Profile: Joseph J. ‘Bud’ Nicoletti Jr., P.E. City of White Plains Department of Public Works

Ten square miles may not sound like a lot of space, but the bustling, thriving City of White Plains in Westchester County covers an area just that size, proving that a lot can be successfully planned and developed on a relatively small parcel of land.

White Plains was founded in 1683 when men from Rye purchased 4,435 acres from the Weckquaeskeck Indians. Home construction along a street, now known as Broadway, began almost immediately.

On July 11, 1776, from the steps of the County Courthouse in White Plains, the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in New York, changing the Province of New York into the State of New York and making White Plains the “birthplace of New York State.”

Since then, White Plains has evolved into a brilliant example of what quality growth and skilled leadership can achieve — a perfect mixture of business, retail and a sense of community blended together to form a major regional center.

Approximately 53,000 people make White Plains their home, but five days a week the city’s population bursts to roughly a quarter of a million people who work for the many businesses that call this County Seat of Westchester County their home. And all those people rely on a Public Works Department (DPW) to handle its responsibilities on a daily basis.

In 1985, at the recommendation of the mayor, the White Plains Common Council appointed Joseph “Bud” Nicoletti Jr., P.E. to serve as the City’s Commissioner of Public Works with additional responsibilities as the City Engineer.

Bud is no stranger to the city; he was born in White Plains and has lived there for most of his life, save for a few years when he resided in Virginia while he was Volvo of North America’s assistant chief engineer for its Bus Division.

A Renaissance Man

When Bud talks about the skills he brings to his position, he jokes that he “seems to know a little bit about a lot of things.” But superintendents and commissioners know that is exactly the skill set you need to succeed in any job.

Bud speaks fondly of growing up around his father’s service station. After school, he was a hands-on helper at his Dad’s business and learned it inside and out. At the time Bud recalled not realizing just how much of a head start that provided him with until he attended engineering school and was the only student there who knew how to weld or operate a metal lathe.

Bud is a licensed professional engineer in New York and New Jersey and was voted “Outstanding Engineer in Government” in 1996 by the Westchester/Putnam County Chapter of the NYS Society of Professional Engineers. He also has a senior water plant operator’s license, a CDL and has a NYS Vehicle Inspection Certification. Additionally, he is a member of the APWA, the Society of Automotive Engineers and the American Water Works Association.

Bud and his wife, Ann, have a 21-year-old daughter, Laurie Ann, and a 19-year-old son, Joey. And Bud has a passion for antique trucks, which is evident by the first part of his e-mail address: “modela …” Bud is the proud owner of a 1931 Ford Model A dump truck, a 1949 Ford load lugger and a 1963 Jeep pickup.

Seven Bureaus

The DPW, with approximately 265 employees, consists of seven bureaus, which operate under the headings of three general Bureaus of Engineering and Water, Administration, and General Services.

The seven bureau “subdivisions” are:

• Public Facilities,

• Highways,

• Sanitation,

• Garage and Shop,

• Water,

• Wastewater, and

• Engineering.

All these bureaus run on an annual operating budget of approximately $29.4 million. “Additionally, we manage most of the city’s capital improvement projects which have a total annual budget of about $10 million,” Bud added.

Coordinating the efforts of these seven bureaus is a major effort. The Bureau of Administration provides support to Bud, his deputies, other bureau superintendents and staff in handling the many facets of budget management, personnel, contract negotiations, bid letting, grant applications and DPW municipal code enforcement. In general, it coordinates all the operations of the various DPW bureaus and their interdepartmental responsibilities.

Among the key personnel that keep things rolling at the White Plains DPW are Peter Termine, 1st deputy commissioner; Jerry Harris, 2nd deputy commissioner; Dennis DeFillipis, operations supervisor; and Patsy Fucale, highway and grounds superintendent — all people whom Bud directly relies on to help him accomplish all that the department must tackle.

Most employees work 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except during the summer months when they bump the day ahead to 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Some schedules for various employees are fine-tuned to provide maximum efficiency. For example, water plant operators work eight hour shifts providing the city with 24/7 coverage. The Sanitation Bureau workers are on the “task system,” which allows them to leave when they’ve completed their routes. Streets are swept after midnight and the street light section workday starts at 5:30 a.m.

The DPW’s Bureau of Public Facilities provides a centralized maintenance management program for all city-owned buildings with a total value in excess of $75 million. Among its many responsibilities are general repairs, painting, carpentry, cleaning, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, landscaping and security, to name a few.

White Plains has 21 city-owned buildings that vary in age from 90 years old to brand new. Among them are:

• the Municipal Office Building,

• a 44-cell Public Safety Building,

• a repair shop,

• Seven fire stations,

• an ice rink,

• two swimming pools,

• a library, and

• parking garages.

The Bureau of Highways consists of four sections:

• Highways,

• Street Cleaning,

• Street Lighting, and

• Forestry (Yes, that’s correct.)

