emergency. We get the job done. We do have a department full of a lot of people that put a lot of time in so there is a strong sense of loyalty to the community… (With the proposed union) they could hopefully provide even better service than they do today.”