Bill Edgerton
Director, Concord Public Works

Interviewed August 18, 2006

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer

Click here for audio in .mp3 format

Bill Edgerton In talking about what Concord Public Works was like when I got here in May 1997, I was hired by Chris Whelan, Concord's Town Manager, to make Concord Public Works the best it could be, and by that I was to the take the talent within the organization and put it in sync with community values, change people if they needed to be changed to strengthen the organization, bring in new talent if we needed that. What I found was this organization was sprinkled with very good people, very professional people, people that cared for Concord. It appeared they didn't have the quality of leadership and that seemed to me to be the biggest gap, not the quality of people here in Concord Public Works. Over the last nine years, we've worked together to try to achieve Chris's goal.

There's usually not a natural constituency for public works so you need good leadership and advocacy, and Chris provided that. Schools have parents, libraries have all sorts of passionate readers, everybody's interested in being safe whether it's from fire or criminal activity, but public works is a little different. Everybody in town and the region that enters the community depends on those services whether it's water, sewer, roads, parks, playgrounds, or even their final resting place, but there isn't a natural constituency. So the role of Concord Public Works leadership is to provide that advocacy so people can understand why it makes a difference to contribute their hard earned monies and resources in the town budget to be willing to pay for rate increases if there are water or sewer customers, and get them excited about what we can do together. Concord is special in that way. It's a community that has high values and expects very high standards from its employees. That's a natural fit for us to try to achieve that together. We've done that in a lot of ways such as recycling with Ann Dorfman, teaming up with Reusit and other recycling advocates. Our water conservation program now with Joanne Bissetta is teaming up with everybody who doesn't want to waste that precious resource. Our roads and right of ways crisscross Concord's green space, the wetlands, the rivers, and we need to take good care of those resources. We need to be in sync and work with those environmental advocates. And finally everybody wants a good return on their investment, so we're working with whether it's Tony Logalbo in the Finance Department or the Finance Committee or the Public Works Commission and our own professional staff to make sure that what we've got is well planned, well organized, well designed and the implementation is cost effectively completed.

Right now the department has 52 people, men and women. Its annual operating budget is around $8 million. We've got almost $20 million going this year in capital improvements around town. The organization is broken up into two staff divisions, the administrative and the engineering division, and then two line divisions that provide the direct services which is the highway, park, cemetery division and the water and sewer division. We're supported by very good equipment. We've very good supervisory leadership so the crews know what they need to do, where they need to go, and they take a great deal of pride in getting that job done as well. So it's 52 very talented people, well served and well led, and I think with tremendous support from the community.

Enterprise fund is an accounting term that basically means in a nutshell that they are run like a business. The entire cost of service is generated by user fees, all the costs, direct and indirect, capital or operating have to be paid from those user fees. In other words, there is a bottom line. We need to have a positive bottom line at the same time be sensitive to our rate payers' needs and willingness and ability to pay. So we have in Concord for quite some time before I got here, two enterprise funds within Concord Public Works, the water fund and the sewer fund. We also have a special fund which is the solid waste fund that technically is an enterprise fund, and our cemetery fund is a mix of user fees and general fund monies. The key with the enterprise funds is that if you don't spend the monies you raise, it stays within the enterprise. It can therefore be used as financial building blocks for capital programs that might take three, four, five or ten years. They are fully audited, and the audit report goes to the Town Treasurer, Selectmen and Town Manager. One of the things we've been able to do is develop ten-year financial plans for each of our special funds, solid waste, water, wastewater, and even a five-year plan for the cemetery, so we know what we need to do relative to revenue and where that money is going to go and in what sequence and what year, whether we're going to need to borrow the money, or pay for it out of working capital. Then we can measure the results of that plan every single year.

