Progress 2023: Jemison maintenance department keeps city going 24/7
Published 3:27 pm Monday, March 13, 2023
Editor’s note: This article originally published in “Progress 2023: Behind the Scenes.” Copies are available at The Clanton Advertiser office, 1109 Seventh St. N in Clanton.
STORY BY JOYANNA LOVE
A visit to Jemison city park shows major changes in the last year, while many residents have likely enjoyed the upgrades, they may not know the group of hardworking employees that have made it possible.
The City of Jemison Maintenance Department completed phase one of the park upgrades last year and will be continuing this year.
Phase one included removing debris, planting flowers, dirt work, laying sod and installing a prominent artistic sign. The dirt work addressed areas in the park that had become swamp like. Employees said they worked on it as they could around other time sensitive work for several months, starting in February 2022.
Superintendent Steve Langston, who has been in his position since 2014, said work on Phase 2 began in January 2023. This phase will focus on the back half of the property adding landscaping and other beautification efforts.
Employee Devon Denson of Clanton said he is proud of the work the department has done at the park.
However, the scope of the department’s service to the city goes beyond the aesthetic. The crew also maintains the city streets, fixes leaks in the water system,
works on sewer system issues and handles lawncare and litter pickup for the city.
“Other than police and fire and the (governmental) office, most of the other stuff falls under his roof,” Langston said.
Maintaining the roads also includes replacing road signs and traffic lights.
The department is on call 24/7 to address water and sewer issues.
Jimmie Porter, who has been with the department for five years, is Alabama Department of Environmental Management certified to meet the requirements for the department to maintain the water system.
“We don’t pump water,” Porter said. “We buy and distribute.”
The city purchases its water from Thorsby.
Porter initially heard about the opportunity to work for the department from Mayor Eddie Reed while attending a class reunion at city hall. The job had an appeal to Porter as a way to work closer to home.
“It’s a good job,” Porter said. “It’s a good living.”
Porter continued to live in
Jemison after high school graduation because “it was centrally located between Montgomery and Birmingham.” He had several jobs in his career working out-of-town, but “I didn’t like working out of town.”
To become ADEM certified, Porter had to attend training and log hours of experience before taking the test. As the only one in the department with this certification, Porter also attends continuing education classes.
A typical day for Porter starts with making sure all of the work orders are being addressed and getting the different teams assigned to the tasks.
“Every utility is on call 24/7,” Porter said.
On New Year’s Eve one year, the crews were called into work in the middle of the night because lightning had hit a water tank. Porter said in emergencies like this anyone that works for the department and lives close by is called in to assist.
Employee Robert Smith, who grew up in Jemison, works a lot with the water department.
“I run equipment and drive a dump truck too,” Smith said.
He has been with the department for two years.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Smith said.
Fixing water leaks and changing out old water meters is a frequent part of the job. Maintaining the sewer system has been contracted out.
Many in the department heard about opportunities that were open through community leaders they knew.
Smith said Reed, who is also Smith’s former teacher, mentioned an opening when they were talking in a store. He had been working at a quarry with bulldozers and trackhoes.
“He (the mayor) wanted somebody to come … on board that knew how to run equipment … to run waterlines,” Smith said. “I’ve done that before, and he kind of caught me at the right time because I was working nights, and I wanted on days.”
Smith also had the additional experience of having a CDL and certification in electrical work.
The job was also an opportunity to work close to home.
Smith said he has enjoyed that the department is “family-oriented and laid back.”
Similarly, Denson, who has worked with the department for two years,
heard about an opening from City Administrator Shannon Welch. He said he enjoys the job because it is “family-oriented (with) good benefits.”
Andrew Riley, who holds a CDL, heard about a job opening from friends that were already working there. He enjoys that the job is “close to home and a bunch of good guys to work with, talking and joking around a lot.”
“We all work together good, and I like the guys I work with,” Luvert Caver of Clanton, who has been with the department for about seven years, said.
While most of his job is keeping the roadways free of litter and debris, he also helps out when needed in all aspects of the department’s work.
Smith said he really likes the people he works with, and the team communicates well with one another.
Originally from Deatsville, Riley moved to Jemison a few years ago and said he has found it to be “a nice place to live.”
The position has also been an education opportunity for Riley as he has learned about water and sewer systems and how to work on and install the equipment.
“The guys taught me how to do a lot of that,” Riley said.
Safety is an important element for each thing the department does.
“When we are on the roadside, we put our road signs out, have flagmen,” Smith said. “We always join in together and make everything safe. If we are digging a watermain, we block that side of the road off, and run our lights (on the trucks) constantly.”
What the department is working on also changes with the seasons. Summers keep the maintenance employees busy keeping the grass on city property and the road right-of-way cut. Frequent breaks are taken in the air-conditioned vehicle as a safety precaution. Hydration is also emphasized. A transformation takes place for Jemison each November when the workers become special agents of Christmas cheer decorating the town in time for the annual tree lighting ceremony. Riley said it takes about a month to get
everything in place. Festive lights line the streets and the city’s official tree stands tall outside city hall. Just putting the tree up takes about four days.
Whether its keeping the roadways free of litter or ensuring that residents can take a hot shower, Jemison depends on its city maintenance department.