Revitalizing downtowns with a can-do attitude

Trenton watering petunias.jpg

It wasn’t yet eight o’clock and already Trenton Wallenberg had cranked up the Browerville City John Deere tractor. He’d loaded a black plastic barrel into the tractor’s bucket, secured it with a strap and filled it with water. He’d attached a hose to the barrel’s out-spout, raised the bucket to its highest point and driven down main street. By eight o’clock, he’d watered half of the city’s square wooden petunia planters.

Some cities use their fire trucks to water flowers. Others use a Gator with a sprayer. Still others rely on business owners to take care of the flowers beautifying their boulevards. The great thing about small towns is their inventiveness in getting the job done.

Trenton, a part time summer employee, was busy again the next day. Once more, before eight o’clock, he and one of the two full-time public works employees, Tim Duncan, were out painting yellow sections of curb. Trenton held a piece of hardboard to direct the paint spray while Tim maneuvered the two-wheeled paint canister and directed the spray head, marking the no-parking areas.

In every community, the public works department is responsible for proper maintenance and operation of water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, and general upkeep of the cities. In small towns, that means the job is shouldered by a very small number of people working with limited resources, and a can-do attitude. They don’t use fancy irrigation systems if a John Deere and a young man can do the job. They don’t contract with GPS driven paint crews when a handheld sprayer and a piece of board work.>Painting curbs in Browerville.jpg

The number one desire expressed by folks at Todd County’s visioning session was to revitalize our downtowns. Apparently, we value the ability to buy local, to be able to have coffee, pick up a few groceries, and get the necessities of life without driving 30-50 miles to do it. With the example of a young man and his can-do attitude, what are the big ideas, and the little ones, that can make it happen?

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