By Steve Sears
When speaking with Tim Quinn about his position as director of Department of Public Works (DPW, for short) for the Township of Mt. Olive, and all that falls under the DPW umbrella, one is encouraged to ask, “Okay, Tim, what don’t you and your team do?”
“No, no,” he responds when asked if there’s ever a dull day. “I have so many hats…”
For the uninformed, the DPW staff of 44 employees does more than just fill and fix potholes and pick up garbage.
“Mt. Olive Township – we’re one of the few townships around that are full service,” he says. “My responsibilities cover sanitation and recycling, roads and road signage, water and sewer, fleet maintenance, and engineering (with an outside engineer).
“We do everything,” and then adds, “Actually, under all my departments I also forgot parks, buildings, and grounds. That falls under me also. They’re all mine.”
In addition, the Mt. Olive DPW also performs shared services with Chester Borough for street sweeping and assists charitable associations with any needs they may have such as large item removal and solid waste removal.
Take a breath, reader. As busy as the prior sounded, there’s more to come.
A brief rundown of each department.
As for fleet services, Quinn says, “Our fleet department consists of one supervisor and three mechanics. They cover police vehicles, all DPW department vehicles (dump trucks, pickups, backhoes, loaders, mowers), they perform vehicle maintenance on fire and first aid vehicles.” The road department consists of seven employees; their responsibilities covering snow removal, drainage repairs, paving and patching, roadside mowing, ditch maintenance, street sweeping, storm drain system maintenance, storm basin repairs, and basically any work that has to do with roadways and township rights-of-way. Sign and signage is responsible for all township street signs and advisory signs, school zone road lettering and school advisory signs and street line striping. Sanitation consists of 13 employees who pick up solid waste, recycling, grass, yard waste bags and leaf bags in the fall. All items other than solid waste are sent to their prospective recycling facilities. As for parks, buildings and grounds, this department of 10 takes care of mowing and all maintenance of parks systems throughout the township. All playing fields for township sports groups are also maintained by this department.
“In addition,” says Quinn, “they cover building maintenance for the many structures the township operates in and the grounds around these properties.”
Finally, water and sewer are a combined department, 12 employees responsible for all the township water systems, wells, hydrants, and water towers. They are also responsible for the three different sewer systems and all sewer pump stations throughout the township.
ALL DPW employees work snow removal and all major storm events.
“We have one secretary that receives all complaints, covers permits and sticker sales and handles the phone calls. Probably the hardest and most demanding job due to the wide array of knowledge of each department’s functions she has,” says Quinn.
What it comes down to is if something happens in Mt. Olive Township, which also includes Budd Lake and Flanders, Quinn and his team get called. “It really doesn’t matter what it is.”
“We are the third largest township in Morris County with a population closing in at 29,000,” he says. One mile of an average roadway with a width of 24 feet is about 1,564.44 tons of asphalt for a two-inch overlay. Current cost is about $104,800. The most important thing about potholes is to report them to us.
*Note: Residents with pothole issues should contact us at 973-691-0900 ex. 7361 to get a work order in the system.
“Now what I’m finding with Facebook and the media outlets the people tend to voice their complaints, and a lot of them aren’t going to the right areas,” he explains. “There’s probably eight or nine different Facebook or website pages for different areas and different organizations for Mt. Olive Township, but the key is for people to understand is that if you’re going to complain, or have a complaint or issue, it’s got to go the Mayor’s Facebook page or our DPW Facebook page, so we can address it. A lot of times I’m hearing these things (issue) a week or two later because it went to a different outlet and I’m not aware of it, and we’re a big job – we cover about 140 miles of road with 33 square miles, and I can’t see everything. The key to me is the residents informing me of the issues they have out there and making sure that I’m getting the message and I can respond.”
Quinn also is quick to notify that his department does not take care of Route 46, a major highway that runs through the town.
“[Route] 46 is DOT (Department of Transportation), that’s a state highway, so we don’t cover any highways. A lot of people don’t know that. A lot of complaints I get are about 46, and I forward them on to DOT. [Route] 46, 206 and 80 are state highways; we don’t cover those, and we have a couple of country roads that go through the town, like Flanders Road for instance, and those are covered by the county. Everything else – we cover at 140 – 145 miles of roadway.”
Quinn also states that patience on the part of the residents is important.
“My road department staff is down to seven guys, so to cover this much area, it does take us time to get around. When I explain to people most understand, and when we get the complaints we try to get to it as soon as possible. With this past March the winter killed us. We do chipping also, and we had a lot of residential trees down. My chipping usually ends in April; I had to chip right into June, and that really interfered with my patching operation, so I’m behind.”
Does Quinn and his team handle floods as well?
The DPW has employed since 2012 one-arm bandit garbage trucks for sanitation pick up.
“One of the main issues with the one-arm bandits were employee injuries,” he says. “The old way we were using two people on a truck, and all the cans were lifted by hand. In that time period, when an employee has been here for a while, we start to see a lot of claims for back and shoulder injuries. We saw the amount we were paying out on workmen’s comp cases, looked into the one-arm bandits, and decided to go that route. Two reasons for that: One, there is no physical lifting. Even if they have to get out to get the can, there’s a lift on the back of the truck that dumps it. We’ve pretty much done away with all lifting. Second, I only need one person in each truck. So, as people retired I didn’t have to replace them. Nobody lost their job, it went to attrition. On the recycling side we’re still using the read loading trucks, but this year were starting to replace those with the one-arm bandits also. So, within the next three years, recycling and solid waste are going to be automated.”
Specific to residential recycling, the DPW handle more than 4,000 tons per year, with the total for Mt. Olive including businesses coming in at about 35,000 tons. The process has taken time, and that included the township providing special cans for the residents.
Per Quinn, he states with a laugh that the biggest challenge was distributing the garbage cans. “To all the homeowners in town, there are probably about 6,000 residents, and we had to distribute all these cans, each is serial numbered and had to go to a specific house. That was the biggest thing going with the automated system. Other than that, it’s worked very well. It saves us time in the field. We get to our runs quicker, we’re not dealing with as many employee injuries, our injuries have dropped dramatically since we’ve gone with the one-arm bandits.”
So, Quinn and the DPW are hard at work, all the time. Be sure to give them a hearty ‘thank you’ next time.