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Citizens Academy gives a day in the life of city services

SALISBURY — A weekly class is giving some Salisbury residents a tour of how the city operates.

Salisbury Citizens Academy provides a way for residents to get hands-on, interactive experience with different municipal departments. On Thursday, participants visited the Public Services and Transit departments and learned how to fill potholes, collect garbage and pick up tree limbs.

Transit Director Rodney Harrison gave participants a better understanding of how the bus system operates with a short trip to the department’s offices on West Franklin Street.

“Tonight is a fun night,” Harrison said. “You get to play with a bunch of big toys and get hands-on experience.”

Craig Powers, assistant director of public services, explained his department’s role.

“If you’ve ever rode around town and looked out your window and said, ‘They ought to fix this, they ought to pick this up or they ought to clean this up,’ we are they,” Powers said. “That’s who we are.”

Participants spent three hours learning about the two departments.

“It gives a face to the city,” said Kelly Baker, assistant to the city manager.

Crystal Jackson, a Realtor who moved to Salisbury several years ago, said Citizens Academy is giving her an appreciation of the all the city does, especially with a small staff.

“Learning about the work that they do, knowing that it’s not a lot of people that run that equipment and how good they keep up with it — because I remember always saying ‘Wow, they keep up so good with the city’ — and today learning that it’s only a handful of people actually doing it,” Jackson said. “To me, that shows that they take pride in their city for them to do so much, and they seem happy doing it.”

Public Services Director Tony Cinquemani gave a rundown of what his department is tasked with.

“We do so much,” Cinquemani said. “Public works has a lot of responsibilities. We take our streets, bridges, sidewalks, waste removal, stormwater, traffic signs, pavement markings on the road, cemeteries, right-of-way mowing, buildings and grounds maintenance, and we just last year picked up another group. We actually have the telecommunications group under us.”

Brad Gorman, a grounds maintenance supervisor, said participants learn a lot about the work the city does.

“These are always good,” Gorman said. “I’ve been to several of these, and it’s always positive things as far as people saying, ‘Gosh, we didn’t know you did that.’”

Baker said most participants in Citizens Academy, which is in its fifth year, say they can tell that city employees enjoy their jobs

“It’s just so amazing to see that they are so passionate about their jobs,” Baker said.

Gorman said he and other employees have seen the impact the sessions have on the community.

“It shows that their tax money is well spent,” Gorman said. “It saves us time, and it makes the job better.”

Betty Smyth, a participant in Citizens Academy, said the session was enlightening.

“Next time you think your Salisbury taxes are high, come to one of these,” Smyth said.

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