Martin Dupalo figures he missed seeing the actual accident by less than a minute.
About 9 p.m. Oct. 10, 2010, he came upon the aftermath of a single-car accident. A white Ford Mustang had hopped the curb and plowed through a bus stop. No one was hurt, but the sign and the bench for the stop were a complete loss.
Like many things in the neighborhood, Dupalo kept his eye on the spot over the subsequent months. While the sign was eventually replaced, the stop still lacked its bench. Over many months, he watched and saw bus patrons using a variety of makeshift benches, including tipped-over shopping carts and news racks.
"I assumed that as the RTC (Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada) replaced the route sign, it would replace the bench," Dupalo wrote in a March 22 email. "Many times, I saw seniors with grocery bags and people with canes and walkers standing for long periods of time."
Dupalo estimated that bus drivers made more than 5,000 stops at the missing bench in the 17 months since it was destroyed. He made calls to the city of Las Vegas, the RTC and Las Vegas City Council members trying to rectify the situation. Eventually, he discovered what the process was to address the issue.
In July 2005, a Nevada Assembly bill transferred authority to provide for buses and shelters for passengers of mass public transportation from local government to the RTC. The Bus Shelter and Bench Advisory Committee, made up of two members from each city in Clark County and six appointed members of the general public, meets every two months.
On April 17, Dupalo is scheduled to go before that committee to try to get the bench replaced.
Not all public service repairs are this complicated. All the governmental entities in the Las Vegas Valley have a public works department that responds to resident complaints. Problems such as potholes and broken signs are usually repaired in a timely manner, once the proper agency has been contacted.
The trick in some parts of the valley is knowing which governmental agency to contact. For purposes of public works jurisdictions, the valley is divided into four entities: Clark County handles all public works, except in the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson.
There are still residents who are surprised to discover that they don’t live within the Las Vegas city limits and the city isn’t responsible for their public works issues. The county’s website, clarkcountynv.gov, has maps available, showing the boundaries of the cities and the county.
Determining if a particular pothole or broken sign is in the city of Las Vegas or the county can perhaps be particularly difficult in the northwest part of the valley, where the city of Las Vegas is broken up by a jumbled checkerboard of unincorporated Clark County that has resisted annexation by the city.
Many municipalities offer a phone number and a website or email contact. Tina Sigman with the Henderson Public Works Department said the "Contact Henderson" section of the city’s website offers drop-down choices of various issues from which site visitors can choose. After reporting a problem online, visitors receive a confirmation email that the city has been notified.
If the repair presents an immediate danger, the proper action is a call to the emergency numbers 311 and 911, officials said.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Marcus Martin cited several public works problems that might prompt a call to the emergency numbers, including manholes being out of place, fallen light poles or malfunctioning traffic lights.
"Which number you call depends on the relative threat the situation presents to the public," Martin said. "For instance, if a light pole is down, there’s a potential for electrocution, and that might rate a 911 call."
Likewise, a downed stop sign or a traffic light that was out at night would pose a more immediate threat than a missing speed limit sign or a stoplight out during the day, when drivers can see there is supposed to be a light.
"Every driver should know that if a traffic light is out, you treat it as a four-way stop," Martin said.
Residents who are unable to evaluate the danger posed by a specific problem should err on the side of caution and call 911, Martin said.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 380-4532.