Reading, MA — On this day in 1921, the Board of Public Works, now known as the Department of Public Works, was founded in the town of Reading. On Monday morning at 8 am, town leaders and Department of Public Works staff commemorated this historic occasion with a small outside gathering at the DPW Garage. In attendance were Town Manager Bob LeLacheur, several Town Department heads, neighboring Public Works Directors, and members of the DPW staff. Attendees celebrated the DPW by listening to a brief history on the Board of Public Works and the Public Works Department and raising the Public Works First Responders flag.
Founded on April 26th, 1921, the Board of Public Works was the first governing body that consolidated the Reading Water Company, the Sewer Department, the newly created Park Commissioners, the Tree and Moth Department (now the Forestry Division), the Cemetery Department, and the Highway Department (which at the time was under the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen), under the newly established Department of Public Works for the Town of Reading. At the time of its inception, the Board of Public Works consisted of George H. Clough serving as Chairman, Clarence C. White as Secretary, and Frederick W. Allen, Charles Van Stone, and John W. Owen serving as Board members.
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The Board of Public Works met until June 30, 1985, at which time its governing body oversight was relinquished to the Select Board under the new Town Home Rule Charter.
Operating at a much smaller capacity and serving the town’s population of 7,424 residents, this first DPW was far different than our understanding of the department today.
“In 1921, there were no paved streets in Reading, so the only challenges with road maintenance included managing dust in the Summer and mud in the Winter and Spring. The total Snow and Ice expenditures for the winter of 1921 was $10, and in the Summer, 41,000 gallons of oil were spread on the roads for dust control. By the mid-1930s, a landfill was built where Home Depot currently resides, and at one time Reading even performed its own rubbish collection, along with having its own incinerator,” said Director of Public Works Jane Kinsella in an interview with The Reading Post.
Today, the DPW employs a total workforce of 60 and encompasses eight divisions in the areas of Administrative Services, Engineering, Highway/Equipment Maintenance, Stormwater, Parks/Forestry, Cemetery, Water, and Sewer.
“These Divisions are responsible for the maintenance and oversight of (100) miles of roads, about (270) miles of sub-surface utilities, (80) acres of grassed area, (51) acres of Cemetery grounds as well as all repairs and maintenance services for over 200 pieces of equipment for Police, Fire, Schools, Facilities, Council on Aging, and Public Works,” said Kinsella.
For residents looking to get involved with the DPW, Kinsella says there are a myriad of different opportunities.
“Residents looking for ways to support the Department of Public Works should explore the many volunteer opportunities over the course of the year with the Department’s Town Forest sub-committee and Trails sub-committee. Furthermore, by using the Town’s See-Click-Fix online portal, residents have the ability to take a proactive approach and report public works related issues around the town such as potholes, downed tree limbs, and water/sewer/stormwater issues,” said Kinsella.
For residents looking to get involved with the department in a more permanent capacity, Kinsella suggests looking into their employment opportunities.
“In addition to periodic full-time employment opportunities, the Department also has periodic seasonal employment opportunities as well, within one of its many Divisions. Available employment opportunities can be found on the Town’s Human Resources Division webpage,” said Kinsella.