MISSOURI CITY (May 23, 2023) – For the 33 employees of the Missouri City Public Works Department, one thing is clear: When the systems that make the City work appropriately are compromised, their team members are the first to arrive and the last to leave.
"We work in the background," says Missouri City Director of Public Works Shashi Kumar in this video. "We are just like first responders. During floods, freezes, or major traffic incidents, we are the first line of support for the police and fire departments."
For that reason, from May 21 to May 27, the American Public Works Association highlights the day-to-day efforts of these front-line employees during Public Works Week. This year's motto is "Connecting the World through Public Works." The message could not be more fitting for Jason Abila, traffic operations manager.
Abila has more than eight years of experience with the City. His primary responsibility is to guarantee the proper functioning of the framework, software, and hardware that govern all traffic lights in the City. In his operations center, Abila and his team have numerous monitors on the wall to manage the traffic signals and a myriad of computer screens where the traffic flow can also be supervised. His days are filled with monitoring these screens, attending regular meetings, and coordinating the maintenance and repair of the City's Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), including hundreds of cabinets, the 250-pound steel cases strategically located around the City, serving as the brains of the traffic lights.
"Our job is to troubleshoot. That is what I am most proud of,” says Abila. “We know how to fix issues related to traffic lights in a heartbeat, and my guys are right there! We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Monday through Sunday.
“It does not matter if it is a holiday or sunny, raining or snowing. We are there."
That is precisely the type of commitment that prompts Kumar to label each of his team members “unsung heroes,” the individuals whose identities are not known, but whose work is essential to the well-being of the more than 70,000 City residents.
“Every municipal department in Missouri City is important. Yet, what Public Works does directly impacts the quality of life of its inhabitants," says Kumar. "Imagine a day with no potable water to drink, no water to flush the toilets, or no traffic lights to control the traffic. That cannot happen."
Construction Inspector Chad Mclin is one of these unsung heroes. Whether it is residential or commercial structures, his work guarantees the buildings will be built according to the City's design manuals.
“I inspect major projects like roads, bridges, storm sewers, sanitary sewers, and water lines. So, for instance, when construction companies are developing a new project, they have to build out the infrastructure. They have to put in all new sanitary systems that will carry the capacity of that subdivision. They have to make sure that the drainage is correct, so they build retention ponds to ensure that they have enough drainage so those areas do not flood," says Mclin.
Missouri City's Public Works Department is divided into several divisions: Animal Services, Capital Improvement Program, Drainage, Engineering, Streets, Traffic Operations, and Utilities. To learn more about its services, projects, and resources, visit Missouri City Public Works Department.