The city of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee – the county seat of Lawrence County – sits on the banks of Shoal Creek, and is located about 80 miles southwest of Nashville. The largest city on the state line between Memphis and Chattanooga, it is called the “Crossroads of Dixie” (Lawrenceburg is the junction point for US Routes 43 and 64, two major highways in the region). The population of the city was estimated at over 14,700 residents as of the end of 2016.
Jerry Smith, Lawrenceburg’s Public Works Director, was born and raised in the city, and has spent his adult working life with the department. Born only about a mile
from the Public Works Department Office, Smith joined the department at age 19 and celebrated his 30th anniversary this year. Jerry and Kay, his wife of twenty years, have four children, and continue to live in Lawrenceburg.
“My first job with the department was as a garbage truck operator,” he recalls, “and I’ve different positions over the years. I’ve been Director for 8 years now; prior to that, I was Foreman for 6 years.”Smith reports that the department currently has 24 full-time employees. Marlon Huntley is the Assistant Director and Paving Foreman. Administrative Assistant Tina Sowell wear several other hats – she also serves as Lawrenceburg’s Safety Director, Playground Inspector, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Coordinator!
The Department’s responsibilities are primarily within the city (an includes its 125 miles of roads and streets), Smith says, although Public Works sometimes works in conjunction with the County Highway Department. Like most Public Works departments, especially in smaller towns and cities, the list of the Lawrenceburg operation’s responsibilities is long.
“We pave the roads, repair and replace sidewalks, curbs, and gutters, and do all storm water drainage work for the city,” Smith states. “We do the routine maintenance and upkeep of the city’s lawns and buildings, and do ball field maintenance. In fact, some of our employees work on a dedicated basis at the Bobby Brewer Sports Complex, which hosted the 2015 and 2017 Babe Ruth World Series and have also hosted several Cal Ripken Tournaments.
“We’re getting ready to start a project to pave the town square, and we’re pursuing grants to let us do additional projects – sidewalks, etc. – around the square. Also coming up is a project at Rotary Park, to bring it up to ADA standards.”
Smith says his department’s most challenging undertaking was the Lawrenceburg Flood Control Project, a 10-year project that started construction in 2001. Lawrence County has seen its share of natural disasters in recent decades, including floods, tornadoes, and ice storms. The extensive flood control project was largely in response to flooding that inundated the town in 1998. “The water was so high then that it reached within about two feet of the top of the Public Works Department office,” Smith relates.
“We bought out a great deal of flood plain property (cleaning and mowing those properties are also part of the Department’s responsibilities) and dug a new ditch through the city, including some 2,100 feet of culvert boxes,” he continues. “We had to rework road crossings on about a dozen streets and our two major highways.”
On a brighter note, Lawrenceburg Public Works completed the large parking lot for Abigail’s Plan, a unique sports complex which is one of the first of its kind in Tennessee. Abigail’s Plan is nonprofit organization launched in 2014; it was started by Tommy Lee and Lesa Kidd, who have a daughter who was born in 2000 with Down Syndrome. They had a passion to help people with disabilities and their families, believing that every person – regardless of their physical or mental challenge – should have an opportunity to participate in organized events. From this passion, Tommy Lee and Lesa created a nonprofit organization called Abigail’s Plan. The goal was to construct a totally rubberized field and facility. As Tommy Lee Kidd says, “God used the entire community and surrounding counties to see this dream realized.” The complex opened in the spring of 2017, and there are now over 100 players in the league, all with some sort of disabilities.
Lawrenceburg Public Works’ fleet, including trucks and machines for specialized uses, consists of approximately 75 vehicles. Among their Cat machines are a D6N dozer, which is used at the city’s landfill, and a D6H dozer.
The department’s most recent Cat machine purchases – a 420F2 backhoe loader, a CB24B smooth drum vibratory compactor, and an AP500F paver – were purchased utilizing State of Tennessee contracts which were awarded to Thompson Machinery governmental customers. These contracts (Contract 048439: Heavy Equipment and 050609: Highway Maintenance Equipment) allow state and local entities to configure machines to fit their application needs, while receiving a discount off list price, using a streamlined process.
“We got good pricing with the state contract,” Smith comments. “It was a no-brainer to utilize it.”
He reports that the AP-500F paver replaced an old worn-out machine from another manufacturer. Machine size and the versatility of the paver’s options played a large role in making the machine the right match for his needs, Smith adds.
The new 420F2 backhoe loader is used extensively for storm water work around the city; along with the 320C and the two dozers, it is used nearly every day, says Smith, while the AP500F and CB24B see a lot of use during the prime paving season, May through October.
Thompson Machine Sales Representative Michael Ray Montgomery and Product Support Sales representative Donnie Cain work closely with the City of Lawrenceburg and the Public Works Department. “I can’t say enough about Michael Ray and Donnie,” Smith states. “They are great to work with.
“Michael Ray worked with me throughout the process of purchasing, even during the bidding process. And he has continued to be very helpful with the new machines – he didn’t just sell the machines and disappear. He went over everything and answered all our questions. We appreciate people taking the time to show us how to operate the machines correctly and efficiently.”