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November 23, 2020 - 1:19pm

Having a role in the successful completion of a municipal project has provided a sense of satisfaction to City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth, but it pales in comparison to his appreciation of and attachment to the people he worked with over the past 34 years.

“The people I have worked with I just can’t say enough about. I’m getting all choked up thinking about it, really,” Worth said during a telephone interview with The Batavian as he winds down a distinguished career with the city.

Worth’s official retirement date is Jan. 15, but his last day on the job – due to time earned – is Dec. 11.

His final City Council meeting is tonight’s Conference session at the City Centre Council Board Room, where he will receive a proclamation from lawmakers, honoring him for his dedicated service.

The 56-year-old lifelong resident of the Pembroke area said he has a special place in his heart for the people who believed in him and labored by his side.

“A lot of people gave me an opportunity or a chance, and I can’t thank them enough. I can name names, but I don’t want to leave anyone out,” he said.

Still, he first mentioned (the late) Dennis Larson, the former Public Works director who hired him back in March 1987 – “Dennis is someone I always thought the world of,” Worth said – and he thanked John Schaefer (former Water & Wastewater superintendent) and Len Walker (former Public Works director) for their expertise.

City Workers a Close-Knit Group

When it comes to his coworkers, Worth said they were like family.

“Those guys were special. When there was a water main break in the middle of the night and you’re out there in the freezing cold, you counted on each other to be there for each other,” he said. “Jim Ficarella and Bill Davis (retired and current Water & Wastewater superintendents, respectively), and the crews. There’s a sense of camaraderie and friendship and professionalism that I will always treasure.”

Worth began his career with the city – following a short stint with the Genesee County Highway Department – as an engineering technician and was promoted to deputy superintendent of water/wastewater in 1999. He took over as superintendent of that department three years later.

In July 2015, he was appointed Public Works director. The promotion put him in charge of the Bureau of Maintenance (Streets & Sidewalks), Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Water Plant and Sewer Plant), Bureau of Inspections (Code Enforcement) and Bureau of Engineering, with responsibility for approximately 50 employees.

During his tenure, he has been involved in numerous public works projects, including street reconstruction, water and sewer plant upgrades, and capital infrastructure planning.

“The projects that we’ve done over the years are the things that I’ve really craved,” he offered. “A project gets done and there’s a tangible change that happened – something that you can really see … the road got plowed, the road got paved, a new water line got put in, whatever that may be.”

Keeping a Low Profile is Just Fine

He said he understands how important public works are to residents and doesn’t mind flying under the radar.

“If we’re doing it right, the people don’t notice you’re doing it. There’s a certain satisfaction in that,” he said.

“When the kids come through on tours of things, we tell them that Public Works is the department that you touch and feel every day. You’re using the streets, you’re walking on the sidewalks, you’re using the water, you’re flushing the toilet. That interaction is very real with the services that Public Works provides compared to fire and police and other big departments that really you don’t have to interact with them, even though they’re a higher profile profession.”

In January 2018, Worth took over as interim city manager after the departure of Jason Molino and served in that role for about 10 months.

“That year of me being upstairs as the interim city manager, I really missed DPW,” he said. “The city manager position is more of a higher-level planning, with stuff more in the future and not readily tangible, so that’s why I was quite ready to get back to Public Works.”

He did such a fine job as interim city manager that he was selected by the Genesee Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association as the 2018 recipient of the Public Works Leader of the Year in the Administrative Management Category.

Worth said he had plenty of support during that time.

“I was very fortunate that I had really good people (department heads) when I was upstairs here – Ray Tourt (Department of Maintenance), Jim Ficarella, the two superintendents – they really ran the Public Works department for those 10 months, and did a really good job as there were projects still going on,” he said. “A lot of people pulled together, understanding that there was a vacuum and we all needed to help each other to get through it.”

