Excellence in Public Works: Sparta

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Sparta Public Works employees install a new kayak dock at the city’s South Carter Street Park, one of many tasks the department undertakes for the city.

Paving and water and sewer infrastructure upgrades are usually not the most exciting jobs that a municipality has to undertake, but the essential function these services provide can both facilitate community growth and bolster improvements in other areas.

The city of Sparta began a comprehensive overhaul of its infrastructure in a way that both revitalized the community as well as coordinated the project so that new upgrades would be made in tandem. The entire effort was spearheaded by the Sparta Public Works Department and its employees, leading to revitalization in other areas of the community as well. 

In recognition of the hard-working efforts made by the city of Sparta and the Sparta Public Works Department to improve city services in a strategic manner, the Tennessee Municipal League is pleased to present Sparta with an award for Excellence in Public Works. 

Knowing that the city’s water and sewer distribution lines would need upgrades, the city decided to coordinate its schedule of water and sewer rehabilitation with its annual paving schedule. By ranking and rating condition of all water and sewer infrastructure, the city compiled a worst-to-first list for repairs and then worked to rehab those facilities so the work would be completed in time for roads those projects align with to be paved. The city’s aggressive paving schedule directs that all city streets are repaved every eight years so long as costs hold. 

As a result of coordinating infrastructure rehab and paving, the city has repaved 16 of the 49 miles of roadway within the Sparta city limits as well as added 61 new downtown parking spaces in the past two years. In that same time period, seven streets in the city have seen total water line replacements while another six have had sewer line replacements. 

In addition to paving, the Sparta Public Works Department has overseen the completion of two gateway monuments welcoming visitors to the city and completed numerous in-house upgrades to various city-owned facilities. The city has established a pattern of work to make needed infrastructure upgrades and improvements.

Public works employees have maintained an aggressive maintenance schedule while also working on more visible quality-of-life improvements for citizens, such as park upgrades. Existing walking trails and train extensions have been paved this spring with decorative lighting added over the summer. Playground equipment was replaced at both South Carter Street Park and Wallace-Smith Park with the city’s Pearson Park next on the list. 

Sometimes even the smallest improvements can lead to big change. Sparta public works employees work to plant trees, protect scenic views, control signs, and encourage new construction to fit in with Sparta’s unique aesthetic. Mayor Jeff Young has begun a program incentivizing local business owners to improve their facades, leading to several restoration projects. 

With its limited resources, Sparta has utilized strong leadership, committed employees, and taking small steps to create big changes in order to make their city a better place to live, visit, and work.