February 9, 2023
• The Needham Department of Public Works held a public forum to share information on projects with the community. They also took time to address the concerns a Needham resident rose about water main construction work, and the environment.
reported by Yuxiao Yuan
During the public comment session of the Select Board meeting on January 10th, Needham resident Dave Sherman talked about how uncomfortable he felt about construction work being done on Central Avenue.”The road is now a mess. It used to actually be a really nice biking road and now…and now it’s not in that area. And they’ve…destroyed the fog line in an area that’s really not all that well lit. And so that’s a safety hazard.”
At Monday’s forum, after hearing the neighborhood where Sherman lives, will also be up for a water main replacement, he asked what measures DPW will take to improve the situation. DPW Assistant Director Shane Mark assured the public that this problem is on the department’s radar.
“Quite frankly,”he shared.”We could do a better job at housekeeping with our projects and what I mean by that is making sure that we’re holding our contractors and ourselves accountable with keeping the area tidy and clean access for pedestrians, those sort of things. We’ve had lots of conversations over the last few months on that moving into this construction season.”
Sherman also brought up an observation that he saw DPW vehicles idling while the workers were on break. He listed off why he found it objectionable. “What does that do? So, let’s see, it wastes the town’s money for gas, it creates more pollution, creates more climate change. Like I say, I think everybody else in the world is…is concerned about climate change.”
Mark and the DPW director Carys Lustig explained the department is working on the issue.
Responded Mark,”Other than just constant reminders to our staff about idling, we’re looking at it from a fleet perspective; adding the automatic engine shutoffs onto the vehicles so that if a vehicle is idling, it’ll shut it off automatically to help out with that. Currently most of our vehicles– the strobes on those vehicles only work if the engines are on. They don’t work if the engines are off. So if you see the strobes running, the engine has to be running. If you shut the vehicle off, the strobes won’t work. So we’re looking at different technologies there, as well.”
Carys Lustig added,”We’re working on purchasing more fuel efficient vehicles that will help when you have a hybrid engine and it switches into electric mode when you have to idle to run things like strobes on the top of the vehicle.”
“We’ve been increasing the biofuel content in our diesel and gas engines,” she continued.”[We’re] working to do it slowly so we’re not transitioning too quickly from a traditional fossil fuel over to a biofuel and not shock the engine, but finding out a mix that works well with our operation. We’re looking into moving towards more fuel efficient vehicles as the market starts to shift with some of our equipment. So, we anticipate [that] moving forward more and more of our equipment will be electric powered as opposed to gas powered.”