Pictured: The people of Ventura County Public Works. 

by David Goldstein

This is Public Works Week, a great opportunity to find out more about the programs and services the Ventura County Public Works Agency (VCPWA) provides to the community. You can virtually attend Ventura County’s celebration by clicking on VCpublicworks.org or visiting the Ventura County Public Works Agency’s social media pages including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

The website contains  a variety of videos, activities and resources highlighting the role of VCPWA in the community. A video I recorded, for example, shows me at the Ventura County Government Center’s Compost Demonstration Site, demonstrating how to feed food scraps to worms. I also open one compost bin and show four-year-old cups labeled “degradable,” explaining why they did not degrade. 

A drone flyover of the Moorpark Wastewater Recovery Facility includes explanations of how the sewer system works and enhances additional material on the VCpublicworks.org website with tips on what to avoid flushing down drains. For example, during this time of a pandemic, many people are using hand sanitizing wipes. Wipes may clog your toilet, and wipes are causing problems at pump stations and in other sewer infrastructure. Shutting down systems for clean-outs is labor intensive and adds to the cost of providing wastewater treatment.

A transportation department presentation shows people how to take advantage of public transportation options. Public transportation, including bus service, is considered an “essential service” during the pandemic, so buses are still running with riders observing social distancing rules and other safety precautions. A segment about the Token Transit app explains how to pay in advance, online, for bus rides. Rather than handling money, when using this app, you display your phone screen to the bus driver to show you paid your fare. Another segment explains how to use the Google Transit app in Google maps to plan a route using public transportation.

One program featured in the virtual Public Works Week especially exemplifies this year’s theme, “Embracing Change — A Better Way, Every Day.” VCPWA Connect! is a year-round online portal for obtaining public services. It uses newer methods, including crowdsourced data, geocoding, GIS mapping and other online tools to provide traditional public services every day. 

To use this program, go to vcpublicworks.org and click the “Report a Concern” tab. On the landing page is an entry space for identifying issues, with pre-filled options available for some of the most common problems, including illegal dumping, sewage spills, water waste, excessive runoff and waste collection and recycling services issues. 

To complete the online form, some subjects require identifying information, such as the name and email address of the person registering the concern. All geographic-specific concerns require identification of the incident location, whether by address or by dragging a virtual pin onto a provided map. Users can choose, however, whether they want their concern to be public or private. The default is “public,” but clicking on the black box around the word “public” switches it to “private.” 

Before registering a concern about a pothole, downed stop sign, illegally dumped material or other issue, check the map. If there is already a circle in the area of your report, click on the circle to see if your issue has already been reported and resolved. VCPWA Connect! is also an app and available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.

David Goldstein is an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency.