In today’s economy, there are precious few jobs for local teens, seniors and middle-aged unemployed workers. As a taxpayer, should you have the opportunity to earn back some tax dollars by helping out the public works department?

In today’s economy, there are precious few jobs for local teens, seniors and middle-aged unemployed workers. As a taxpayer, should you have the opportunity to earn back some tax dollars by helping out the public works department?


Many aspects of public works are well suited to a citizen workforce paid on an hourly rate. Ideally, we are talking about field maintenance (lawn mowing), gardening, trash pickup, pothole repair, etc.


And really, shouldn’t a local government have a responsibility to first consider its citizens as options for employment and tax expenditures? 


Through a town website, citizens could learn of available jobs and either bid to work on them on a project-by-project basis, or sign up for seasonal work. In either case, citizens would be independent contractors, paid an hourly rate, without a pension or health insurance.


This new “Citizen Works” will now be primarily responsible for taking care of the maintenance of their own town – and very likely show more care and interest than an out-of-town “full-time” workforce.


In terms of public works management, there will clearly still be a need for someone to oversee the entire department and manage the new citizen workforce, but it can be argued that any projects (water/sewer, snow plowing) not being handled by citizens could be outsourced to private contractors. So, essentially, we are talking about the potential of one FTE in your public works department.


There are already Web-based software packages that could aid in managing the citizen workforce. This software would allow workers to sign up for specific projects online, or as seasonal workers, with noted hours of availability. Additionally, it may be very possible to allow citizens to bid (an eBay type of site) on the projects, setting up a system in favor of the town in terms of expense.


If there is work available, push your local government to keep the dollars in town by hiring local citizens.


Barry Greenfield is editor and publisher of EfficientGov.com and a selectman in Swampscott, Mass.