City breaks ground on new home for DPW

Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, Department of Public Works director Lesley Riddle, city staff and others involved in the project break ground on the new public works building. Photo by Krissi Humbard

BY KRISSI HUMBARD — Another major development project is underway in Hyattsville: The city’s Department of Public Works is finally getting a new home — one that will include working toilets. City staff, Department of Public Works (DPW) employees and a small number of residents attended a “symbolic” groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 9.

The new facility is a long time coming. Renovating the DPW facility at 4633 Arundel Place has been talked about since 2009, but was made a priority in the last few years. The building was last renovated in 1970. One DPW employee was overheard saying, “In the 28 years that I’ve been here, the only thing that has changed is the color.”

“This project is one that is easy to go under the radar,” Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said. “It’s not as forward facing as the municipal building or the police department but this facility is home to the people and the equipment that quite literally keep all of us — that’s city government, staff, residents and visitors — running every single day.”

City Administrator Tracey Nicholson said the city will be ready to start building in mid-September. Surveying has been completed, and the project is currently in the permitting phase.

“We ask a lot of the department of public works teams and the residents expect a lot of them, quite frankly,” Nicholson said. “… And so I think it’s important to give back to them, and part of the way we can show that we appreciate them is by at least giving them some conditions to work in that … meet standards, let’s say that.”

“This is such a cool project,” said DPW director Lesley Riddle. “It’s not just a building. We’re building a sustainable building, we’re building this to LEED standards, stormwater is cutting edge, we‘ve worked really hard with [primary contractor] Keller to make sure the things we are doing are sustainable [and] environmentally conscious.”

 

The new facility will be a pre-engineered metal building (PEMB), with about 16,000 square feet. It will house administrative offices for the department, which runs street maintenance and solid waste removal, maintains the city’s parks and runs the city’s maintenance operations. The new building will also house four maintenance bays. Department mechanics will be able to work on all city vehicles, and will take over maintenance of the city’s police cars.

The building will cost $3 million, but Nicholson said the city is looking for grants to help offset the cost.

The upgrade will definitely improve working conditions. During emergency situations, the staff  — about 30 people — is on call and often sleeps in the cramped building, which is less than 6,000 square feet. Riddle named off problem after problem with the current building: not enough office space, insufficient space for vehicles, small locker rooms — and the lack of a female locker room, toilets that don’t flush well.

But, she added, laughing, “It’s home. You learn to love home, even with all its [problems].”

The PEMB will be much easier to construct than a stick-and-board building, Riddle says. The foundation will take the longest, and once that is in place, the building will go up in less than three months.

The plans for the building focus on sustainability.

Riddle says the building will have solar panels on the roof, cisterns to collect stormwater off the roof, and the department is looking into recycling their oil to possibly heat the bays in the vehicle maintenance area (the department already does oil recycling for residents). The plans for the new building include “pretty significant bioretention,” Riddle says, like rain gardens and native landscaping that’s sustainable and supports the general landscaping and ecosystem. DPW is right against Northwest Branch, as well as park space and Riddle said the the department wants to integrate into that, not separate from it.

Getting a little emotional, Riddle said the project means the world to her and her staff.

“Home will become better,” Riddle said.