Street Talk

Street Talk: The DIY spirit

Invisible workforce.

February 16, 2018
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A former city of Wyoming dump truck has found new life as a crash attenuator vehicle for the Public Safety Department’s fire division. The refurbished vehicle, which would have cost $127,000 if purchased new, was built by city staff for less than half the cost.

A crash attenuator is a safety device that can be used as a roadblock or to funnel traffic away from city workers who are performing duties ranging from fighting fires to filling potholes. It also is designed to redirect vehicles away from hazards on the road. In the event of a crash or emergency situation on a roadway, the attenuator will be set up to protect the scene from passersby, thereby ensuring safety for public safety officials, emergency technicians, pedestrians and victims.

For over 15 years, the dump truck hauled debris, assisted in water and sewer emergencies and plowed roads. When it became apparent its usefulness was coming to an end, staff proposed the transition to a crash attenuator rather than sending the vehicle to auction. Thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, the vision quickly became reality.

“The safety of our staff is paramount, but the high price of equipment can be a constraint,” said City Manager Curtis Holt, who said such a vehicle never has been part of the city’s fleet. “We’re fortunate to have a team of smart, visionary people who are constantly coming up with innovative, cost-effective solutions. The grant funding from MMRMA also was integral in making this happen, and we’re grateful for their support.”

Ted Seil, fleet supervisor for the city of Wyoming, led the project and oversaw the truck’s transformation.

“Converting the dump truck into a new use was a unique project for the fleet services technicians. We’re pleased with the results and the cost savings, and we’re happy to know our colleagues will be safe out on the road when responding to emergencies,” he said.

Operational efficiency

Registration is open for PANELS 2018, a major tech conference for manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and retail professionals.

The event will be held Aug. 6-8 at the JW Marriott and the L.V. Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

According to an announcement from Grand Rapids-based software company SalesPad, this year’s conference will feature an open Operational Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Spotlight track, which provides educational insights for anyone in warehousing, distribution, light manufacturing or midsized retail.

SalesPad also boasted this year’s event will feature the broadest curriculum to date.

“With the advances in technology, the trend toward cloud-based or hybrid, postmodern ERP solutions, and the projected growth in manufacturing and wholesale trades, it’s the perfect time and place for innovation to occur,” said Jennifer Jurgens, president of SalesPad. “Every attendee will learn something that helps bring their operations to the next level.”

Each year, the conference offers an in-depth look at the latest tools and insights to help businesses streamline operational processes.

Participants can take part in roundtable discussions, hear from industry leaders and learn about the latest products.

Those interested can register at

Untangling the web

The city of Grand Rapids unveiled a new website meant to be more inclusive and user-friendly.

The new site,, replaces

The city’s new Communications Office, including Steve Guitar and Amy Snow-Buckner, sent word of the change in an email Feb. 13.

The new website can be viewed in English and Spanish and offers online payment for 54 city services and 24 business licenses, among other features.

“Enabling digital self-service on our new website is the centerpiece of our customer service transformation,” said Eric DeLong, interim city manager. “Our new site provides a digital city hall that is open for business 24/7/365.

“I am very proud of the team that delivered this unique breakthrough for our community, and I thank the mayor and city commissioners for this forward-thinking investment.”

For the project, the city’s web team — led by Becky Jo Glover, 311 Customer Service Center director — partnered with OpenCities and local web development firm Mighty in the Midwest.

“We used feedback from a civic user test group to ensure our website met their needs and expectations,” Glover said. “We redesigned the site based on our customers’ feedback and through the community sharing its preferences on how it wanted to conduct online transactions and receive information through services.”

The site includes 236 services that comprise the top inquiries to the city’s 311 Customer Service Center, 102 of which were not previously available online.

It also houses 24 business license applications and renewals, as well as GRPayIt, which launched online last August, allowing citizens to pay water and trash bills, parking tickets and property taxes with a single sign-on.

“We have built the website with and by our community,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “Our digital city hall serves those who live, work and play here on their terms.”

The city projects a 20 percent increase in electronic payments as a result of the change, Glover said.

Phase 2 of the website redesign will include adding services to the mobile application, enhancing the legislative module for Grand Rapids City Commission meetings and agendas, enhancing GRPayIt, adding accounts receivable services, other software upgrades and a payment system for Community Development Block Grant loans.

Service first

As we go through day-to-day life, many would agree it’s easy to take for granted people who work in service industries.

West Michigan Works! makes an effort to recognize people in that field.

The organization awarded nine West Michigan individuals with the Beverly A. Drake Essential Service Awards, which highlight individuals who provide services that often go unnoticed and unrewarded, such as housekeeping or public transportation.

One 2018 honoree, Adela Miranda, is the lead laundry attendant at Residence Inn Grand Rapids Airport.

“Adela exemplifies the spirit of the Essential Service Awards, a true champion,” said her nominator, Rachel Kammer, Residence Inn general manager.

When asked to provide an example of Miranda’s strong work ethic and habits, Kammer recalled an instance when the hotel was full and a washing machine went down.

“Adela was able to keep the one working washer continuously going while drying, folding and stocking the shelves,” Kammer said. “Because of Adela's hard work and dedication, we were able to keep up with demand without missing a beat.”

Nominations are submitted to a variety of categories, including hospitality, retail, health care, transportation, government, food service, general labor, child care, nonprofit and custodial, housekeeping or groundskeeper.

The winners are selected based on criteria that include displaying pride in the job, a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, punctuality and completion of work on time.

“The community often overlooks the significant contributions that a virtually invisible workforce makes to our community and our economy,” said Dave Smith, chair of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board. “The Essential Service Awards recognize exceptional individuals performing these less visible but essential jobs.”

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