The name Concord Public Works was my idea. From my experience in public works for over 25 years, public works too frequently are DPWs, the Department of Public Works, aren't doing their job well. People don't have a high regard for them; they don't reflect the values, the talents, the standards of the community they serve. Concord is special and I wanted to make sure that Concord Public Works was up to the task. One of the first things I did was to change from the "D" to the "C", and yes we refer to ourselves as Concord Public Works, CPW. We have caps that we give to our employees and our public works commissioners, and they wear them with pride.

When I got here in 1997, that spring we were going into a warm and dry summer, and the town's water resources was a real question whether or not our ground water wells and one surface water supply at Nagog Pond could meet the summertime demand. So we did a couple of things. One was that we put together a water conservation program and spread the word very rapidly. Actually the whole department went door to door with doorknob hangers asking people to conserve water and why. The thrust has always been to reduce outdoor irrigation that in many cases is over-watered or unnecessary. Secondly, to develop a supply program to make sure that Concord had enough water for the future. Water conservation has been the most economical source of supply so where we can get it through conservation, we don't have to put a dollar into the ground or into a new well or a new pumping station.

We actually went through 1997, and primarily through conservation did not need to have a water ban. One of our goals in Concord Public Works Water and Sewer Division is never to have a water ban. At least for the nine years I've been here, we have not had a water ban. That water conservation program has expanded. It's now comprehensive, and it's broad. We have our own water conservation coordinator that's ably led by Alan Cathcart, our Water & Sewer Superintendent and his staff. Not only is Concord using less water overall even though our customer base is increased, but per capita use has gone done from over 80 gallons per day per person to I believe 74 gallons per capita per day, and our goal is to get it down even lower. The second part which conservation couldn't give us was our water supply plan and strategy. We had two plans that were on the shelf that were bogged down with permitting. First was the Robinson Well on land on Sudbury Road that had been purchased back in the 1970s for waterdevelopment. Since the 1980s, they've been trying to get it permitted and designed. It was basically sitting there. Alan Cathcart, with the consulting team at Weston &Sampson, fast tracked that permitting process. It was arduous and it just seemed to be enormous, both federal and state issues that we had to overcome. The long and short of it, in the summer of 1999, we put up an 8 million gallon a day well on line that increased our capacity by over 20%. Anybody that wants to walk through the woods off Sudbury Road, you see sort of a Vermont cabin that fits right into the environment and that's provided very high quality water. The second supply that wasn't going anyplace was the Hugh Cargill Well that was developed in the 1960s. The state regulations to protect the groundwater around it changed and because there is nearby housing, shortly after the well was developed it could no longer provide ongoing water supply and so it was only going to be used for emergency purposes as declared by the state. The question was how could we use that source of supply which was just pure clean, top quality water without going through the whole permitting process. Alan Cathcart and his team worked together and developed what we called a distributed well process where instead of having one well, we had ten smaller wells that were circled outside the protected radius. With that design we got the DEP's approval and without going through a whole repermitting process that would have taken between three to five years, we were able to put that online in 2001. That added a half million gallons a day. So those two achievements plus active and serious conservation has helped Concord have enough quality water through the years as well as not having any bans or restrictions that many, many communities have to have.

The Robinson Well is approximately a half mile down Sudbury Road on the left off Route 2. It was actually next to land that a developer was planning to build, the DeNormandie project. That was stopped, and the town had the foresight to obtain some of that land for the water supply. The Hugh Cargill Well is on Walden Street just south of the Thoreau and Walden intersection, a small brick structure. The renovation we did actually extended and doubled the size in the back.

The recycling issue with solid waste has grown. I was fortunate to have a wonderful mentor in Wellesley where I was the program manager and then assistant public works director. Pat Bredan and I helped develop the finest drop off facility in the country. He did most of the leadership there but I was at his side trying to learn as much as I could. His breakthrough concept was that it shouldn't have to be the friends of recyling or the reusits to force thecommunity to see the importance of recycling. Recycling should be the core or the capstone strategy of proper solid waste management. So when I got here in Concord, one of the first things I did was to find the best recycling expert in the Commonwealth, and I was fortunate to be able to hire Ann Dorfman.

