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.

Up­dat­ing in­ven­tory

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.

Im­ple­ment­ing rules

“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.

Some crit­i­cism

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.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins

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.

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