LITTLE VALLEY - Most people have no problem taking care of one or two automobiles which require preventive maintenance, repairs, and fuel. However, what do you do when you own and operate more than 600 vehicles? For Cattaraugus County's Department of Public Works, the answer to this question is very simple - hire qualified employees with extensive training and experience in auto/diesel mechanics; and the ability to work on other equipment used in County operations.
DPW's repair facility was designed with specific amenities to increase the facility's usefulness, productivity, and operational effectiveness. "It allows our team to tackle any repair from changing tires on a mid-size sedan to replacing the transmission on a tandem-axle dump truck," said fleet superintendent Dan Keller. "In addition, the garage boasts a parts department, fabrication shop, and a sandblast/paint booth area. Basically, we can do almost everything in-house, which saves time and money and decreases down-time."
Located just outside the garage is a fuel service depot and car wash, both of which are used by outside agencies and municipalities as well. DPW also operates four other fuel depots within the county and includes Salamanca, Randolph, Allegany and Franklinville. Fuel service is currently provided to three towns, three villages, four school districts, three fire districts, and three service agencies.
Standing in front of refuse collection truck and motorized broom/sweeper are DPW’s Fleet Maintenance Team. Pictured, from left, are Chuck Taylor, Corey Light, Howard Andrews, Scott Holman, Mark Shaw, Jeff Harrison, Lisa Coles, George Hostuttler, Paul Stang, Kirk Liskow, Connie Drozd, Tony Riehle, Pete Poole, Dan Keller. Not pictured is Nicole Verhagen.
DPW has a team of men and women who each have a role in keeping the rolling stock operating safely, efficiently and effectively. This team includes mechanics, fleet oversight, parts room, fabrication shop and administration. Besides working on light duty vehicles like sedans and pick-up trucks, the county also owns some specialty equipment that's designed for very specific applications, such as a trench compactor and road paver.
"I enjoy the challenge of determining the problem and fixing it right the first time. In the end, it's all about customer service, said DPW auto mechanic Tony Riehle. "I enjoyed Tonka Toys as a kid and now I get to work on the real thing." Prior to working at DPW, Riehle served as a mechanic for eight years in the U.S. Army. He has been with the county for 23 years.
DPW's facility is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with off-hours work being done for emergency repairs. There are two types of work orders: scheduled (routine maintenance) and non-scheduled (emergent). For scheduled maintenance, the vehicle's mileage or hours of operation are used to signal the shop to schedule it for routine maintenance. A work order is prepared that includes the work to be done and the parts needed. A mechanic receives the work order and takes it to the parts room. If the needed parts are not in inventory, calls will be made to obtain the right parts at the best possible price.
"We are directly involved in getting equipment in and out the door in a timely manner," said parts room manager Mark Shaw. "Being directly involved in a major department operation creates an opportunity for innovation. We continue to work closely with supervisors and those in the field to improve operations, extend equipment life, and increase safety."
For emergency work, a call is made to the garage requesting a specific repair. A mechanic is pulled off of a routine maintenance job that will not affect DPW's productivity or job completion. The work order is given to this mechanic who follows the scheduled work order process.
Stores Clerk (parts room) Connie Drozd, enjoys the challenges of finding the right part for the right price, especially for emergent work. "It's a new experience everyday. We know what needs to be done and we do it." Of course, working with so many people also makes the job enjoyable. "We interact with at least 100 people daily, from employees to vendors. Although it can be trying to keep things straight, it's all part of the challenge we thrive on."
Last year, the Fleet Maintenance Team completed a total of 1,975 work orders, in which less than half were for routine services (879 routine and 1,096 emergent). It took a total of 12,772.76 hours for the team to complete both types of work orders.
"It is certainly a team effort," said fabrication shop supervisor Corey Light. "We work together to improve safety, and make our operations more efficient." Recently, Light worked with his fellow colleagues on an issue that involved the breaking of plow lift chains. "We were able to redesign these lifts in-house, which made them safer and more stable for our drivers. And, it saved the county money as well."
"Sometimes, we have to be an auto mechanic and a scientist in order to solve a problem," said diesel mechanic/driver Paul Stang. "The old saying is right, two heads are better then one. I always try to include my colleagues in my repair work." Stang continued: "It's something I've always done no matter where I've worked. The idea is to share information and repair experiences with each other. Basically, we are cross-teaching each other through actual hands-on experiences. There is no better way to learn then using real repair problems on the job."
DPW is responsible for vehicles that touch the lives of everyone in Cattaraugus County. These vehicles are used to maintain roadways, patrol streets, and work with seniors, veterans, and those in need of assistance. They must be fixed right.
Auto mechanics Howard Andrews and Chuck Taylor get to provide their other talent to DPW's garage operation. Besides repairing vehicles and equipment, they also paints equipment and vehicles including dump bodies, garbage compactors, refuse containers, and police cars. "Painting is not just about making something look better, said Andrews. "It's about extending the life of that piece of equipment, which ultimately saves the county money. Knowing that my painting has a positive impact on our operations gives me a sense of pride."
"For me, it's all about taking something apart, finding the problem, and rebuilding it to perform even better," said diesel mechanic/driver Kurt Liskow. "You get a sense of satisfaction when you take something that's broken and make it work like new again. That's what makes this job all worthwhile."
Someone once said: "When there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved." Teamwork and collaboration among employees, mechanics, parts room, fabrication shop, and administration helps to keep 600 pieces of rolling stock working throughout the county.
The Cattaraugus County Department of Public Works was created in 1985 by the Cattaraugus County Legislature to consolidate the operations of the Highway, Refuse, and Buildings and Grounds divisions. It is devoted to the maintenance of the 398 miles of road, 265 bridges, 252 culverts and 466 drainage structures under County jurisdiction.