Making a difference
Carbonear’s director of public works takes progressive action for department
It’s a beautiful Wednesday morning in July, and many residents of Carbonear are walking their dogs, riding their bikes and getting ready for a funfilled day with their parents and children.
Many of those who are heading to work have the option of dressing for the weather to remain in comfort throughout the day, but not Brian O’Grady.
As the director of operations and public works with the town, O’Grady is required to often wear heavy coveralls, even in the sweltering heat of summer. He is responsible for the entire town’s water supply, roads and sewer systems, among other things, so he frequently has to climb into ravines or climb into holes to see a leaking sewer drain.
Even though some days he wishes he was on the golf course with his friends or soaking up the sun in California with his wife Nina, managing the town’s work yard has to be done and those who know him well say O’Grady is just the man to do it.
In February 2008 O’Grady, who was born and raised in Carbonear, began his career with the town and, in only five years, is arguably one of the most productive public works department supervisors the town has ever seen.
In the short period of time, he has created an inventory control system in the works yard, regulations for maintenance of equipment and has maintained financial control over his department with the utmost success.
But as a modest man, O’Grady does not take all the credit, noting town administrator Cynthia Davis and the council have a large say in what happens.
“Myself and Cynthia have worked together to put a plan in place for a projection on where we wanted to go,” he says.
The first issue that O’Grady faced was unreliable equipment — three dump trucks. On many occasions the “archaic” vehicles would constantly break down and roll when parked on hills. He determined the risk was too great for employees and town residents.
In his initial assessment, O’Grady pulled the invoices for maintenance from the previous four years and did a cost analysis to determine if there was a better way to ensure the dump trucks could stay operational.
“I quickly established that we could buy two new trucks, make the payments, and have good reliable equipment for less than we’re paying to maintain the old equipment,” he explains.
When the trucks were purchased, other equipment followed with the same process.
Since then the department has seen many new pieces of equipment, including a new backhoe, a wood chipper and an asphalt recycler. He has even helped towards the purchase of new vehicles for the fire department.
Davis says O’Grady’s department has been responsible for some $10-million worth of roads, bridges, water/sewer and building renovation projects over the past five years, while $1.7-million has been for replacement equipment.
He was also a driving force behind a new crosswalk that was erected in April and is currently working to create green spaces across the town.
“After a couple of years on the job, Cynthia and I did some research from other towns across the country, and developed an equipment replacement policy,” O’Grady says, not- ing they would evaluate a vehicle after so many hours of driving or kilometres and get replaced if needed.
There are also rules in place for equipment operators to help keep the vehicles maintained and clean, including not wearing dirty coveralls or smoking in the machines.
So far, O’Grady says, the staff has been very compliant to the new regulations, and the equipment is being respected.
Even though many people in the town have seen a positive change, O’Grady admits he still has criticism from some residents.
“I have been given a hard time over the purchase of my Jeep,” he acknowledges.
Last year O’Grady gave his 2010 truck to the works department and had it replaced with a 2012 vehicle.
“Some taxpayers said I didn’t need the vehicle, but what some don’t know is the department needed a truck. I had a truck,” he explains. “The tenders for a new truck came in and they were high. I offered my truck in exchange for a smaller vehicle at a lower cost.”
Even though some people have been criticizing O’Grady, he still remains positive.
“Not everybody is going to like me,” he says. “But I still have a job to do.”
Workers like the changes
The consensus around the work yard appears to be positive towards O’Grady’s leadership.
Senior staff member and heavy equipment operator Brent Sweeney has been employed with the town for 20 years. He has seen many changes over this time, but believes O’Grady has definitely stepped up to the plate to help the work yard become effi- cient and resourceful.
“Brian has helped get necessary equipment for us operators,” Sweeney explains. “We no longer have to worry about getting to the yard and not having equipment because it is held up waiting for repairs.”
The 15 workers that O’Grady is responsible for can be quite the jokers, according to Sweeney, but they respect their supervisor, and try to not cause too much trouble when he is around.
“I can dish it out pretty quick, too,” O’Grady responds, but says it speaks volumes that they respect him.
The Town of Carbonear hired Brian O’Grady five years ago as the director of operations and public works and he has been praised by many for the work he has done with water, sewer and road upgrades and new equipment purchases.