Looking Back at Specific Projects

When asked about specific projects that stand out, Worth mentioned the new sewer plant construction, a $45 million venture that took place during his first year with the city.

“Being a young kid who doesn’t know a darn thing and walking into a huge project like that, I got exposed to so many different aspects of construction and large-scale projects,” he said. “What an opportunity to observe that and learn from that. That was on the very front end, but that sticks in my mind.”

He also said mentioned the Main Street reconstruction in 2003 and 2004 – “the road was in such bad shape,” he noted – and talked about some of the benefits of the smaller, residential street projects.

“You got to meet the people who lived there and you built relationships with them,” he said. “I remember some older people who lived on the street – by the end of the summer they were giving me canned tomatoes and offered to pray for you at night. That was a fun aspect of working in a municipality. You get to meet the people.”

As far as unfinished business, Worth remembers his first day on the job, performing survey work on Oak Street to prepare for a new street, Cecere Drive.

“It was a small subdivision with a few houses to be built there, but there ended up being a conflict over some property deeds or something, and that project never happened. That one never made it to the finish line.”

Hope Ahead for the City Centre Mall?

Worth acknowledged some “missed opportunities” in regard to building a new police station, but is pleased to see that it finally is on track.

“We always were going to do something, but something would come up and it got put off. The police need a new headquarters. The old City Hall (former Brisbane Mansion) is about 200 years old and trying to function as a police station.”

He said he is optimistic that a solution to the City Centre Mall dilemma is near. He called the initial concept of the Genesee Country Mall a mistake, “having all of these individual ownerships with this common hallway in the middle of it.”

“I was involved in that on several different levels over the years. I think frustration would be the word here, but I think moving forward there are opportunities that will be very positive – considering the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) redevelopment work.”

When it was mentioned that at least the roof has been repaired, Worth said the last section is scheduled to be done in the coming year … “and then all the buckets go away, right?”

Council President: He’s Going to be Missed

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Worth deserves to enjoy his retirement, admitting “we’re going to miss him tremendously.”

“He’s done a lot of work; he’s involved in a lot of the projects. He stepped up even as assistant city manager for a time and was able to lead the ship for a couple months while we got things squared away so, he’s going to be missed for sure,” he said.

Jankowski said he is sure Worth has imparted his knowledge to put the city in position to promote his replacement from within.

“Hopefully, we’ve done our job and there are people in place to take over, but I know that Matt is that kind of guy -- a teacher and a mentor to a lot of the employees that he works with. So, I’m sure there will be somebody qualified to take the reins,” he said.

Tourt, a city employee for nearly 22 years, started out in the Engineering Bureau, working with Worth.

“They’re really going to miss him and they don’t realize how much yet. He’s been a real good boss and he’s been a great mentor and he’s been a good friend. He has really looked out for the operations of the city and always put the city first,” he said.

Worth said he intends to find another job, but is not sure of the line of work.

“I’m hoping to find somebody that has a need for an old, washed-up Public Works director, I guess,” he said, downplaying his experience. “I’m leaning toward something local. I really do enjoy living here and have lived here all my life.”

He also said that he and his wife, Joan, will have more time with the family – their grown children, Adam and Kathryn, and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3 – and continue to enjoy their walks at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s a chance to give the dog some exercise,” he said.

July 31, 2018 - 3:06pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, public works.

Press release from the city's Department of Public Works:

The City of Batavia Water Department will be repairing a water main break on Richmond Avenue at Redfield Parkway starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Aug. 1st.

Water may be turned off on Richmond Avenue from Union Street to Redfield Parkway. Richmond will be closed from Redfield Parkway to Bogue Avenue. Please avoid the intersection of Redfield Parkway and Richmond Avenue.

The water department will make every effort to restore the water as quickly as possible.

Please avoid doing laundry if water is discolored when restored. 

June 1, 2017 - 4:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, Announcements, public works.

