Big trucks and hotdogs: It’s National Public Works Week

Kentwood Public Works Department oversees the city's recycling center.
Kentwood Public Works Department oversees the city’s recycling center.

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma


It’s the kid in all of us that watches those big machines that build and plow our roads in wonderment and a little bit of awe. Next week, thanks to two local Public Works Departments, we will all get the chance to let our inner child out.


In celebration of National Public Works Week, May 15 – 21, both the Kentwood and Wyoming Public Works Departments will be hosting open houses, giving area residents a chance to discover all that these departments do for the city and its residents.


“Road, water, sewer, recycling, household hazardous waste,” said Kentwood Public Works Director John Gordy as he listed off just some of the items area Public Works Departments take care of on a daily basis.


In 1960 the American Public Works Association established National Public Works Week to create a better understand of the various responsibilities of a Public Works facility in maintaining the infrastructure of its community. This includes such areas as ground maintenance, sewer and water, potholes and road maintenance, and snowplowing to list a few of the many services provided by these departments.


Having hosted a Public Works Week Open House for the past 22 years, the event has become one of the City of Wyoming’s most anticipated activities for families..


The City of Wyoming will have various equipment out at its Public Works Open House set for May 16.
The City of Wyoming will have various equipment pieces out at its Public Works Open House set for May 16.

“It has become a tradition,” said Wyoming’s Public Works Assistant Director Aaron Vis. “We have been doing it so long that people have just come to expect that we will be hosting it.”


Because there are several entrances into the event, its hard for staff to take attendance, Vis said, adding they estimate attendance by the number of hotdogs served.


Last year, the Wyoming Public Works Department went through about 1,800 hotdogs with staff estimating about 1,500 people attended the event. Vis said he expects about the same for this year’s open house which is set for Monday, May 16, from 5 – 8 p.m. at the Wyoming Public Works building, 2660 Burlingame Ave. SW. Various Public Works Department equipment will be on hand for people to explore along with a police cruiser and fire truck. Staff will be on hand to talk to visitors about equipment and projects as well as serving free beverages, chips, and, of course, hotdogs.


Kentwood’s Public Works Department will host its first Public Works Week Family Event with the Kent County Road Commission Wednesday, May 18 from 4 – 7 p.m. at the Kentwood Public Works building, 5068 Breton Rd. SE. Road plow trucks and construction equipment will be on hand for visitors to explore along with 20 different displays on various Public Works topics. Gorney said there also will be live demonstrations on maintenance and repair of water and sewer systems and discussions on how and why different improvements are made on roads. Kent County Public Works officials will be there to discuss household hazardous waste and how to properly dispose of such items. There also will be giveaways for children, free snacks, and yes, hotdogs.


According to APWA’s website, National Public Works Week has been growing with more and more municipalities participating. Besides Wyoming and Kentwood observing the week, the City of Grandville will have a display at its library as part of Michgian Week BBQ, the City of Grand Rapids will mark the entire week with a display of Grand Rapids Public Works equipment on Market Street, and the City of East Grand Rapids will host a “Touch a Truck” event starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 18.