Making it work: Public works supervisor discusses his job

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Many see an occasional Benton Township fire truck and police car speeding toward an emergency destination but don’t know what, or who, keeps them running.

That’s where Andy Jordan, supervisor of Benton Township’s Public Works Department, comes into play. Having worked for the department since October 2008, the Coloma resident works on everything from trash to sewers.

Herald-Palladium staff writer Tony Wittkowski sat down with Jordan to discuss different aspects of his job from how he got started to the most stressful project he’s had to do recently.

What’s your role here as Public Works supervisor?

I’m in charge of the sewer, the trash department, the parks, the vacant lots, also the building grounds and maintenance. Basically everything but the water. I don’t have anything to do with the water.

Can you give me an example of stuff you work on when it comes to maintenance?

I’m also the mechanic. There is another guy that works on the police cars, tractors and stuff like that with me. When you get into the big trucks, it’s not always cost-effective for us to buy the tools to rebuild an engine in a trash truck. If we take a truck up to the dealership in Kalamazoo, and they overhaul an engine we get a warranty too. If I do it, we don’t get the warranty.

How did you come across this position?

They actually had an opening. They hired me initially to be a mechanic. That’s all I was here to do. I worked on the police cars, the trash trucks, any of the township equipment. Then slowly, I started working on the fire trucks. They used to contract all that work out with somebody else. I started servicing them and as they needed other repairs, we would do those also.

That’s got to be intimidating, working on a fire truck.

Well, you just want to make sure everything is right. You want to make sure you’re not cutting any corners. It’s the same with the police cars.

What do you like most about this job?

It’s always different. You don’t know what you’re going to be doing. Monday, we might go down to the park and do some work. Tuesday, we might be in the garage. It’s always different. There’s nothing really ever the same.

What would you say is the hardest project you’ve had to undertake on the township’s behalf?

The (sewer) lining project last year. I was extremely happy when that was done and over. That was a lot of long nights because the areas where it was being done, they had to do a lot of that stuff at night. A lot of bypass pumping and you can’t throw hoses across Pipestone in the middle of the day. The county’s not going to allow you to do that. It involved parts of Pipestone, McKann (Street) and Territorial (Road).

If everything goes well, lining the sewer is considerably cheaper than replacing the pipe. But the pipe has to be extremely clean for them to line it and there’s a possibility they can break the pipe when they do that. If they break it, you have to hire somebody to come fix it. Fortunately, the only break they had was on an easement, so there were no houses there. I was happy when it was done and that it went as well as it did.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 21, 2016)

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