Black Rock City’s Department of Public Works had a tremendous year in 2012, growing more, building more, and taking more projects on than ever before in our 15 year history. While 2011 saw some shifts in our labor structure, 2012 saw us making some changes in management, placement, and our role regarding fire in the city.
The DPW had record growth this year, expanding our total headcount from 335 in 2011 to over 400 workers over the course of the 2012 work season. While we normally cap our population in the mid 300’s, we needed the extra hands to accommodate the expanding projects and overall increased labor needs of Black Rock City this year. This jump in our population pushed us to our limits in terms of Gerlach’s food and housing capabilities, and we are already starting to reexamine the ways that we can provide infrastructure for our crew going forward.
Our three Pre-Event Work Weekends saw a spike in population as well, with more folks from ESD and Gate coming out to lend a hand than ever before. More than 60 folks were at each Work Weekend, allowing us to complete more pre-season work than ever. All told, more than 1000 folks volunteered to be a part of the DPW this year, and while we can’t take on nearly that many folks, we are always grateful that so many folks are willing to help build Black Rock City.
Our management changes this year involved bringing on a new lead for the Black Rock City Yellow Bike Project – helping us to broaden its scope and optimize its processes. We also re-examined our Collexodus process (the DPW collection stations that are along Gate Road on the way out of Black Rock City) and realized that the process was so naturally integrated with our Fluffer support team that it should just be managed by the Fluffers from the start. That proved to be a sound decision, and the results were a more thorough and organized process than we have ever had before. Those supplies take care of the Restoration crew all the way through October, and we are always blown away by the amount of generosity the city shows us. Thanks again to all of you who spared a bottle of whiskey or a can of good soup. They are the fuel in our tanks, all the way to the end.
One new element that DPW took on this year was the reorganization of Black Rock City’s burn platforms into our new Burn Gardens – the groups of platforms along the Esplanade at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. For years now we’ve needed to organize the way the burn platforms are used as the event is ending – making sure that nothing inappropriate ends up on the fire, and taking charge of the tremendous amount of wood donations at each site. This year, with the Burn Gardens, the process was much more streamlined, and challenged DPW to man 24 hour shifts and to create a process where we could work side by side with volunteers from the community. In the end we ended up staffing the project with about 70% DPW labor, and 30% from Black Rock City’s volunteers. We expect that to shift more and more to a volunteer project as it evolves.
Instead of only bringing on a few new volunteers post-event, we bought on 35 new hands after the Burn this year, pushing our numbers for Playa Restoration higher than ever before. The expanded crew allowed us to create a third active line of MOOPers for Playa Restoration, and to move the full Playa Restoration process beyond the city grid for the first time.
All told it was another fantastic year for the DPW, pushing our capabilities and challenging us to grow to meet the expanding needs of Black Rock City. Thank you all for another amazing year… we’ll see you in 2013!