Chris Bouchard, MHA President 2020 – 2021
I hope this letter finds everyone well and healthy during these uncertain times. A year ago if you asked me, “what do you think the biggest challenge will be in your career,” I can assure you that a pandemic would not have been on the list. WOW! The pandemic has added a whole new set of challenges to the work day, including daily health certifications, masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting, social distancing and more, and that’s all before we tackle all of the normal things crews need to go to work.
I want to take a moment to thank all of the DPW staff in our cities and towns for everything that you have endured and adapted to during COVID19. It has been more challenging to complete the important work that we do such as trash / recycling, water, sewer, power, highway, parks, facilities, fleet maintenance and more, with less time and possibly reduced staff. We have a whole new set of guidelines to adhere to, while trying to stay safe from an invisible problem without a definitive fixed solution. Thank you to you and your staff for being on the front lines every day and adapting to something we could have never prepared for.
Let’s not lose sight of the importance of infrastructure through the challenges of the pandemic. Now is the time to start thinking about how we can encourage and show our Legislators and Elected officials how important an increase to funding and a multiyear Chapter 90 Bond Bill will be in continuing to stabilize our economy. The State will always have some financial reason why they say they can’t increase funding over multiple years, but it is important to point out that Chapter 90 gets spent with LOCAL IN-STATE BUSINESSES that employ RESIDENTS / TAXPAYERS. This will be spent repairing the 80 percent of the road miles of infrastructure that the Cities and Towns are tasked to maintain, resulting in improved infrastructure, jobs, and tax revenue all retained in our state. This is the true way to spur our own economy in Massachusetts. We also must stress the importance of a timely release of the funds so that we may bid and award contracts early in the spring, working within the short weather window that we have in Massachusetts to get quality work completed.
We have been working hard to develop a platform to request mutual aid for Cities and Towns – please keep an eye out for emails and check the http://masshwy.org/ website for updates and information pertaining to how the mutual aid will work and when it will be officially rolled out.
It is hard to believe that we have lost a year’s worth of workshops, meetings, golf events and the expo. While we are doing our best to maintain connections through remote meetings, the lack of in-person events has caused us to lose that peer interaction that is so helpful and beneficial to us. I encourage everyone to reach out to your neighboring communities and stay in touch with your peers; it is all too easy to get wrapped up in the day to day challenges we are all facing today. Talk about how it is going and how are they doing; sharing ideas about specific challenges may lead to solutions where you never thought you would find them.
The good news is, although the vast majority of 2020 has seemed like a snow storm that that just never ends, the lessons of strength, innovation, resilience and adapting to challenges we never could have imagined is why we are PUBLIC WORKS STRONG. We WILL get through this TOGETHER! Stay safe and healthy.
Christopher J. Bouchard