In 2004, DPW Work Weekends played a much more significant role in the setup of BRC than in previous years. The projects the DPW undertake each year grow in scope with the growth of Black Rock City, and in response, the benefit of pre-fabrication completed at work weekends throughout the year became obvious. We identified the projects that could benefit the most with pre-fab work completed at Black Rock Station and scheduled 9 work weekends to accommodate the work required. Aside from enabling projects to get a leg up on construction, the work weekends provided an environment in which the DPW community grew richer and closer. The season started earlier and an opportunity was created for new participants to get a taste of the DPW life before making the commitment to work the three weeks of setup in August. Much work was accomplished and a rewarding experience was had by the participants. In short – they got hooked.
Early in 2004 the Black Rock City Department of Public Works management team worked closely with returning and past project foremen to create clear, concise, and comprehensive job descriptions for every position. The creation of these job descriptions enabled the department as a whole to have a clear and detailed understanding of the 27 projects the DPW undertakes to create the public infrastructure of Black Rock City. In turn, this increased awareness enabled the DPW to work together with a cohesiveness that was unprecedented.
In addition, 2004 saw the return of many highly skilled and experienced foremen. 2004 also saw the promotion of several experienced crewmembers with a long history of dedicated and valuable participation as DPW participants into the handful of foreman positions available. These promotions were well received by the all, and were definitely well earned. With these factors in mind, it is no surprise that many projects experienced their best year to date. Of particular note was the Shade Crew, providing more Shade than ever before and finishing ahead of schedule. The perimeter fence was in place in record time and survey was a breeze with a well oiled veteran crew get’n’er done in no time. Both setup and clean-up were proceeding ahead of schedule until a few days of rain set us back ON schedule. In short, the 2004 DPW was a well-oiled machine with a cohesiveness that brought admiring comments from several other Burning Man departments. The setup crew included 158 people and 60 people participated in the clean up crew.
Another significant change in 2004 was the crew’s accommodations. In previous years, workers camped and ate at Black Rock Station with minimal amenities. Located near the Black Rock Desert, Black Rock Station was a largely undeveloped property. Participants supplied their own shelter, toilets were limited to several porta-potties strategically placed around the ranch, and the shower facility consisted of four stalls serviced by a residential water heater.
Major development projects began on Black Rock Station in 2004, and the DPW workers moved to Gerlach to satisfy Washoe County code compliance. Space leased in Bruno’s Trailer Park in Gerlach provided the crew with nine mobile homes, each with two or three bedrooms, plus a two bedroom house, 14 full service hook up spaces for RVs, and room for 13 other trailers or recreational vehicles. This change brought the unprecedented luxury of electricity, indoor plumbing, kitchens with refrigerators and A/C to the DPW crew. We affectionately renamed our temporary home “Gerlach Estates”. Morning and evening meals were provided cafeteria-style by Bruno’s Country Club in Gerlach, and sack lunches were distributed for our mid-day repast on the playa.
Initially, some voiced concern about the lifestyle changes the new accommodations would bring about for the crew. In retrospect, however, we found that the new infrastructure brought people closer together than ever before. This factor also played an important role in the increased cohesiveness and efficiency in the 2004 crew. Black Rock City was built and removed by a well rested and lively group of workers.
DPW Volunteer Coordinator and Assistant Labor Coordinator