City public works director Mike Bisbach's management style used to be walking around to many of his staff to ask what their day looked like.

Now, with many of his employees working from home as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19, it involves a lot of emails.

“You lose that personal kind of connection with a lot of your day-to-day operations, so that’s difficult,” he said. “As tasks were coming out and as we’re working on things, I would make rounds, so I miss that.”

Bisbach said COVID-19 has affected almost all of the department’s operations since the state and county began imposing restrictions in mid-March.

Many changes involve precautions to reduce the risk of infection, such employees now taking separate trucks when going out to a project site, rather than sharing a ride. Other services that require more than one employee, such as jetting sanitary sewers and some tasks, have been deemed not critical.

Some services that require only one person or allow for generous social distancing, are happening as normal, Bisbach said. Those include street sweeping, pothole patching and pruning.

The department also wears personal protective equipment when necessary and sanitizes shared equipment frequently, he added.

The utility crew has been moved out of the main public works building on South Fish Hatchery Road into a wellhouse to create separation, and the break room has been restructured to separate people.

Bisbach said his staff will better understand the vulnerability of Fitchburg’s residents, as well as their own, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just have to be careful because we are in close proximity to one another,” he said. “We see the same people every day, so if one person gets (COVID-19) and isn’t aware, we could basically infect the whole crew, and that would have a devastating impact on our services.”

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.​