The year 2002 brought remarkable professional growth for the Black Rock City Department of Public Works (DPW). We again helped to create the miracle called Black Rock City by constructing much of the city’s essential infrastructure and restoring the site back to its original blankness when the event concluded. (Black Rock City, a high-desert mirage of a town of 30,000 citizens, becomes real and official for only one week a year and then disappears like smoke. It lives on the rest of the year in the hearts and minds of those who inhabited it.)
This was a year with many new challenges and obstacles, with the learning and growth that comes from moving forward to address the many unforeseen, unscheduled challenges head on, as they come. The airport, lighthouse (the base on which the Man stood), community shade structures, burn platforms, work ranch property improvements, and inventory are just some of the yearly projects that became much more ambitious in 2002 than before. We also took on the port-o-potty contract, staff golf cart maintenance, firewood delivery, and debris box distribution.
We intended to reduce the DPW workforce by some 100 people to make operations more streamlined,while reducing costs and risks. This goal was accomplished but only with difficulty. We struggled to say goodbye to many loyal old friends who no longer had the skills, temperament, or time to continue their employment with DPW. The result was a more streamlined, skilled, and motivated workforce that accomplished more than ever before in a smaller window of time.
The Nevada properties went through improvements both obvious and beneath the surface. Organization and utilization were improved in the new shop building. Shade structures for the wood shop and metal shop were built adjacent to the new shop building. The Man was constructed in record time because of the improved work environment. Shade structure components were constructed there and made ready for BRC assembly, as were six new portable office buildings. The Gerlach office was redesigned to create a better work environment for the larger Business Services Department. The Gerlach house got new plumbing and much needed tree trimming. The Black Rock Station ranch house now has a real lawn! And we planted 30 trees and our first successful vegetable and herb gardens.
Also, 2002 saw the formation of the Safety Committee, with operations both within DPW and throughout the Burning Man organization. For the first time, we made a concerted effort to emphasize safety throughout the workplace. A DPW safety manual was assembled, and a DPW safety video was produced. (It will be continually updated, making it a never-ending work in progress.) The safety program included the manual, video, and safety reminders at the DPW morning meetings, as well as safety equipment, signage, and documentation. A DPW Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) was on site at the Nevada properties for the duration of our work season. Few serious injuries were reported this year, and for the first time we have documentation of what did happen.
Improvements in work conditions, safety awareness, living facilities, purchasing, receiving, inventory and transportation all came together with the more streamlined workforce to make DPW a more efficient, well-oiled machine. We accomplished much more in a shorter time then ever before.
Numerous challenges approach with the coming year. Some of the improvements made last year are certainly on-going projects. Many existing functions will continue to be streamlined. Washoe County has asked us to comply with several zoning permits and the accompanying code requirements. This effort will necessitate a reorganization of the Black Rock Station facility. New facilities will need to be planned, designed, and constructed.
In the future, DPW will continue to be the hard-working, dedicated, responsible workers that we’ve been, but with a renewed emphasis on efficiency, safety, and community.
Will Roger, aka Mr. Klean