Concord has had a wonderful history of recycling through Reusit, Marion Thornton, Barbara Mudd, Vivian Walworth, Joan Kaufman and I'm leaving dozens and dozens of primarily women that saw the light I think way before the DPW did here. So it was a simple concept of teaming up with the advocates and then having a professionally run recycling program. Ann and I helped to negotiate a contract that was unique in a couple of ways. First, in Concord where recycling was "pay as you throw," which is a tremendous strategic means of increasing recycling, we went to biweekly recycling to weekly recycling. That increased the recycling participation from approximately 34% to over 46% of the waste stream is now recycled excluding composting. Then second, we negotiated so that the community would get the value of the paper sold through recycling by the solid waste hauling company we hired. So over the years by that contract proviso, we've gained hundreds of thousands of revenue, and one of Ann's creations was to return those earnings back to our customers. So the customers have gotten a recycling rebate at least for the last five years. It's a total of over a quarter million dollars. Even with the rebate our rates are lower than the private competiton and we actually have broader recycling services. Ann also with the help of Reusit has developed the drop off days where you have drop off of bulky waste to reuseable items to sneakers that go into Nike grind to crayons, bicycles that go to Bikes not Bombs that goes to Central America to be used again, building materials get reused or refabricated, blankets and towels go to veterinary shelters to help our best friends, dogs and cats. Ann's also expanded recycling opportunities for businesses so they can get rid of their fluorescent bulbs and their computers. She advanced recycling so now if you walk down the street, or if you're at a sports event, you can recycle your container or you're at a special "Walk Boston" or something event here, you can recycle. Her philosophy and I think it is so that everybody should have the opportunity to recycle. One of the areas that we still are working with is to achieve as much as we can with recycling at the schools. Ann's been a technical support person. We've achieved, we think, some remarkable things but there are still some gaps there that we think can be advanced in the future.

When I got here in 1997, and I had checked out the job, I thought I knew everything I was getting into but one thing I wasn't aware of was Concord's land fill, a 35 acre site on the corner of Route 2 and Route 126 or Walden Street just a ways from Walden Pond. While it was no longer an active landfill and had been closed in 1994 after a town volunteer study committee felt that a better way than burying the trash was to have curbside pickup with a strong recycling component, it had not been officially closed and capped. So one of my challenges and the challenge of the engineering group was to get that accomplished. We actually did that I believe in 2001.

Some interesting stories - along the way, the Big Dig was being built. We worked very hard to see whether we could get some of the excrement from the Big Dig, bring it over here, have free cover and actually develop some ball fields for a mixed use of active recreation as well as a composting site. That fell through but that would have saved the town we had estimated over a million dollars. Nobody knows for sure why it fell through, but the Big Dig officials lost interest in it. It's not clear to me whether or not there were outside political forces that did not want to see that happen.

The landfill is interesting because there is not a clear shared vision for the future of the landfill. After we closed the landfill, the selectmen appointed a study committee to look at the future of the landfill and we will talk about that in a minute. The other interesting thing was how to design and close a landfill that didn't look like a closed landfill. In many, many places in the state and you look up, you'll see what I call the deflated football look of weeds, no trees, and all very smooth, and sure enough that looks like a closed landfill. So we wanted to make sure it didn't look like a closed landfill. Here we actually teamed up with the Walden Woods project who contributed $134,000, and we developed a plan where it looked more like a rolling meadow with a knoll at the top, tree plantings, and we sprinkled the site with warm seasonal grasses rather than a typical landfill cover which is clover. We used our own wood chips and our own compost to supplement the soil so that Thoreau's concept of going back to the earth, we actually practiced using the compost, using the wood chips to lower the cost, to enrich the soils. Those native grasses took two seasons to mature, but you look today there are deer, coyotes, hawks flying about, it has been returned to an outdoor passive recreation site that I think is very attractive. At the same time we've got about 4 acres of the 35 acres that we utilize fof composting earth products and we dump our snow and ice there in the winter time primarily from our commercial areas to keep them safe. And that's not a small use.

