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Stories of Service

Posted on: September 17, 2019

Community Services: All in a Day's Work

3 workers in heavy jackets hunch over a trench where concrete is being poured

Community Services puts heart and soul into Allen’s “dirty jobs.”

There are dozens of job titles in Allen’s Community Services department. Water Foreman. Pump Station Operator. Fleet Coordinator. Lead Custodian. But to succeed at any one of them, Director Steve Massey believes you must be part mechanic, part magician.

“We try to fly below the radar,” said Massey. “We want citizens to turn on the faucet, flush the toilet, take out the trash and drive down the street without our work ever crossing their minds.”

It takes over 100 city staff to maintain vital services such as water, wastewater, trash and roads. Massey calls them the “heartbeat crews.” Without them, Allen would look less like a modern city and more like a medieval village: trash and excrement flowing into the streets, water undrinkable due to disease, the community paralyzed by after floods and droughts.

Instead, Massey and his team push for smart solutions to prevent problems, save money and keep Allen clean. In 2018, the department added a new position aimed at helping Allen businesses properly manage their waste. Since then, reports of leaky dumpsters and irresponsible recycling have all but disappeared. When persistent high water made drivers wary of crossing certain roads, they deployed a crew to level the streets by pumping high-tech foam beneath the concrete. Crew leaders gather water samples and run tests on purity and cleanliness inside the City’s mobile lab. A new valve and hydrant team uses a device to condition thousands of water mechanisms citywide, preventing costly breaks and freezes.

Because the City makes maintaining its infrastructure priority, Allen citizens are spared the cavernous potholes, frightening boil water notices and constant water main breaks of other aging cities. This work is especially apparent in places like Hillside Village. There, a $4 million rehab project is underway to replace aged, fragile and leaky clay tile sewer mains with durable PVC. Once completed, streets will receive a fresh surfacing to make all evidence of work disappear.

“It’s eliminating issues joint by joint,” said Massey. “We’ll all be in the ground before it fails again!”

Massey’s staff also fields questions and concerns about everything from leaky water meters to missed trash collection.

“Any service you provide to 100,000 people is bound to hit a bump or two, but we’ve empowered our employees to solve those problems—and solve them quickly,” said Massey.

Sometimes the response is so speedy, it leaves residents stunned.

I found a leak in my water meter and called for help at 4 p.m. on Friday, wrote one Allen resident in an email to Massey. I fully expected them to come on Monday. [Instead] they showed up in less than 15 minutes and fixed the problem in the same time. It’s the kind of service I’ve forgotten once existed.

To which Massey’s crews can proudly say, Ta-da.

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