By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – How would you like to get up every morning knowing that your job would be in the most dangerous place in America?
Many Water Valley utility workers face that challenge daily when they have to work on the city’s streets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, America’s roads are the most dangerous place for U.S. workers.
The number of workers on or near streets increases during summer months as part-time employees cut grass around the city. Harold Hamby of the street department has been supervising three part-timers. He says some drivers won’t slow down when passing his crew.
“One fellow almost ran me down and then chewed me out for being in his way,” Hamby said as he sprayed weed-killer near the edge of Central Street. The long-time city worker is very visible in a bright orange T-shirt that is standard issue for the street department.
Just up the street, Hamby’s crew used string trimmers to “weed eat” along the curb. All three were wearing bright yellow safety vests. A young woman with a cell phone stuck to her ear passed within a few feet of crewmember James Green.
Street department workers aren’t the only ones in danger. All of Water Valley’s utility departments have to work in or around the streets from time to time.
Morris Surrette, supervisor of the water department, said that his crews are frequently in the streets and have to watch for careless drivers. Even orange cones and barricades don’t seem to get the message across to some speeders.
“Please slow down and watch out for the workers,” he urged.
Joe Newman, manager of the electric department, expressed much the same sentiment. While one or more of his crew may be high in the air in a bucket, others are on the ground. “When you see the warning lights flashing, please slow down,” he said.
Often when crew are working in a high traffic area, they call for police to direct traffic. But, even the blue lights don’t always get the message across. Officer S. Crenshaw said that she had almost been hit several times while working traffic control.
Mike Scroggins, street department supervisor, said to just be a “little courteous and patient” when passing workers on the street. “Remember, they are working for you.”