Part of the controversy is the desire of some to have the entire site naturalized. The tradeoff there is first of all where could you put the composting and snow and ice operation that is convenient and does not interfere with neighbors and residential use. It's also very convenient to the commercial area. That's quite a big challenge. A lot of people have looked around and have not found a site. The nice thing we have is that we are in a bowl at the landfill. If you drive by on Route 2 or 126, you don't even see us. We're only there on weekends primarily and in winter time whenever we have to move snow around. So it's very benign use, and we have wonderful drainage so there's no pollution whether it is noise or storm water, and the critters are back. So this is a challenge when we talk about the future, we want to be sure and I'd love to see the continued responsible shared use of our earth products and passive recreation.

Walden Woods is giving us pressure. When I talk to their leadership and when I read their literature, that's one of their goals, they're not shy about saying it is. The selectmen study committee felt that ideally when everything else could be met, they'd like to see the area restored. The real question is if all the other goals and objectives like recycling and winter maintenance can be met and that's a big if. So, yes, there's a tension there.

The trailer park next to the landfill is no longer used. Part of the Walden Pond State Reservation was to improve its site. Part of that was to expand its parking facilities and next door to that was one of our original affordable housing development in a trailer park. So over time people have moved out and I believe now the last person has gone and so part of their master plan is to redevelop that either into parking with further maintenance which is fine with us.

I remember coming to Concord and driving around getting prepared for the first interview and I was nervous as heck, so I drove Concord streets, and some of them were earth shattering or least nerve shattering. Hawthorne Lane was a mess; Old Road to Nine Acre Coiner Road looked like it was under the original asphalt. We had literally country byways and lanes that just had not been kept up. The problem with that is that you pay for that. If you don't maintain your roads, then when you have to get there to fix them, the cost to fix is far more than if you maintain it. It's like if you replace your roof timely, then you're paying primarily for the shingles and the labor. If you wait so long and there is structural damage or the insulAtion is wet and destroyed or animals and critters can get in there, then you have a much, much bigger challenge and expense.

So coming to Concord, the challenge was to take that premise and put it to work in a businesslike way. The town Finance Committee, the Town Manager, Town Meeting, Board of Selectmen and Public Works Commission all have been united that one the town needs is to invest annually the necessary funds to restore the roads and then maintain the roads. Then two, our CPW team led by Public Works engineer, the Town Engineer, the Highway Superintendent, the Highway Supervisor, and myself aided by pavement management software have developed a 20-year plan. That software gave us the big answer, how much money on average every year do you need to invest cost effectively to bring your roads up to standard and to maintain them. The answer was $1 million. That's not a million now and $2 million ten years from now. That's $1 million now and maybe slightly grow with some inflation. We've been able to do that in nine years thanks to the generosity of the town's taxpayers and state road funding. The roads now are by our measurement in a payment condition index and now where they should be on average, and I'm pleased to say our sidewalks which deserve equal treatment. You have a right to walk safely down the sidewalk as much as you have a right to drive safely down the street. The sidewalks now for the first time are up to standard on average.

Chris Whelan again, the Finance Director, and our capital improvement budget plan have been huge in supporting the necessary funding for our roads and our sidewalks. Without that leadership and support, we could have done the best we could, but we couldn't achieve those dramatic gains that we've achieved.

