April 6, 2014

On the road superheroes have a new not-so-secret weapon, the Pelican - By Michelle Libby

When it’s cold and snowy, who do you call? When the road is covered in loose sand, who do you call? Windham Public Works, the superheroes of the roads in Windham. 

With 125 miles of center-line roads, the Town of Windham Public Works Department (WPW) has a huge job clearing, maintaining and sweeping roads. However, when the equipment isn’t able to do the work, WPW has to answer to the public. 
In December, the town council voted to purchase a new sweeper for the town. Since March 24, WPW has had the sweeper to work on including adding strobe light, a 2-way radio and doing training from the vendor. 

“It’s a nice machine,” said WPW director Doug Fortier. The brand new sweeper replaces the 2002 model that had serious mechanical issues last spring. 

“(The new sweeper) does such a clean job in one sweep. It can pick up one to three inches of sand that quick. This is what it should do even five years from now,” said Fortier. 

The Elgin Pelican sweeper was purchased for $169,000 with a trade-in of $5,000. The Elgin Company has been making street sweepers since1914. 

“I’m very impressed by it. It’s well thought out with visibility and comfort. Our mechanics can work on it easily,” said Fortier. “We should get 12 to 15 years out of it.”

Michael Constantine, who is the highway supervisor at WPW, said that one of the major differences in sweepers is the way the machine moves the sand it picks up to the hopper. Before it used an elevator system, he said. The new one uses a conveyer belt and the sand doesn’t go near the engine compartment to get dust and dirt in there. “There were more wear components on it. We won’t have parts you’ll be changing every hundred hours,” Constantine told Fortier. 

Before 1993, WPW sweep 20.5 miles of roads with one sweeper. Between 2003 and 2013, the amount of miles more than doubled and many times the old sweeper had to repeat the same spot more than once.
“We feel this is going to be a more efficient machine,” said Fortier. 

The town is broken into three different segments and each year the place that was swept first goes to the end of the list, behind the North Windham business district and South Windham village. Windham is part of PPDES, which is a Federal and State Storm water program to help protect the waterways from pollution and silt run off. The regulations significantly changed last year and Windham went from a storm regulated area of 3.9 miles to 15.1 miles. 

WPW employs 10 fulltime employees.

Photo: The new Elgin Pelican sweeper getting ready for its first day on the roads.

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