Although one might think that “Forestry” is unusual in a city highway department operation, it’s a responsibility taken very seriously in White Plains. Drive on the tree-lined streets of the city and you’ll see forestry department’s work up close and personal. In fact, in 2001, White Plains was named “Tree City USA” by New York State’s Foresters and the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The Highway Bureau is responsible for 135-center lane mi. of paved city streets and handles snow and ice control on an additional 17 mi. of Westchester County roads. And for six days a week, the bureau operates and maintains the Gedney Way Composting and Recycling Yard — another area in which the City of White Plains has been recognized for excellence. Dating back to 2000, White Plains recycling collections, not including yard material, increased to an impressive average of 217 lbs. of paper, bottles, jars and cans collected and recycled per resident.

The Bureau of Sanitation promotes a clean environment throughout White Plains by providing all residents, institutions and commercial establishments with a punctually scheduled solid waste collection system.

In 1987, the Bureau of Sanitation began using front-load refuse collection trucks as part of a “refuse containerization” effort for commercial establishments and multi-family complexes. Currently, White Plains’ Bureau of Sanitation is the only municipality in Westchester County with this type of collection equipment, which only requires one person per truck instead of the usual four. The effort currently serves 75 White Plains sites utilizing approximately 120 sealed containers that hold up to 8 cu. yds. of refuse, as opposed to the traditional rear-load containers that hold 2 to 3 yds. of refuse.

The Bureau of Garage and Shop operates a centralized automotive fleet management program for the city.

The fleet management program consists of safety and operational inspections and corrections, a preventive maintenance program and corrective repairs for approximately 418 city-owned motor vehicles, heavy equipment, specialized units and police department vehicles.

Additionally, specific services also are provided for the fire department. The Garage and Shop Bureau provides 24-hour radio dispatched emergency on-road towing and repair service to all city vehicles. This bureau stocks approximately a $250,000 parts inventory, which helps it minimize out-of-service downtime and has a state-of-the-art paint and collision repair facility.

Because technology is ever changing, White Plains boasts an extensive videotape library for annual training to keep its mechanics and technicians well trained. The bureau believes in continuous education on the many facets of service and maintenance required to effectively keep a fleet of this size operational. White Plains DPW replaces approximately 10 percent of its fleet every year and sees a future need for additional dump trucks, packers, sweepers and police cars. (See White Plains’ Green Fleet for some fast facts about the city’s innovative use of technology.)

The Bureau of Water operates and maintains an extensive water deliver system, and its income and working capital are derived through metering and billing for water usage; a.k.a., “The Water Fund.” The bureau maintains this fund as an enterprise fund for exercising timely and accurate meter readings and water account billing services.

In 2000, the York State Conference of Mayors recognized the City of White Plains for its “Drinking Water Filtration Plant.” Using state-of-the-art micro filtration technology, the plant is fully automated (computer controlled) and is the first micro filtration drinking water plant approved by the NYS Department of Health. White Plains is dependent on purchasing raw water from New York City, but faces stiff premium surcharges during peak demand periods. With a simple process and a high degree of automation, no new water plant operators are necessary, training requirements are minimal and user intervention for membrane cleaning is needed only every several weeks. Consequently, reliance on New York City water has been reduced and the stiff peak demand purchase surcharges are avoided, in essence, by making the new plant pay for itself.

“Micro-filtration technology, although leading edge, is not experimental. It has been successfully used in Europe and the southern U.S. for the past several years,” Bud said.

With more than 9,400 metered water connections in White Plains and an additional 677 fire lines, the Water Bureau administrative staff have their hands full. Last year, the staff issued more than 20,000 water bills that generated nearly $5.5 million and handled approximately 8,300 phone inquiries to the department. In FY 2000-01 they pumped 3,275,995,000 gallons.

The DPW’s Bureau of Wastewater maintains and operates two extensive wastewater recovery systems: the municipal sanitary sewer system and the storm water drain system.

Above and beyond cleaning 355 catch basins, repairing 98 of them and responding to 100 emergency calls, last year the Bureau of Wastewater flushed 80,000 lineal ft. of sanitary lines throughout the city. The bureau pro-actively manages a joint sealing program and root control program and assists other bureaus in a wide variety of other maintenance projects. In all, there are 125 mi. of sanitary sewer lines with 3,511 manholes, and 80 mi. of storm water drain lines with 3,198 catch basins and 2,473 manholes throughout White Plains.

The Bureau of Engineering plays an integral role in many of the projects undertaken by other bureaus by providing engineering investigation, design and construction services for all departments and agencies of the City of White Plains.

“Wearing a second cap” as the city engineer, Bud uses his vast experience and education when he works with his associate engineers and other bureau heads to help provide technical information. Blueprints, maps, accident reports, photography, compilation of project data are all within the scope of the Bureau of Engineering. During the past year, the bureau has been steadily involved in numerous street improvement, sewer improvement, building improvement projects, among many others.

After one looks above and below the surface of the City of White Plains, you’d be hard pressed to find a finer 10-sq.- mi. plot of developed land anywhere. And, clearly, in his 17 years as Commissioner of Public Works in the City of White Plains, Bud Nicoletti has contributed greatly to that success. He and his bureau superintendents should be proud of all they’ve accomplished for their fine city.

You can also view previous issues of Superintendent's Profile.