Special to Elmore Autauga News
Too little manpower. Too little time. Lack of equipment.
The City of Millbrook Street Department has been working frantically to meet the extraordinary demand for its services. “The last couple of months have been something of a big nightmare. It has been incredibly busy,” Street Department Superintendent Brandon Harris said.
Among other things, the department stays busy picking up debris, such as limbs, leaves, grass clippings, and other loose and disposal vegetation. Residents leave debris next to the street and the department picks it up on what is an ongoing run through the city.
But this year has been much, much different.
“First storm we had left us with a great deal of work. Of course, a bad storm will always put you behind because of clean up. From there it just became more and more,” Millbrook Mayor Al Kelley said. The growing amount of work for the street department escalated when the fear of COVID-19 came into play. “There was a storm the very first week people started to stay home. That took a great deal of time. It has grown since then with people doing yard work. When people have a great deal of time to work in the yard the streets are going to pile up,” Kelley added.
The first day of the COVID-19 restriction was the day one-half of the street department’s manpower failed to show. Like many municipalities, Millbrook uses state inmates from local prisons for city work. The DOC halted inmates leaving the facilities due to COVID-19, and that put the street department in a difficult position immediately. “We normally have fourteen in our crew. On average, the DOC was providing us with eight per week. You can see the impact it made on getting the job done,” Harris explained. “It took a huge effort from our guys. They worked constantly to get the job done.”
To make matters worse the city has only one “limb truck” and it broke down twice. It was a tremendous setback. “The limb truck means so much in getting things done with that type of debris,” Harris said. “When the mayor came down to the shop and asked all of us what we needed it only took us a second to answer. We told him we had to have a new limb truck.”
Kelley and the city council wasted no time. On May 12 the Millbrook City Council voted to purchase a new limb truck. The cost is $157,000. The new truck will arrive the week of May 18-22 according to Harris and will come from a company in Pelham.
When the DOC ceased to send inmates it became impossible for the street department to do its job done during normal hours – especially without a limb truck functioning consistently. That’s when other city workers chipped in and came to the rescue. The Parks and Recreation Department and the Utilities Department sent workers to help. “Those guys have been great. I don’t know what we would have done without them. They deserve a lot of credit because we wouldn’t have been able to manage this situation without them,” Harris said.
Parks and Recreation would send several workers to the street department on Monday and Utilities would send several on Thursday. “I’m real proud of our city employees helping each other in times like this. This also saves the city money when guys will go help another department. It is good for morale and the city doesn’t have to hire additional employees,” Kelley remarked.
The debris pick up has only been part of the diligent work by the street department. The crews have helped to avoid other problems, such as excess water accumulation. The department has been busy cleaning problem ditches. “Those guys have worked so hard and have done a great job. One of the things they have done is keep a lot of problem ditches clean. Some ditches that always caused drainage problems have not given us a problem this year,” Kelley said.