Making Our Streets Safe By Making Our Sewer Drains Cleaner

Being a Councilman in Westfield is not all about big promises and big solutions. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference in everyday lives. While I have achieved some big solutions like tripling road paving and reducing municipal tax increases by 44% as your Ward 3 Councilman for the past four years, it’s a simple solution that I want to discuss here.
When I ran for Ward 3 Council four years ago, I promised that if elected, I would address residents’ concerns about never seeing a street sweeper in their neighborhoods to keep their streets and sewer drains clean, which helps prevent localized flooding. I’m proud to say that I successfully implemented several new initiatives that are now keeping our streets and sewer drains cleaner.
When I address a problem, the first thing I do is learn the cause. Then I work with town officials and my Council colleagues to identify solutions. This is exactly what I did in this case.
As Chair of the Public Works Committee, I asked Public Works officials why the town wasn’t sweeping streets in residential neighborhoods. The answer was simple: It couldn’t because its two street sweepers only functioned well enough to sweep the downtown. While the previous Council did purchase surplus military vehicles, it wouldn’t authorize the purchase of new street sweepers which are essential to keeping our streets and sewer drains clean even though it had built up an unnecessarily large budget surplus.
I immediately advocated for purchasing two new street sweepers in the 2018 budget through my joint roles as Public Works Committee Chair and Vice Chair of the Finance Committee. The Council agreed and decided to use some of the excess budget surplus to fund the purchase. The street sweepers were delivered in spring 2019 and have been used ever since to clean every street during the summer, a town-wide effort which takes 8 weeks. The street sweepers are also used to sweep all town streets after leaf collection ends beginning in January (weather-permitting since sweepers can only operate when the temperatures are above 40 degrees F).
I also worked with Town Officials to post regular updates on the town website and social media about the sweeping program so residents have a chance to move their cars, allowing the sweepers to do their work more effectively. This year, residents can now sign up on the town’s new website to receive email or text alerts about street sweeping at Residents will then receive regular notifications either by email or text about where the street sweepers are operating and going next.
The Public Works Committee also realized that even if year-round street sweeping were possible, it wouldn’t be sufficient to keep nearly 3,000 sewer drains in town clear year-round. The reason is that even if both street sweepers were used 5 days a week year-round, at most they could make 6 passes. Unfortunately, sewer drains can clog up with debris in as little as a day, especially after a rainstorm. I decided to research additional solutions to make a difference.
I discovered a non-profit program called “Adopt-A-Drain” that makes it easy for residents to help by volunteering to keep sewer drains clear, reporting the number of times they clear the drains, the estimated weight of debris collected and even “name” the sewer drain they adopt. I contacted the organization that runs Adopt-A-Drain, learned they successfully operated in dozens of municipalities in Minnesota and offered a technology that Westfield could license to launch a similar program here. I presented this to the Town Council and Westfield became the first municipality outside of Minnesota to launch the Adopt-A-Drain program in 2020.
In its first year, nearly 130 residents have adopted more than 250 drains. Their volunteer efforts are keeping debris and pollutants out of the sewers and watersheds while helping to prevent localized flooding. These residents deserve to be celebrated and they will when the first Adopt-A-Drain Awards are presented in September.
I’m proud of these initiatives. They are addressing your concerns by making smart investments in technology and equipment, which is one of the ways I’ve helped make Westfield better. I look forward to continuing to do the same for the next four years. Please vote for me on Nov. 2 for Ward 3 Council to keep moving Westfield forward. Let me know if you have any questions by emailing me at [email protected]. Thanks.
David Contract, Ward 3 Councilman and Chair Public Works Committee