We're now working on the Keyes Road parking lot. Our strategy is whenever we developed three-year road and sidewalk plans, and we're looking at a section of road or sidewalk, primarily the road, we look for opportunities to improve other things. It's coordinated for instance with our water sewer and municipal light plant, do they need to work on their pipes or their wires underground? If so, we need to give them time to get there before we get there with the road. If the road needs work, what about drainage? What about sidewalks? What about signs? What about handicap access at curbs? Well, at Keyes Road, it was clear that there wasn't adequate pedestrian access parallel with the road or crossing the large Keyes Road parking lot. There also wasn't adequate safe pedestrian access from 100 Keyes Road or the Milldam to Chamberlin Park. There also were drainage deficiencies. And it looked like an asphalt wasteland. So with the help of the engineering team, Jim Shuris and John Woodsmall, as this is John's baby, Sean Divoll, Public Works Engineer in charge of stormwater, we've come up with a design that provides new sidewalks, a very large planting area that will be green with some trees, we'll be doing drainage improvements as well and without a loss of parking spaces. That was a real challenge as every single parking space is important. That construction is underway in this summer of 2006, and it should be substantially completed this fall but the tree planting will probably wait until the spring of 2007.

It was Chris Whelan's idea that at some point in the future to have lighting or decorative lighting to help light the parking lot and entrance way in the back of Chamberlin Park. So we have put underground wiring and the junction boxes for that as a future phase. But the philosophy is we're improving six to ten miles of road per year so when you're thinking about it, we're also improving the water, the sewer, the drainage, the street signs, we paint the fire hydrants or replace them, and the sidewalks, over time you kind of picture in your mind how the community assets are being protected and restored.

I certainly felt when I got here that there was a real tension between the community and how they viewed road design and the department's views and how they felt roads should be designed. We weren't the first to understand that now one of the key terms in transportation road engineering is the context sense of design that you design your transportation network to fit the context of where it is. Virginia Road is a good example. That was done just before I got here. It is a very narrow way, and you have commercial at one end and houses on the other end. That's a very, very large challenge. I think they did probably the best they could do. It was very hard to be able to widen it, but they did provide a drainage curbing and sidewalks, and improved the road surface itself so that you can get in and out of there safely whether you are on foot or by car. Our philosophy is that in a footprint design concept that Concord is tree lined, it has windy roads, frequently the roads are narrow, we've got environmental assets all over the place so it's not appropriate to widen and straighten. We also have a public shade tree inventory which is CPW's responsibility to protect, enhance, and nourish. So the challenge there is to design a road that still allows safe passage but protects the environment and the neighborhood feel of the streets.

In West Concord, the Main Street project without going into great detail was one where in our initial design, the neighborhood had felt was too wide. We came up with a design that we felt was based on some very good feedback. The problem there was we couldn't get the state to agree to grant a waiver so we could get state funding for that design. So we ended up implementing our own footprint design with a slope and granite curb sidewalk drainage, protected all but three of the trees, teamed with the neighborhood on plantings alongside that road. It's a gorgeous road between Pine and Church Street to the Damon Mill. The frustrating thing was the state standards were not standards that were appropriate for Concord, and therefore we were frozen out of state funding, over $1 million. The good news is that CPW leadership has played a role in a five-year effort to reform the state guidelines and the new Project Development Design Guidebook, as they call it, has incorporated just about every context sensitive design philosophy we have here in Concord, and now that guidebook is the bible for the state's transportation department and happens to be a model for the country. We're hoping to utilize that consensus in highway design to get state funding for the second phase of the Main Street project which would go from Damon Mill west to the Acton town line.

Everything we do is problem solving and the challenges that go with that. The train whistle challenge this year I believe was successfully dealt with in the engineering department. We're fortunate to have Jim Shuris as town engineer. He joined us in 2004. He formally was Public Works Commissioner in the City of Fitchburg. The Selectmen were given a very hard challenge. The Federal Railroad Administration basically had an edict that if you didn't provide adequate protection for your railroad crossings, the train whistles would blow. Concord had been spared of this noise and noise pollution for several decades. Well, the challenge was well how are you going to do that? We were given basically a year to do it. A team with the selectmen's leadership, Chris Whelan and Jim Shuris, vetting through several community meetings, came up with a low cost plan to renovate two of the crossings.

