InTrans / Oct 01, 2020

Iowa Build a Better Mousetrap winners named

Snow fence rolls from the 2020 Iowa LTAP Build a Better Mousetrap winner Page County

2020 has been a year where everyone has had to learn to adapt and make use of what we have in innovative ways. For city and county essential workers, this is nothing new.

That’s why each year the Iowa LTAP Build a Better Mousetrap contest spotlights those public works staffs that have best solved a common problem they encounter with an inventive—and often simple—idea.

This year’s contest winners from Page County adapted equipment they had on hand to solve the problem of clearing snow fencing each spring, and all for less than $25 including parts and labor. The City of Des Moines placed second, Marion County placed third, and Washington County placed fourth.

Public works employees can apply to the contest year-round here. The deadline for next year’s contest will be in the spring.

More details about each entry follows. Congrats to all the winners!

Page County Snow Fence Roller

Snow fence removal is time-intensive and can be difficult to roll up neatly after winter use. Page County solved this problem by using a post hole digger attachment, with its hydraulic-powered rotating power source, on its skid steer machine; by adding a long steel pipe with a bolt, they were able to wind the snow fence around its fence post.

“Using a piece of equipment we already have for another task reduces the cost of our solution and makes the machine more versatile,” reads part of the entry.

City of Des Moines Grease Slinger

With the aim to reduce the preparation and cleanup time on its microsurfacing sled, the City of Des Moines created a grease slinger that cut the time from up to 4 hours down to at most 1.5 hours. A demonstration of the new tool is available here.

Marion County Social Distancing CMP Banding Tool

Because of the pandemic, Marion County staff needed a way to maintain distance while banding certain corrugated metal pipe (CMP), which typically requires two employees and places them closer than the recommended 6 feet. The county purchased four RV-style scissor jacks that were modified to safely push and pull the flanges.

Washington County Sign Truck Work Basket

The staff wanted to create an easier and safer way to hang road signs and took inspiration from a bucket truck, adapting their existing chassis by adding a swinging cage on the backside of the truck.