When the Roman Holiday dropped anchor on the Coosa River April 30 and called for help there was a city department that launched a boat to help retrieve the students on the riverboat who are not necessarily first responders but were on the scene just as quickly.
The Streets & Drainage Department, a part of the City of Rome Public Works Division, took their boat to aid in ferrying the Glennwood Primary second graders back up the river.
After everyone else left the scene the department was also responsible for bringing the Roman Holiday back up the Coosa River, said Chad Hampton street department director.
Hampton said the department wears a bunch of different hats including assisting first responders and other departments in the city government. A day for the street department could be clearing fallen trees for first responders or setting up a stage for a festival he said.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said.
Margaret Hollingsworth, office manager of the Public Works Division, has spent 23 years in the department and said she has witnessed the street department put in long hours helping maintain sever weather and other crisis.
Hollingsworth wrote a letter to the editor, which ran in Sunday’s edition of the Rome News Tribune, outlined how the street department is usually on the scene just as often as first responders.
In the blizzard of 1993 public works crews spent the night in government buildings after clearing city roads during the day she said. Most recently during heavy rains this past year the members of the department repaired a portion of the Heritage Trail System that had collapsed from the rain.
Hampton said the department oversees 268 miles of roadway within the city limits and not only does road maintenance but also sees to picking up litter as well cutting the grass along roadways.
Crews try to address potholes as soon as possible. However road issues on state routes including Turner McCall Boulevard, Shorter Avenue and Second Avenue fall to the Georgia Department of Transportation to maintain.
The department also handles all non-park trail maintenance and handled repairing and clearing portions of the Heritage Trails along the Oostanaula River after extended heavy rains earlier this year. The street department also pulled the Roman Holiday out of the river and parked it on top of the levee when heavy rains are expected Hampton said.
According to Hollingsworth, May 19 – May 25 is National Public Works Week with the motto “It starts here” to symbolize the gamut of responsibilities public works crews actually take on.
City Manager Sammy Rich said street department employees are what he calls the city’s universal soldiers.
“I’m very proud of them and all our city employees,” Rich said.