The problem we had was the gates came down for one lane, and you could go around the gate even though the lights were blinking and the gate was clanging. So they had to put in a mid-barrier down the middle of the road on either side of the tracks so that you had to stay in the right hand side waiting for the train, and secondly to extend the protection for pedestrians, so we had arms installed so the pedestrians would wait as well if they were walking or on bicycles. Having those traffic islands in the middle to keep the vehicles in queue and then additional protection for pedestrians, we also improved the signage in the pavement marking so people were alerted that it was a railroad crossing. The total cost was around $60,000. The alternative of having these enormous quadrants gates were in the millions. It was over $1 million per location, so we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and did it on schedule. Again that's to the credit of Jim, who is now a train whistle design expert among other things.Those renovations met federal train whistle standards and we were able to do that and meet the deadline for June of this year. Those improvements are in place, and the trains are still silent.

The basis of a strong organization is talented people. I mentioned Jim Shuris, Town Engineer, the road's team leader in John Woodsmall, and stormwater in Sean Divoll, Alan Cathcart in water and sewer who is a star in the field. His team Elena Proakis Ellis who is the Project Engineer, Joanne Bissetta, the Water Conservation Coordinator, Ann Dorfman Recycling Coordinator, Dick Fowler in highway and grounds, and the people who do the actual work around it. Todd, Tom, Peter Flynn and John Wilson who are the supervisors of our work crews are extremely talented. Our work crews are really caring and committed to what they are doing. One of the messages I'd like to convey to this history is the importance of having good people, to treat them well, to give them good leadership, good, safe equipment, and direction and guidance. Then they can do remarkable things. Those are the people that have made all the difference.

The sewer program was extended this year and a lot of work has taken place in both ends of town. One of the things if a public works is going to succeed is you have to have plans. What we've been able to do in a collaborative way is to develop master plans for all our major asset areas. We talked about roads already, we have one for sidewalks, we have a water plan, and we talked about how we achieved some of water objectives, sewer and wastewater are the same thing. The town has its own wastewater treatment plant. It's a 1.2 million gallon a day facility off Bedford Street. When the average use exceeded 80% of capacity as defined in our state and federal permit, we were required to do a 20-year wastewater plan. We were planning to do that anyway, and we initiated a planning process. The results of that planning process is what we call phase 1 which was to extend sewers to two neighborhoods. The planning process wasn't easy. The Town Manager appointed a wastewater planning committee of 8 talented and very hearty souls because it took us over 5 years. We ended up having over 60 meetings, community or committee meetings, five different consultant teams to develop this 20-year plan. That plan basically said Concord shall primarily remain serving its wastewater needs on-site. It's preferable to treat wastewater wherever you can on-site rather than having it go by pipe to the treatment plant into the Concord River and eventually out to the ocean. And we should have an on-site management program, and that's one thing we developed as part of this plan that's administered through the Board of Health. They can help people understand how they can take care of their septic systems, how to maintain them, developed a grant program where they can get financial assistance, and then identify what neighborhoods needed, by very careful analysis, offsite or sewers. That's approximately 750 parcels.

The plan is divided into four different phases spread out over at least 10 years to be either sewers or packaged treatment systems. Town meeting in the spring 2004 appropriated $4.8 million for the phase 1 which included serving West Concord around the Prairie/West Street area serving around 89 homes, and what we've just finished now are the Elm Brook neighborhood of approximately 215 homes. West Concord sewering is completed and those people are being served that want to connect. This fall of 2006 the Elm Brook neighborhood can start connecting as we have some very high groundwater issues there. So we're helping homeowners with groundwater, but we're also helping to protect the environment. We're only doing it where it's necessary. We were able to get a 2% state revolving fund loan so that the costs are remarkably low given the cost of the capital. So that's worked very well together.

The longer term challenge will be that we still have a cap on our wastewater treatment requirements at the wastewater treatment plant, and we've got growth still happening in the community. It's very possible that we're going to have to relook at our wastewater assumptions and calibrate it some more in the coming years.