Press release from the city's Department of Public Works:

Lehigh Avenue at Creek Road will be closed to all traffic beginning Wednesday June 7th for replacement of a culvert pipe. A detour route using Shepherd Road and East Road will be posted to assist motorists.

It is expected that this work will take seven to 10 days for completion, before the road will be reopened to all traffic.

May 31, 2017 - 6:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in public works, batavia, news.

Press release from the city's Department of Public Works:

Construction is scheduled to begin this week for replacement of water lines and sewer mains in the Vine Street, Chase Park, Elm Street and East Avenue area of the City.

Be advised that the construction will result in travel restrictions and disruptions in this area, and it is recommended that unnecessary travel down these streets be avoided. 

March 21, 2017 - 4:50pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, public works, Announcements.

Press release:

The Department of Public Works has completed a Tree Management Plan to guide its efforts over the next 20 years. It was funded by a 2015 grant from the NYS Urban and Community Forestry Council, with technical support was provided by Urban Forest Analytics LLC, based in Geneva. A formal presentation of the plan, open to the public, will be given at City Hall at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22.

The primary goal of the plan is to establish a substantially enlarged and healthier tree population whose larger canopy cover at maturity will supply a significant increase in benefits to the City. Such benefits include environmental services such as carbon dioxide storage and energy use reduction, and can be assigned a monetary value using the i-Tree software developed by the USDA Forest Service. Results show that for every $1 invested by the City of Batavia in the trees on streets and in parks, the community currently receives back about $1.34 in environmental benefits.

Many social benefits have been demonstrated by recent research: reduced road rage, improved worker productivity, increased social ties and neighboring, better physical and mental health, greater consumer activity, etc. Though more difficult to equate with monetary value than environmental benefits, these are of equal importance for the City’s well-being.

The plan lays out a two-phase approach to maximize these benefits for the entire City. Phase 1 covers the first seven years, and focuses on stabilization: removal of trees in poor condition along with replacement, and upgrading maintenance tools and techniques. Phase 2 aims for sustainability: significant increase in street tree density across the City, planning for Park planting, greater citizen involvement, etc.

The plan and supporting documents are available online at:

http://www.batavianewyork.com/bureau-of-maintenance/pages/tree-documents

June 1, 2016 - 12:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, public works, urban forestry.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Department of Public Works is working with Urban Forest Analytics, LLC, the consultant for the development of a Tree Management Plan.

This work requires the consultant to do assessments, and GIS locations of the trees in the public right of way, and in city parks. Please be advised that personnel from Urban Forest Analytics, LLC, will be completing this work during the month of June, so residents may notice these workers in the parks and along city streets.

These personnel should be identifiable by wearing safety vests as well as clothing identifying them as working for Urban Forest Analytics. Residents may also contact the City of Batavia, Department of Public Works at 345-6325 with any questions or concerns they may have in relation to this project. partnering

February 4, 2016 - 6:17pm
posted by Billie Owens in Summit Street, batavia, public works, tree removal.

Press release from Matt Worth, director of the City's Department of Public Works:

The City has begun tree removal work on Summit Street in advance of the reconstruction project to be completed this summer.

This work will result in the removal of approximately 30 tree on Summit Street, which need to be removed as they conflict with new utilities, sidewalks or curb lines to be installed, or they are in a deteriorated condition.

This work may result in some short-term delays to the traveling public on Summit Street until the removals are complete, which is expected to take a couple of weeks.

The reconstruction of Summit Street includes the installation of approximately 60 new trees as part of the landscaping work to be completed as part of this project.

October 17, 2015 - 3:58pm
posted by Billie Owens in Oakfield, public works.

Press release:

The Village of Oakfield’s Department of Public Works plan to flush hydrants throughout the Village and Town of Oakfield beginning Oct. 19th and concluding Oct. 23rd. Residents may notice some discoloration in water and possible low pressure.

(Also, a reminder to Village residents -- street parking regulations change beginning Nov. 1st through April 30th.)

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