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You Can See Who Loves Who From Miles Around in This NCDOT Water Tower Town
Image by NCDOTcommunications
GREENSBORO —The N.C. Department of Transportation summons quickly to mind brawny men, buckled under the hot sun in hard hats and reflective vest with shovels or hammers in hand; but glance longer than a moment at one NCDOT maintenance yard housed in Guilford county, and you’ll see more than just a bunch of sun-burned, muddy booted construction workers.
Standing with me in the middle of one of the many NCDOT Division 7 equipment yards is Alvin Ball who oversees some three-dozen employees within his branch. Between him telling me stories of his years in the trenches of NCDOT doing field work, paving, plowing and such, and how he rose to Area Equipment Superintendent off Camp Burton Road in McLeansville; he laughs and smiles with assurance I’d liken to a mayor. You can tell he’s the man in charge around these parts, but he rules with a gentle hand. And he has to; his wife works for NCDOT a few buildings down.
As Ball motions me into various equipment storage and repair rooms for my seasonal tour as the Divisions’ Communications Officer, he pauses frequently as he describes for me what machine does what function. I can tell he’s fondly reminded of the good ol’ days when he was a low man on the totem pole. He says he spent many a night on maintenance duty during severe weather, right along with the other NCDOT workers, bundled up, working in one of the garages under a heat fan that he pointed out to me is still working in the shop today.
I can tell this equipment yard that houses low-boys, millers, trucks and all sorts of hauling and mending equipment is more than where he does his job. It’s his home away from home. It’s an experience that many of the 13,000-plus NCDOT workers share.
Alvin introduced me to his two administrative assistants, who seem to be more like his sisters. They smile and give me a warm handshake and giggle when I take their pictures, but don’t miss a beat when the phones ring. They make friendly conversation and show off their waists as they’ve all been participating in a DOT health weight loss challenge. They tell me that I just have to meet the office winner, Randy Garrett, who dropped 36 pounds. Of course Randy is there and tells me all about his tuna fish regimen. I tell him I just had a baby and I’ll eat what I want. We laugh and I think to myself that I just made a friend.
Alvin and I move on and walk into a storage unit. It houses more than 2-thousand pieces of, nails, drills, tires and bits and pieces of whatever it takes to maintain the equipment here. There are of course two shop clerks and a blue and red beta fish in a jar with white rocks that keep watch of everything coming and going. They too offer warm smiles and nods, and point me to the snack cart.
As we head into the holding area where fixed equipment is waiting to be used, there’s a roar of laughter that sounds like a locker room celebration after a big game; it’s almost lunch time and the crews are relaxed and making plans.
A whistle blows that sounds like a shift work alarm on an episode of I Love Lucy and people start moving, coming and going; but not without a high-five, a laugh or punch to the arm; ‘cause that’s just how these guys are. One worker stops and asks if I’ll ‘make his picture?’, I do of course, and he thanks me for coming; as if I’m in his living room and this is his home. I’m starting to feel like maybe I too belong.
As we cross the yard to yet another building, Alvin’s pace quickens with excitement as he tells me I can’t leave without seeing one more thing. As he opens the door I see a relic of its time, somehow shining under a dim ray of light cascading through a dusty window that’s been hiding its true beauty behind these doors. It’s a boiler, but not just any boiler. Installed in 1952, it’s been supplying heat for the complex and the workers who stay outdoors on those long snowy days when the rest of us retreat from the highways. This boiler is central to the facility in location and in Alvin’s heart. He beams as he shares stories of years past spent huddled next to this massive machine that towering over us at least 15 feet high. It’s been keeping maintenance workers warm for 63 years now and with regular attention it runs perfectly.
As we leave the building and many of Alvin’s memories inside, I look around for one last glance before I take off. And I realize that on this perfectly clear and sunny day, I’m standing in a shadow. “Is that a water tower, I ask?” Alvin boasts that it indeed is exactly that; and one of a kind across Division 7. He tells me that the water tower was installed to provide water in case of emergency and for washing and cleaning trucks. He says the yard was never hooked up to city water and has always operated this way. That’s when I realized that the Division 7’s maintenance yard is literally the type of place North Carolina’s own Scotty McCreery sings about.. “A Water Tower Town.”
You can see all of my pictures from equipment to the beta fish at Division 7’s Water Tower Town on our Flickr Page. Also follow us on Twitter.
District Disabilities Awareness Month: Focus On Diabetes
Image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District
By Dave Palmer
LOS ANGELES — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only five percent of diabetes cases are Type 1. That leaves roughly 95 percent of all diabetes as Type 2, which is largely preventable with healthy food, physical activity and weight loss. The CDC notes that if the current trend continues, one in three American adults will have diabetes by 2050.
A trend so alarming that the Americans with Disabilities Act incorporated diabetes as a disability, effective Jan. 1, 2009. And why on Oct. 24, the Special Emphasis Program Committee, in recognition of Disabilities Awareness Month, featured an awareness lecture in their program. Doctor of Pharmacy Lindsay Gordon, a pharmacy resident with the Los Angeles Medical Center, was the keynote speaker.
“It’s the leading cause for new blindness, kidney failure and accounts for 60 percent of non-traumatic lower limb amputations,” said Gordon.
Type 2 diabetes was formally known as “adult onset diabetes,” which gives a false impression of who can acquire the disease. According to the CDC, the last two decades have seen an increase in
Type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents. It is the cumulative effect of lifestyle factors (e.g. obesity, lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, etc.) that plays a greater role than genetics according to Gordon. And the bad news doesn’t stop there.
“Diabetics have a higher risk for stroke and heart attack, two to four times greater than those without the disease,” said Gordon.
Much of the treatment regimen is the same as the prevention and never having diabetes is a good thing.
Cecy Ordonez the District’s Army Health Promotion Coordinator said, “Although Diabetes is typically incurable, it is preventable. Having the right tools to stay healthy is key: eating a well balanced diet, regular physical activity, annual doctor visits for physical exams, and following your doctors directions (e.g. stop smoking or lose weight). Making this a priority is the first step to a better quality of life for you and your family.”
According to the Library of Congress, the intent of this remembrance is to pay tribute to the accomplishments of men and women with disabilities and to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens. This year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?”
Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy said, “Employers who ensure that inclusive workplace policies and practices are woven into the fabric and culture of the organization create an environment that encourages all workers — including those of us with disabilities — to work to their full capacity and contribute fully to the organization’s success.”
Deputy Chief of Programs and Project Management Division Ken Morris summed up the remembrance.
“Our motto in the Los Angeles District is ‘BUILDING STRONG and Taking Care of People,’ said Morris. “What it means is that we provide folks with the tools, facilities and training to execute our mission. As I see it, there’s a perfect spirit in each one of us and in spite of our perceived imperfections, we all have the power to do a lot of things we think we can’t do. Each one of us has something incredible to offer.”