Best Practices


Mayor Michael A. Guido

Graffiti Campaign to Reach Youngsters Before They Spray

Like many urban communities, Dearborn has seen graffiti grow from a rare occurrence to a nearly city-wide phenomenon. In addition to running an aggressive graffiti removal program, and vigorously prosecuting vandals when apprehended, the city has instituted a systemic effort to convince area youngsters that graffiti is a form of environmental pollution.

Dearborn has long been known for its annual springtime clean-up parades, where students from dozens of local elementary schools march in the streets to promote the "clean-up, paint-up, fix-up" of their neighborhoods. The Dearborn City Beautiful Commission officially sponsors the parades, with support from the public schools, the city's Economic and Community Development Department, the Police Department and Public Works.

For many years the clean-up parades have focused on proper maintenance of homes and the elimination of littering. When the city launched curbside recycling programs several years ago a shift was made in the parade themes to help kids understand that they played an important part in the environment of the earth. As evidenced by the posters, poems and costumes created by the children for the school parades, there is now a high awareness of the role of the individual in helping to maintain a safe and sustainable environment.

The city recognized that school children had enthusiastically embraced the precepts of environmental activism and that an anti-graffiti element might effectively ride the coattails of this popular movement. Beginning in 1993, an anti-graffiti campaign was introduced as a new theme for annual clean-up parades. School and city officials made special presentations to elementary children to explain the negative effects of spraying graffiti. In addition to the fact that graffiti is illegal and unsightly, emphasis was placed on the harmful environmental impact of this public nuisance. Children were educated to understand that graffiti is another form of litter and pollution. The presentations also informed students that when spray paint is used for graffiti, it constitutes a wasteful release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which can contribute to the degradation of the world's atmospheric ozone layer.

Although incidents of graffiti over the past two years remain at an unacceptably high level, in the two hundred range annually, city officials are convinced that a long-term approach in which young children are educated to avoid such behavior holds the greatest promise of breaking the cycle.

Contact: Kurt A. Giberson, (313) 943-2075


Sick Leave Bank for City Employees

In an effort to respond to personal emergencies that are generated by prolonged illness or injury, the City of Dearborn has instituted an extended sick and accident plan to extend the benefits already provided by the city. If, due to a prolonged illness or substantial injury, an employee uses up all their sick, vacation, and personal leave, they can, through voluntary membership in the plan, receive a maximum of 13 months of additional sick time, donated by their fellow employees.

Membership in the plan includes the following employee groups: Executive and Administrative; Supervisory, Technical and Professional; Clerical (represented by the Municipal Workers of Dearborn); Nurses; and the Personnel Director (who reports to the Civil Service Commission). A separate plan has been implemented for members of the Operative unit (represented by the Teamsters). Employees in these groups can apply for membership after the completion of one year of service. Employees are accepted on the basis of their experience with sick time usage, and donate, as "initiation days," either three or four days to the pool. The total depends on the number of employees currently enrolled. Eligibility also depends on the possession of a minimum of 15 earned days of any combination of sick leave, vacation and personal leave.

A committee, consisting of four members designated by the participating employees, and representatives from the city administration, shares the vote equally to determine membership, granting of benefits, and related issues. In order to be eligible for the extended paid time, employees must have been off work due to illness or injury for a period of at least 20 work days, and must have at least 20 days of accumulated leave to cover that time period. Exceptions may be made in cases where an illness has resulted in periodic absences. The employee can continue to accrue vacation and sick leave while drawing benefits from this plan.

This program allows for a community of concerned coworkers to positively express their caring for fellow employees who might otherwise suffer income loss. During the 14 years it has been in effect, approximately a dozen employees have avoided income loss for varying periods of time.

Contact: Valerie Murphy, (313) 943-2058


CSO Retention Treatment Tunnel

Dearborn's Retention Treatment Tunnel project is unique among the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) projects currently under construction is southeastern Michigan in an effort to eliminate raw sewage flowing into the Rouge River during wet weather events. While other area communities are building retention basins or separate storm and sanitary sewers to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements, Dearborn is constructing a six-mile-long deep-rock tunnel, 150 feet below ground level.

Construction of the Dearborn tunnel began in August 1994 and the first segment, 11,200 feet in length, will be complete by the Fall of 1996. The first segment will provide over 24,000,000 gallons of retention capacity and has a total budget of $54,000,000. Federal grant funding from the National Wet Weather Demonstration Project will provide about 50 percent of the construction costs. The remainder of the costs will be paid by Dearborn residents and businesses through their sewer bills. When the second segment is completed by the year 2005, the total tunnel capacity will exceed 65,000,000 gallons.

Dearborn officials conducted a thorough review of the various options available to meet the strict requirements for reduction of CSO overflows that are contained in the city's NPDES permit. Sewer separation was rejected due to much higher costs and unacceptable disruption to the community during construction. In addition, separate sewers would not address the potential requirements for treatment of stormwater.

The more common approach, retention treatment basins (RTBs), was also considered. Although somewhat less expensive to build than the retention tunnel, basins would cost more to operate, have much less capacity, and, as with sewer separation, would be very disruptive to the residents during construction. Many communities in southeastern Michigan had encountered great resistance from the public over the placement and operation of RTB's. Knowing this, Dearborn was eager to find a scientifically sound alternative that was readily acceptable to its citizens.

The retention treatment tunnel approach offered an excellent opportunity to fully meet the requirements of the NPDES permit, while limiting disruption to the community. The tunnel is being bored through limestone rock, using a tunnel boring machine very similar to the machines used to construct the English Channel "Chunnel." Once the machine removes the rock and conveys it to the surface, the rough interior will be lined with steel reinforced concrete. The construction sites are relatively small and remote from residential areas.

There are currently 20 CSO outfall locations along the Rouge River in Dearborn. The completed tunnel project will reduce the number of overflow points to two. And, given the tremendous capacity of the tunnel, overflow events are predicted to drop from about 60 per year to less than one, on average. During this overflow event, rather than raw sewage coursing into the river, all discharges will receive primary treatment and, hopefully, one day, a wonderful natural resource will be reclaimed for the pleasure of all.

Contact: Kurt A Giberson, (313) 943-2075

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

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