The City of Sedalia hired a new public works director in March, putting a Sedalia native at the helm.
Brenda Ardrey began her new job in March and has had a whirlwind of duties since taking over the position, including the completion of the city’s sewer project, the beginning of summer road construction projects, and possible new options for sanitation and recycling services.
“Streets, we’ve got a lot of summer projects going on, doing mill and overlay. Engineer (Avenue) from Broadway (Boulevard) back to 16th Street, the same over on New York (Avenue) and some work over on 16th Street, as well as some small projects,” Ardrey said. “There’s some concrete work that will be going on in a couple areas with sidewalks again this summer. … Safe Schools grants (for sidewalks) have closed, so we’re watching for grants that might open up to allow us to continue work on sidewalks.”
Ardrey “loves” working on grants to help get funding for infrastructure such as bridges and sidewalks, so she plans to research grants to help supplement funding.
Ardrey is a Smith-Cotton alumna and attended Whittier when it was an elementary school. She studied accounting and auditing at Central Missouri State University and received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She worked in accounting at Rival Manufacturing in Sedalia before working for the state of Missouri in social services and economic development.
She worked for the last 14 years with Missouri Department of Natural Resources in internal audits and most recently in the solid waste program as the operations section chief, overseeing the 20 solid waste management districts and their recycling efforts and working with landfills and hauling entities.
Her eight years of experience with solid waste is coming in handy with recent talks about possible service changes for sanitation and recycling. Ardrey presented options for both programs to the Sedalia City Council during Monday’s work session, and after hearing plenty of public comments, she wanted to make sure citizens know those options aren’t set in stone, and no official decisions have been made.
“I have never presented options to a governing body where you didn’t tweak those options,” she said. “I may have presented five options the other night, but as we go through the process there might be many more options or just changes in the options to come. Those are truly intended to be for discussion purposes.”
Ardrey also noted that the main objective is to reduce sanitation costs, as most cities’ sanitation departments are designed to break even, but Sedalia is far from achieving that. Recycling typically costs more than landfill material, but Ardrey said “10 times more is not routine.”
“Everyone takes the garbage out and they set it at the curb and they’re just really glad when they get home that night it’s gone. They never think about how it has to be managed,” she said. “It’s expensive to manage waste, so the more we can reduce it, the less costs are involved. … Trash sounds simple to deal with, but it’s really complex.”
In addition to changing up the recycling program — the Cooperative Workshop Inc. informed the city about a year ago it could no longer be a recycling partner, so changes will be happening in coming months — Ardrey is also looking for ways to utilize more trash and recycling material.
“I’m working on and plan to contact people that might want textiles and shoes. In most communities, those are kept out of the waste stream because there are other beneficial uses for those materials and in Sedalia those haven’t been pulled out separately,” she explained. “They can be reused, resold. … Lots of people will take a portion of what people don’t wear anymore and sell them. There are also a couple of places, one in St. Louis, it’s called Remains, and another in Cass County, they make archery targets from old clothes.”
Ardrey said it’s time for Sedalia to start conversations about new practices that should have been discussed years ago, such as these new recycling programs or the idea of citizens composting their organic material that’s usually thrown away. She said she welcomes ideas, comments and concerns from citizens as these discussions begin.
Ardrey is a mom and grandma to two sons and three grandsons, and said she was happy to move back to Sedalia as much of her family lives here. She said she likes the outdoors, such as hiking, fishing and spending time in city and state parks. That also applies to her job.
“I like working outside. In accounting you sit inside a lot — I like project work,” she said. “I like to see streets repaired and sewers working. Sanitation does a lot more than just pick up the garbage. … Streets are an ongoing issue and we’re looking for funding for sidewalks, so I should not be lacking in construction projects here.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.