Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Better Know A City Employee: Tony Ashbaugh
Streets Superintendent Tony Ashbaugh is a team player. After 16 years of living in New Buffalo he "decided to come down off the bleachers and see if (he) could make a difference". On November first of last year, he went to work for the City of New Buffalo. He didn't know exactly what he had gotten himself into.
Since he was 6 years old, riding his Dad's old Ford tractor, Tony Ashbaugh has a deep love and respect for equipment and machinery. This love has served him well in his duties as streets superintendent, as his small crew of three full time street employees need to work as quickly and efficiently as possible to complete their duties.
The day officially starts at seven o'clock, but most of the crew rolls in early, sometimes as early as quarter to six. They sit around the maintenance garage and talk about what needs to be done, and at seven o'clock they go out and do it.
The list can get pretty exhausting, especially with leaf collections in the fall, snow in the winter, patching pot holes in the spring, all while supplementing trash collection, maintaining city vehicles, planting, trimming and removing trees, and that's before dealing with the storm sewers.
That's where teamwork and equipment know-how come in handy. The Street Department networks quite a bit with the Parks Deparment, particularly for snow removal. With the added responsibility of clearing the sidewalks on North Whittaker street, it's really a matter of "juggling shovels".
Which is one of the reasons the Streets Deparment is excited about the North Whittaker Street project, the proposed widening of sidewalks will allow the department to "gain a mechanical advantage" and get snow removal equipment onto downtown sidewalks.
Not to mention the advantages of an infrastructure upgrade on North Whittaker street. The storm sewers mentioned earlier have been a real thorn in the side of the department for a long time. As Tony says, "the storm sewers are in poor shape, nonexistent in some places", and the department is looking into grant opportunities to upgrade the system.
Right now a lot of the work involves clearing out brush and debris so that rainwater can flow through the system and back out to the lake. Unfortunately there have been clogs and collapses which must be dealt with. As Tony says, "we had some knowledge about how bad they were, but we're now really learning how bad they are", and there is still a lot the department doesn't know about the system. A recently acquired grant has helped fund an ongoing investigation to come up with long-term solutions for the city's storm sewers.
As for wants and wish lists, it's no surprise that machinery comes near the top of the list. A "Toolcat" made by Melroe-Bobcat has been requested by the department. With up to thirty to forty attachments it is well suited for a multitude of street department needs, a snow blower for the streets and sidewalks, a front mounted broom for cleaning sidewalks, and a street sweeper which will help keep the storm sewers and grates clean.
In terms of new projects, the department has a lot on its plate. Continuing with asphalt and paving for streets is always a high priority. The department is also looking at different ways to fund building new sidewalks as well as replacing and updating existing sidewalks. A joint effort with the Parks Department to develop a program of reforestation in the city, so that new trees are being planted into city ground.
Though he's had his struggles, in the end Tony has enjoyed his time as Parks Superintendent. As he says, I like working with the guys that work with me. I like working with the other department heads and being able to make their jobs easier when we're called upon. And I like working with the public, being able to answer somebody's call and help in a small scope of life, if a trees across their driveway, or a huge pothole. I enjoy helping people."