Mayor Don Wesely today presented the Mayor’s Award of Excellence for 2002 to Richard Slama and Ron Eriksen, Jr. of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD). The award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City. Russell Murray of the Wastewater Division of the Public Works and Utilities Department was the Honorable Mention winner.
Slama and Eriksen won the monthly award for January 2002, and each has already received a $100 U.S. savings bond, a day off with pay and a plaque. All monthly winners are eligible to receive the annual award, which comes with a $500 U.S. savings bond (Slama and Eriksen will each receive a $250 bond), two days off with pay and a plaque.
Following September 11, the threat of anthrax became a concern across the nation and locally. Eriksen and Slama were the two LLCHD emergency responders who worked with the Lincoln Police and Fire Departments to respond to calls about suspicious packages, letters, and unusual powders at businesses and homes.
As the core staff of the Public Health Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Team of the LLCHD, Eriksen and Slama respond to all kinds of environmental health emergency calls, including hazardous materials spills, mercury spills, traffic accidents with fluid spills, reports of illegal dumping of special and hazardous waste, and outdoor air quality problems. They also provide law enforcement officials with hazardous chemical monitoring, handling, evidence storage and disposal assistance for methamphetamine labs. LLCHD’s help on meth labs has saved law enforcement agencies at least $40,000 in handling and disposal costs.
The Public Health Emergency Response Team usually handles about 25 calls a month. During October and November of 2001, the team responded to125 emergency calls, and Eriksen and Slama handled 107 of them. This emergency response is just one part of their job duties. They are the key staff of the Special Waste Program and work with about 1,000 businesses and government agencies. They provide pollution prevention assistance, review waste inventories, issue permits, investigate complaints, and assure compliance with local regulations to keep the City’s landfills free of hazardous waste. Eriksen has also worked with area high schools to eliminate many hazardous chemicals stored in their science labs.
During the 2001-2002 fiscal year, Eriksen and Slama responded to 270 of the 450 public health emergency situations, including 123 anthrax calls, 66 meth labs, 98 cases of illegal dumping of special or hazardous waste and 21 accidental chemical releases.
“Richard and Ron are on call every day of the week and receive no on-call or overtime pay,” said Scott Holmes, Chief of the Environmental Health Division for LLCHD who nominated the pair in the categories of productivity and customer relations. “Hazardous materials emergency calls come in at every hour of the night and day and have no respect for City holidays. They work tirelessly for the people of Lincoln and Lancaster County, and they do it with professionalism, carried by their passion for protecting people’s health and our environment.”
All City employees are eligible for the Mayor’s Award of Excellence except for elected officials and some managers. In addition to productivity and customer relations, employees can be nominated in the categories of valor, safety and loss prevention. Individuals or teams can be nominated by supervisors, peers, subordinates and the general public.
Nomination forms are available from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Personnel Department, which oversees the awards program. All nominations are reviewed by the Mayor’s Award of Excellence Committee, which includes a representative with each union and a non-union representative appointed by the Mayor.