Knoxville receives Municipal League award for Excellence in Public Works

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – To keep up with the growing needs of the city’s fleet services and public works department, the city of Knoxville knew it was time to update its fleet services facility, and chose to do so in a way that employed both cost-saving and sustainable measures.

For the efforts taken by municipal officials in building an effective and efficient fleet services center while still taking into consideration the needs of taxpayers and environmental issues, the Tennessee Municipal League presents the city of Knoxville with an award for Excellence in Public Works.

The city’s fleet contains more than 1,500 vehicles ranging from fire and police vehicles to mowers and trucks for sanitation, brush collection, and road work. As a result, the city’s fleet services center has its hands full keeping the millions of dollars’ worth of city vehicles in good operating condition. To ensure the continued health of the city fleet, Knoxville invested in a new complex at the site of the city’s old engineering facility on Lorraine Street, which was also a brownfield site.

Using a TDEC-approved soil management plan, the new facility both incorporated some of the existing areas of the former building as well as a new 6,525-square-foot fire ladder truck building that allows ladder trucks to be extended and worked on indoors, a small engine repair and fabrication shop for smaller equipment, a welding room, a heavy equipment shop with six service bays and a parts facility, and a crew building for offices and an employee breakroom.

Sustainability was largely taken into consideration when constructing the new facility. In addition to soil management, the building includes water-reducing plumbing fixtures, LED lighting, and energy use controls. Knoxville’s Fleet Management division is also working to be more environmentally friendly by use of compressed natural gas and propane fuel, specifying more electric vehicles, and obtaining a grant for a waste oil heater. 

“This award is a great tribute to all of the partners that collaborated on this project, ultimately improving city services and beautifying the area,” Knoxville Deputy to the Mayor and COO David Brace said. “We wanted our staff to operate from a building that mirrors the high caliber of services we provide.”

The building, which showcases large windows, abundant natural light and a fresh color scheme, was designed by BarberMcMurry Architects. The Public Building Authority oversaw the project and Blaine Construction served as the contractor.

“The open layout makes our operations more efficient, and it consolidates city services in a way that makes it convenient for our customers – one-stop shopping,” Knoxville Public Service Director Chad Weth said.

Weth added that a quick elevator ride to the city’s employee health center has helped crew members quickly address on-the-job health concerns that occur in the field – checking the severity of a pulled joint, for example, or treating poison ivy.

Similarly, the city’s engineering department has enjoyed the building’s open floor plan, which makes collaboration on projects easier and improves quick access to engineering files.

“I’d say communication is one of the first improvements supervisors noticed after the move into the new public works service center,” Knoxville Civil Engineering Chief Tom Clabo said. “The building’s seamless design has directly influenced how we interact.”

The Knoxville Public Works Service Center received a design award from the East Tennessee Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), presented at the 2018 Design Awards Gala. The state-of-the-art facility is a contender for the silver level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification with its geothermal heating and cooling system, green roof and permeable brick pavers to filter water runoff.

Moving forward, the new facility will not only save the city and taxpayers money in the long run but also allows Knoxville’s fleet services department to continue providing excellent and essential services to the city’s residents.

Each year the Tennessee Municipal League honors cities throughout the state for overall excellence, improvement, specific outstanding programs, or department accomplishments.  Other award winners for 2018 include Dunlap, for Excellence in Green Leadership; Gatlinburg, for Excellence in Police Services; Jonesborough, Excellence in Community Planning and Development; Kingsport, for Excellence in Governance; Martin, for Excellence in Technology and Economic Development; Murfreesboro, for Excellence in Fire Services; Rockwood, for Small City Progress; and Unicoi for Excellence in Entrepreneurial Leadership.

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The Tennessee Municipal League is a voluntary, cooperative organization established by the cities and towns of the state for mutual assistance and improvements. The League’s primary function is to advocate on behalf of city governments. TML works with the Tennessee General Assembly promoting legislation helpful to cities and opposing legislation harmful to cities.