2013 was another fantastic year for Black Rock City’s Department of Public works – one that had us expanding our management structure, changing some roles, dealing with even more population growth, and managing an unprecedented number of management changes. While 2012 was largely a year of expansion, 2013 was a year of major change, both in the way that we approached our tasks, and in the number of different players on the field.
Each year, Black Rock City’s Department of Public Works strives to maintain a balance between the ever-changing work that needs to be done and the limits of our infrastructure capacity – both in Gerlach and on Playa. This year we increased our workforce population to 440 people – up roughly ten percent from 2012. Once again this pushed and taxed our resources, especially in town, and while we don’t expect to grow our ranks again in 2014, we are going to need to put some new infrastructure solutions in place this year, and expand the resources that are already in place.
We had a strong representation from both Gate and ESD for our pre-season Work Weekends again in 2013, allowing us to tackle even larger projects and spend a lot of quality time working alongside folks from different departments, and their different ways of doing things. Our numbers were in the 60s and 70s for each Work Weekend, and the last two were spent working around 2013’s massive Man Base build which was already in progress.
In addition to our regular Work Weekend Projects, in 2013 DPW produced the Fireside Circles: low to the ground circular concrete burn platforms with semi-circular concrete benches designed for the citizens of Black Rock City to congregate around on the open playa from sunset to sunrise. There were two Fireside Circles: one at 4:30 and one at 10:00 about 500 feet off the Esplanade. Each were provided with a cord of firewood and a shovel. The project proved to be a huge success, and this year we will be producing an additional 2 Fireside Circles to contribute to Black Rock City.
Management changes were the major shift this year for DPW. While each year we usually see one or two DPW managers move on or change roles, in 2013 we had ELEVEN managers leave their positions for one reason or another. While that’s great for adding fresh eyes and energy to a project, it had the DPW Council in a hiring frenzy right up to the start of our season! 2013 saw us staffing new management for The Black Rock Saloon, The Yellow Bike Project, The Gerlach Estates, Arctica Construction, Center Camp Café Construction, Commissary, Dispatch, The Gerlach Office, The Fuel Team, and the Logistics team. We also restructured the DPW Auto Shop and added a new Auto Shop Manager there as well.
In addition to all of that, we created a new tier of management under the DPW council, adding an Assistant Construction Manager to oversee several of our on playa construction sites. We also hired an almost entirely new Man Base construction team, and changed oversight on the Yellow Bike Project and the Black Rock Saloon. Finally, in addition to all of THAT, we hired two new people to oversee Black Rock City’s Work Ranch.
Once again we brought on 35 new crew members post event to assist us with Teardown and Playa Restoration. The fresh energy and perspective we get from this influx always recharges us, and helps us through the home stretch of the Work Season. This year we were especially grateful for it, as we pushed through some cold days and almost non-stop wind on the (nearly) empty playa.
Over 1000 folks applied to be a part of the 2013 DPW crew, and we were only able to add about 45 new folks to the team overall. That’s less than 5% of the applicants, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t make the cut this year! The doors closed earlier than ever!
DPW continues to evolve each year, and the workforce evolves along with it. The challenges we face help to shape our growth and hone us each year into a more effective and capable team. Thanks to everyone who was a part of Black Rock City this year … it was an incredible one, and we can’t wait to get back to building. See you in 2014!