Town Public Works ingenuity benefits taxpayers

This is a view of the new handicapped access ramp public works crew members built to replace a well-worn one at the Hillsville Police Department building. Crews handled the entire process from the tear down, design and research to make the ramp comply with State and Federal codes.

Hillsville Public Works crew members Vic Swaim (standing) and Anthony Snow brainstorm how best to solve an issue with gate hinges. Crews replaced a well worn ramp behind the police department for around $3,000 including landscaping and concrete work at a savings to citizens.

The three wooden insets shown are an example of how town crews wanted to make a new handicapped access ramp’s lines more pleasing to the eye. The new structure also meets new State and Federal codes and is safer than the older one which was steep and prone to be covered in ice.

Public Works crew members Vic Swaim (left) and Anthony Snow spearheaded the recent replacement of an access ramp behind the Hillsville Police Department at a savings to citizens. The two said pride in workmanship and knowing residents depend on them are powerful motivators for crew members.

The Hillsville Police Department’s new handicapped access ramp is a tangible reminder of what public works crews routinely accomplish daily on behalf of citizens.

Police Chief Wesley Yonce is credited with bringing the well-worn ramp replacement project to the attention of Town Engineer Steve Bowman.

Public Works staffers Anthony Snow and Vic Swaim soon spearheaded the project. Bowman said their “MacGyver-esque” zeal got the job done at less cost than contracting the new ramp out to a private firm.

“I’d say we saved the town some money because materials ran around $3,000,” said Snow. “That’s the savings on just one job. There’s a lot of things we do (such as water and sewer line repairs) people don’t see.”

Snow, who drew the plans for the new ramp, used his cell phone and computer software to determine how best to configure the ramp and meet State and Federal regulations.

They found out the old ramp was too steep to meet the new access ramp building codes. Around ten public works department employees were involved in the project, though not all at the same time. The initial tear down day held some surprises for the team.

“When we dismantled it we found out the partial framework there wasn’t holding up the flooring,” Snow said. “The center flooring was holding together the middle of the ramp.”

Swaim said he enjoyed the spirit of collaboration as crew members contributed ideas and solutions for the challenges the ramp presented. He said the team was proud of being able to come up with cost-efficient and safe ways of getting the job done.

“The (building) codes change from year to year,” said Swaim. “A lot of what’s required isn’t in concrete. You’re never too old to learn. I enjoyed working on this though. I look back and see it and say I like the way it turned out.”

Both men said the team was proud some added extras put in to make the structure more pleasing to the eye and safe. Swaim said it was solving some of the small aspects which made the job for him.

“It’s about the pride we have in it. Really, you don’t see a lot of that anymore,” Swaim said.

The two said some construction projects typically go to firms with lower bids, but disappointed homeowners wind up going back to the firm with the higher initial bid to fix problems.. Crews built the ramp in between their regular daily duties, which at best can be described as an “irregular” (feast or famine) work flow. The two said crew members often have to stop midway in a task and go on to a critical assignment.

Bowman said the cost of materials for the project ran under $3,000 with crew members designing, building, finishing and doing concrete and landscaping work in-house. In addition to hand-sanded handrail edges and some facade work to make the contours of the ramp more pleasing, the team’s “touches of inspiration” included giving the concrete paths more texture for traction using a push broom and adding stairs with a gate for use by the officers needing quicker access to their vehicles.

The two said community involvement is at the core of the pride in their work. They said the department’s goals revolve around helping people that are depending on them. Snow credited his father, Danny, with sparking his interest in construction, plumbing and electrical work. Swaim said this is a common denominator for tradesmen. He said he enjoyed the exchange of ideas to solve problems on the ramp and said one of the handiest tools the crew has is a sense of humor.

“We’re blessed to have such talented individuals in the crew,” said Bowman. “They take pride in their work. Many of the crew picked up the slack to free up others to work on the ramp.”

The three agreed one of the things education cannot replace are skilled tradesmen with the knack for their craft.

David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.