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Proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Testimony of
Christopher Geldart Director, Department of Public Works

Before the
Committee on Transportation and the Environment Mary Cheh, Chairperson
Council of the District of Columbia

May 21, 2020
9:00 a.m.
Virtual Meeting Platform Washington, DC

 

Introduction

Good morning, Chairperson Cheh and members and staff of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment. I am Christopher Geldart, Director of the Department of Public Works (DPW).

With me today are DPW’s Deputy Director, Michael Carter; General Counsel, Christine Davis; Chief Administrative Officer, Anthony Crispino and Agency Fiscal Officer, Perry Fitzpatrick. On behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the Mayor’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 proposed budget for the Department.

I want to thank Mayor Bowser, City Administrator Rashad Young and Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure Lucinda Babers for providing DPW the support needed to deliver the highest quality services to the residents of the District of Columbia.

 

Proposed FY 2021 Operating Budget

DPW’s proposed FY 2021 operating budget of $190,626,006.38, 1,479.0 FTEs and $122,472,000 capital budget reflect priorities Mayor Bowser cited earlier this week, including:

Maintaining core government functions that focus on the health, well-being and safety of DC residents and businesses;
Maintaining stability for the District government workforce; and
Not losing ground on key District values: health, opportunity, prosperity and equity.

Since the coronavirus, or COVID-19, appeared in the District, the sound of DPW trash trucks driving through our neighborhoods gives residents a sense of normalcy in a time of uncertainty.

Trash, recycling and public litter can collections are among the core sanitation services DPW continues to provide as our government leaders address the tragic results of COVID-19 and work to restore our thriving economy.

Our Parking Enforcement Officers and tow crane operators continue to support public safety, our mechanics and inspectors are keeping District government agencies moving, and the Office of Waste Diversion is facilitating food waste drop-offs to help recapture residential food waste and turn it into compost.

Briefly, I would like to cite how the agency, and more importantly its employees, has responded to the unforeseen circumstances arising from the pandemic:

We built out the rooms at the District’s alternative care site within the Convention Center; We stood up two strategic supply warehouses;
We provided personnel, trucks, forklifts and other equipment to support the District’s COVID response operations;

We swiftly acquired personal protective equipment, sanitizer and disinfectant;

We provided impact suppression vehicles and parking enforcement resources to support social distancing at the request of the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Park Service;
We installed hand washing stations at Department sites;

We shared our expertise wherever needed to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

All DPW employees are identified as essential because of our role in responding to natural disasters and manmade emergencies. Their performance during this pandemic has shown just how valuable their work is to ensuring the vitality of the District.

I also want to note that 68 percent of DPW employees are District residents, which means the proposed budget will help to support their ability to build strong families committed to the growth of the city. I am humbled by their talent.

Now, I would like to highlight some aspects of our proposed operating budget and its priorities for FY 2021. This budget reflects a 1.7 percent increase over the approved FY 2020 budget, which gives DPW the means to fulfill its duties to residents and businesses at the same level as FY20.

For additional detail, I will start with our Parking Enforcement Management Administration (PEMA), which protects public health and safety by:

Managing access to curbside parking along our commercial corridors and neighborhood streets through its enforcement authority; and
Removing dangerous and abandoned vehicles from public and private property.

The proposed PEMA budget will allow DPW to continue to support the Mayor’s Vision Zero goals.

The Solid Waste Management Administration (SWMA), performs our sanitation-related responsibilities.

The proposed SWMA budget includes a $4 million increase for Solid Waste Disposal to manage the additional cost of disposing of waste collected by DPW as well as other private entities that use our two transfer stations.

This increase is a result of increased tonnage of refuse along with increased costs of disposing of refuse and trash. Additionally, there is an increase in revenue as a result of increased tipping fees.

Despite the financial ramifications of COVID-19, the overall proposed SWMA budget for FY21 will allow the agency to keep the level of services provided to residents on par with the current fiscal year. DPW remains committed to finding ways to improve efficiency and upgrade technology within the proposed funding levels.

The proposed budget for the Fleet Management Administration, which acquires, maintains, fuels and disposes of the District’s fleet, includes an additional $988,000 for vehicle and equipment acquisition and $290,000 for unscheduled vehicle and equipment repairs for a total increase of $1.2 million over FY20.