We've also with the plan able to determine what the flows were going to be and we've initiated a $15 million almost total rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment plant. That construction is underway having started this month of August 2006 and it will take approximately 18 months. We will then have pretty much a new plant meeting higher effluent standards. Part of that is an innovative phosphorous removal system that we helped test in Concord. As a result this partnership, the sales of that technology to other communities or countries, Concord will actually be getting a shared revenue from that up to approximately $3 million. That is a substantial project that we feel very good about. That return on the investment with the sale of the technology also helped pay for it.

There are two ways of looking at capacity. One is the engineering capacity of how much by strength or by flow this facility can treat. And the second one is the capacity of limits that are set by state and federal regulations. It's that second cap that is the controlling feature here. State and federal regulators do not feel it is in the environmental or public interest to continue to increase flows into in this case the Concord River, even though we're treating the effluent at higher and higher levels all the time. So we have to work within that cap at the same time we have other state mandates having to do with affordable housing for instance, economic growth, smart growth, so those things have to still be sorted out so we can meet our regulatory responsibilities as well as the Town of Concord's.

Concord is blessed to have historic cemeteries particularly Sleepy Hollow, which is a major tourist draw. We're blessed by having people like Tish Hopkins, who is our cemetery specialist, who takes care of these sacred grounds. The cemeteries and the stones and the grave markers in them are close to our outdoor museum. The challenge when I got here was not the day-to-day maintenance. Tish and her very small crew continue to do a very, very good job of that. It's a question of how to actually preserve and document and the preservation of the grave markers. We were fortunate to get an intern, Alicia Paresi, in the summer of 1999, and she developed a grave marker preservation and management plan which we adopted in 1999. That plan included documentation of every grave marker in our two oldest cemeteries, Old Hill Burying Ground next to St. Bernard's church and South Burying Ground at Main Street and Keyes Road. She did total documentation and photography and mapping of every single grave marker. From that report, we hired a firm to do an environmental assessment of Old Hill Burying Ground, and the big conclusion of that report was that we needed to remove trees to stabilize the slopes so that we can get to the grave markers. We've done that. We've removed the trees and if you look at the history of Old Hill Burying Ground and the old pictures, a lot of them had no trees on them. So we preserved those trees that needed to be preserved, got rid of a lot of scrub trees as well, but the slopes have been stabilized and the preservation effort in underway.

The preservation team, who are Concordians Minxie and Jim Fannin, have been working each summer for the past six years preserving grave markers. Because we hadn't completed the slope stabilization, they started with South Burying Ground and they preserved over 70 grave markers. We celebrated the completion of that effort in a celebration this past May 6, 2006 and celebrated and recognized the Fannins and Alicia for their efforts. We now have a plan to preserve as well as maintain our cemeteries. Last year we were honored that the Selectmen voted to have the Melvin Memorial Protection Committee disbanded and transferred the responsibility of that most beautiful sculpture to the CPW. We have a preservation protection plan to take care of that as well. When I got here, we finished up the development and creation of the town's first new cemetery since 1855 and that was the Knoll at Sleepy Hollow that used to be an asparagus field. It's approximately 10 acres -- a very nice site that we're now maintaining and it's allowing Concordians again to be buried in town. There had been a moratorium actually because Sleepy Hollow had run out of space. We had to expand the use of Sleepy Hollow. We eliminated some unnecessary roads and literally turned asphalt into green space that generated $400,000 of revenue for new burial spaces. Most recently, Sophia and Una Hawthorne, the wife and daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne that were interned in England, were returned to Concord and Sleepy Hollow and now rest next to their husband and father. That was very exciting and that just happened this past June.

In expanding into the Knoll area, there hadn't been a dedicated section for internments of people of Jewish faith and that was requested of the Cemetery Committee. CPW through its highway ground superintendent, Dave Turosi, who had been here most of the years but now is Dick Fowler, working with talented citizens on the committee listened very carefully and created that area in the Knoll. That was long overdue. It speaks to what makes Concord work so well is talented, interested, passionate citizens having a point of view, articulating that point of view, not being afraid to do so, and then on the other end having a department and committees like the Public Works Commission and the Cemetery Committee, that know how to listen. As long as we're in synch, amazing things can happen. Why Concord does so much is that a team of talented citizens with professional staff working very well together and not being afraid of each other or disengaged. That partnership really reflects the foundation on just about everything we've done here in Concord.

