COLD LAKE – During the City of Cold Lake’s regular council meeting last Tuesday, Council members accepted the 2021 National Public Works Week award on behalf or the publice works department after winning the Canadian Public Works Association’s (CPWA) annual contest.
“National Public Works Week is a great way to increase public awareness about the critical role that public works plays in delivering important services to our communities,” said CPWA President Patty Podoborozny. “Cold Lake’s week-long celebration of public works engaged students and residents in learning more about the services that public works provides and how central these services are to Canadians.”
During National Public Works Week, thousands of municipal workers across North America who provide and maintain the public infrastructure and services are recongnized for the work they do.
Cold Lake’s week-long celebration competed for the CPWA award with other Canadian municipalities with populations under 25,000. Due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic, Cold Lake hosted a ‘Spirit Week’ filled with activities, challenges and prizes for the annual awareness campaign.
The City’s Public Works Week included the 5th annual “Raise the Flag” ceremony where Mayor Copeland recognized May 16 – 22, 2021 as National Public Works Week. Events organized by the public works committee included a food drive to support the Cold Lake Food Bank, a community clean-up, and a Compost Days program.
Activities organized for the week included Paint the Plow and Sketch a Shelter, where particiants designed posters that could be placed in empty ad space in the City’s transit shelters.
The department also held a ‘Name the Sweeper Contest,’ which was launched in April to name the city’s new street sweeper. Three finalists were chosen from 63 submissions, in the end all three sweepers in the fleet were named from the submissions. The names selected were Sweepy Pete, DJ Dirt and Ground Sweeper Willy.
“CPWA is honoured to recognize Cold Lake’s efforts to celebrate National Public Works Week,” said Podoborozny. “Activities like Paint the Plow, Name the Sweeper, and Sketch a Shelter are not only a lot of fun, but the visibility they bring to public works will last far beyond this one week.”
When things are running smoothly the public works department typically goes unnoticed, the City's General Manager of Infrastructure Services, Azam Khan, told Lakeland This Week.
“This award means a lot, and I really mean it because my team in public works are in an environment in the City where usually recognition and appreciation is hard to find. When things are going fine, they will just go on and assume that things will happen that way, but if they’re not then we hear only the complaints,” said Khan.
Although the City uses ‘Public Works Week’ to show off what city crews do, he says the most important aspect is recognizing the staff and the committee that work hard all year to plan public works activities.
‘Public Works Week’ also provides a much-needed change of pace for the staff said Khan. With COVID and the challenges of going through such unprecedented times, the crews never stopped collecting garbage or plowing snow.
“It gives us great pleasure that when we do all this work for the Cold Lake community and region, in a bigger sense, that we also have time to sit down, recognize what we do and appreciate our efforts. Then to get appreciated on a national or a provincial level, it's a really good way for our staff to get motivated,” he said adding, “Starting January, we will be back to brainstorm next year’s program.”
Khan noted the activities hosted during the week for youth often have a trickledown effect where parents learn from their children while participating in facility tours or events.
“Most of the people are not aware,” said Khan. “We are finding when they come to these things through their kids, everywhere they go, they get to know and have appreciation for the work happening behind the scenes and what goes on there.”
The City started participating in the National Public Works Week about 10 years ago. “Back then it was just one day in the public works yard and we slowly started expanding it to whole week, so it took time to come to where we are,” said Khan.
Cold Lake also received CPWA’s National Public Works Week award in 2016 and 2017, and has received awards from Alberta Public Works Association (APWA) in 2016, 2017, 2018, and again this year.
“So, we have a lot under our belt,” said Khan with a smile. “I'm really proud and appreciative of the work being done and it tells me that my staff are delivering top notch service levels, but also, they have time for themselves to celebrate all that work.”