This article was guest-written by Nancy Mann Jackson
City and county budgets have been slashed over the past few years, but residents still expect the same level of service they enjoyed during more prosperous times. Public works departments still must pick up garbage and recyclables, repair potholes, and maintain other services, but with less money. In some cities, public works departments are finding ways to go beyond the status quo, creatively using technology to improve services in an affordable way.
For instance, a new city administration in Chicago recently initiated a 10 percent budget cut across all departments, but services continue to improve, thanks to creative solutions implemented by Thomas Byrne, commissioner of the Department of Streets and Sanitation. One ward supervisor oversees each of the city’s 50 wards, and those supervisors once spent many hours driving around their wards, keeping up with the sanitation trucks assigned to them and making sure they stayed on schedule. Byrne and his staff recently installed GPS devices in each sanitation truck, and connected those devices to Blackberry devices provided to the ward supervisors. “Now a ward supervisor can go to the [Chicago Mobile Asset Tracker] CMAT database with his Blackberry anytime and it shows him where each truck is that is assigned to him,” Byrne says. “They know exactly where all their trucks are all the time.”