Pleasanton Weekly

Column - October 8, 2010

What about the sewers?

by Jeb Bing

It's starting to look as if Daniel Smith and his team at the Pleasanton Operations Service Center that he directs are becoming more like Disney/Pixar East or Hollywood North with their creative websites and videos that are some of the best in the business. They're even in the publishing business with a new 50-page booklet written in-house that could be dubbed "Everything you always wanted to know about climate change and what you can do about it." In managing these ingenious and innovate resources, Smith has also become somewhat of an actor's agent, recruiting Pleasanton police Sgt. Mike Collins to star in a new video, "Leveraging Technology," and Laura Ryan, the city's manager of energy and sustainability, to handle the writing, data research and creative and artistic work on a multitude of pamphlets, brochures, booklets and interactive websites the Operations Center is fielding.

It used to be that work in a city's physical plant mainly dealt with mundane, but nevertheless critical services, such as water, sewers, streets, traffic signs and equipment maintenance and repair. That's still the function. But as "Leveraging Technology" shows, Pleasanton has made many of these functions high tech. Water now travels from the high Sierra to home water faucets in Pleasanton without helping hands, except for the frequent taste and purity tests in Smith's shop. Collins, in his new role as a Pleasanton film star, has viewers following a miniaturized, mobile video camera through sewer lines to check for leaks and to make sure they're flowing freely -- a once dirty job city sewer workers remember in the pre-computer/video cam days.

In fact, Pleasanton's system is so well programmed and computer-driven that water managers around the country asked Mayor Jennifer Hosterman to have the Daniel Smith team go to Washington, D.C., to explain it after she talked about the work going on here at a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting. But this is a tight-budget, recessionary year, so Smith, not wanting to have an East Coast trip show up on his expense report, commissioned the video and recruited Sgt. Collins to help him narrate it. Many of us have seen Collins with Officer Mike Bradley on TV30's "Copps" show, the public television program that provides information about the Pleasanton Police Department. In his new video -- available on a CD from the Operations Center -- Collins dons work clothes to walk with a camera crew showing and narrating the workday Operations. With Smith chiming in, Collins takes us on sewer and water line checks to automated traffic lane striping and even to computer models used to determine the strength needed for new energy-saving LED lamps used in traffic lights and soon to replace the more expensive bulbs in the city's street lights. Most impressive are the cost savings Pleasanton has made in the delivery and consumption of water, metering park sprinklers, for example, so that they shut off when sensors detect high humidity and rain.

Smith's group also has taken the lead on promoting energy conservation, developing a website that was shown to the City Council on Tuesday that is specifically designed to post Climate Action Plan (CAP) documents and to solicit community feedback in the process. The website at should grab your attention if only for the spectacular design and the information it offers. It also ties in with the city's Community Green Fair to be held Oct. 21, called, fittingly, Pleasanton Green Scene. Held in partnership with Hacienda Business Park, it will be the first in a series of activities and events that will be part of the overall Climate Action Plan that Smith and his team have responsibility for managing. With 75 vendors expected at this festive fair, and then to be followed by a CAP workshop Smith will hold Oct. 27, the Operations Center has a new and increasingly busy role to play in Pleasanton affairs. Let's just hope the sewers keep flowing freely.


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