Marion Wheeler is an expert of Concord cemeteries and a historian that wrote certainly one of the key guides to the history of Concord's burying grounds, and through Phebe Ham, a local resident and activist, we invited Marion and the general public and the public works crews to come and talk about the powder house. It is a brick structure, maybe 6 x 6 or 8 x 8 that sits on top of Old Hill Burying Ground. It goes back to the 1800s and it was actually used to store gunpowder to protect the town from whatever enemies it had at that time. It's in the middle of a cemetery because it was town owned and it was elevated. It's in need of repair. It made all the sense in the world to bring together the local historian that has the knowledge of the building as well as the history of the grounds with the interest of the general public and the staff to understand the fascinating historical features of that structure. As you look from Lexington Road to the top of Old Hill Burying Ground, it's on the right. You would never know that it was a powder house so I encourage everybody to go up there and find it because it will be there for some time.

Phebe helped write the invitation and Anna Lipofsky, our administrative assistant, did the graphics. Phebe got the photo from the Concord Public Library and Leslie Wilson. If you look at this photo very carefully, you can see the powder house on the hill. If you don't know what you're looking for, you might not see it.

Right here on our public works land, there was an area that just wasn't right. The worksite here on Keyes Road was in disrepair. The buildings were in disrepair. We hadn't done a very good job of protecting the shore of the river in the back or the wetlands beside our campus. One of the first things Chris Whelan asked me to do is to develop a plan to bring this place back. Out back, which is now what we call Riverfront Park, bordered the Sudbury River and set back about 150 feet was tarmac. In the winter time, public works had pushed the snow from the commercial areas right into the river. They finally had been stopped from doing that and Dan Monahan, the former Natural Resources Administrator, had actually had a telephone pole erected with a bird house on top and that telephone pole said you can pile the snow no higher and no closer. The fact of the matter was the snow shouldn't have been there in the first place. So one of the first things we did was end that practice and that was the creation of the snow storage area at the landfill. We did the closest thing to design, build, and design renovations to the site, as well as the landscaping, and we got funding to do that. We're proud to say that the renovations to the site cost in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. Bedford just has a brand new public works facility that cost over $6 million, so we got it at less than half the price. We had our own crews out picking up debris from the side yards and back yards, dump trucks full of beer cans and everything imaginable that had been cluttered here over the years, and that's all protected area now. The park is used for staff picnics, for residents that come with their canoes and sit down. The critters are back, deer, hawks, etc. It just looks quite nice and we're proud to be here and take care of a lovely place.

I'm leaving on September 1, and it's been quite a ride for nine years. I felt very privileged to be here to serve concord. One thing about Concord is it is a very welcoming place and I felt from the day I arrived that there was appreciation as well as interest. I think CPW thrived with the high standards, and the care this community has for itself. Our challenge was to make sure CPW was in synch with community values, and I think we've done that. To build trust and confidence, and I think we've tried to do that as well. The basis of that is to have a vision and I'm talking about both strategic and thematic vision. Some people understand where we're trying to go, sound plans and we're talking about we've invested over $10 million in our sewer plan, another $10 million in our water plan, our roads have been $1 million a year, so for those things you have to have a plan. Financial management, enterprise funds, we need to know where we're going so we can raise the necessary funds to get the job done and take advantage of the opportunities, I think we've done that pretty well. And I think finally the whole thing is about building a team with pride and talent that is in synch with the community and really passionate about Concord. So there's a lot of satisfaction here that we've done a lot together.

Bill Edgerton

Test and images mounted 10 Mar. 2012; .mp3 audio added 29th June 2013 -- rcwh.