We have devoted considerable effort to better manage our fleet, especially through investing in alternative-fuel vehicles and rotating out older vehicles after their full value has been realized.

Finally, I would like to address a topic we didn’t have to address this fiscal year – snow. Thanks to Mother Nature, we were able to complete our leaf and holiday tree collection season without any interruptions resulting from snow response operations.

Yes, we enjoyed having only .6 inches of snow, and I want to express the appreciation of everyone on the District Snow Team for Mayor Bowser’s support for the snow program in the proposed FY 2021 budget. While proposed funding is about $1.2 million less than this year’s, it is adequate to handle a more normal snow season.

Proposed FY 2021 Capital Budget

Now, I would like to address our proposed FY 2021- FY 2026 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which totals $122,472,000 and is a 2.3 percent increase over the previous CIP period.

The CIP’s objectives are to ensure DPW fleet equipment will be available for our core services and maintain replacement cycles to maximize cost savings on fleet maintenance. Additionally, the capital plan provides for safe and clean facilities for DPW employees to perform our core duties.

As City Administrator Young explained this week, capital projects had to meet certain criteria to stay in the budget. Projects were cut if they were not ready to go forward or if they had not maintained their timelines for completion. I am happy to report that DPW’s capital projects met these criteria and were not cut.

Our capital projects are as follows:

a. Benning Road Transfer Station Modernization. The six-year budget total is $29,586,000, including $2.9 million in FY21, to support short-term improvements. These improvements include, but are not limited to, repairs to the transfer station’s tipping floor and upgrading the stormwater management system. Modernization efforts at Benning Road will enable the District to process additional tonnage due to population growth and any increase resulting from the closure of the W Street Transfer Station, which is a privately-owned facility.

b. Fleet Vehicle Acquisitions.

(Under $50,000); six-year total is $8,294,000, including $3.1 million in FY21, to fund the needed DPW vehicle replacements for fleet vehicles, including pick-up trucks with plows, crew cab trucks, vans, sedans, and similar vehicles to be used for public safety and sanitation services.

($50,000 - $100,000); six-year total is $10,688,000, including $3.5 million in FY21. These vehicles include small refuse trucks, small street sweepers, and similar vehicle types.

($100,000 - $275,000); six-year total is $56,754,000, including $20.5 million in FY21. These vehicles include medium-sized loaders and backhoes, refuse trucks, and street sweepers.

(Over $275,000); six-year total is $11,130,000, including $3.6 million in FY21. These vehicles include heavy-duty loaders and backhoes, refuse and cargo trucks, and large street sweepers.

c. Electrical Charging Stations. The six-year budget total is $1,000,000, including $500,000 in FY21. The project encompasses installing 50 new electric charging stations per year at District agencies facilities. The cost of per station is $10,000. Station location will coincide with those District agencies that purchase of electric vehicles. As you may be aware, purchasing electric vehicles for the District's fleet is projected to reduce fueling costs by 50 percent, per vehicle.

  1. Fort Totten Trash Transfer Station. The proposed funding for FY21 is $4,100,000. The project will allow DPW to continue to replace the existing tipping floor with new steel rebar and high strength concrete. The existing floor has exceeded its useful life from daily wear and tear and needs to be replaced. Replacement is required to maintain the structural integrity of the facility. The tipping floor was last resurfaced in 2003. The life span of a transfer station tipping floor is typically five to 10 years, depending on the material type and throughput.

  2. Transfer Station Grappler Replacement. The six-year budget total for this project is $920,000, including $420,000 in FY21. This funding is necessary to acquire six new grapplers over a three-year period. Each of the District’s two transfer stations utilizes three grapplers to load trash and recycling materials into hauling trailers. New grapplers will ensure continuous and efficient loading of waste materials while creating a safe environment for employees. The grapplers currently in use have either exceeded their life expectancy or are approaching the end of their usefulness. They will need to be replaced within the next four years. It is important to note that over the year there have not been more than four working grapplers at a time between the transfer stations.

Conclusion

I appreciate this opportunity to present Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY 2021 operating and capital budgets for the Department of Public Works. I will be happy to respond to your questions.