Hesperia's second Citizen's Academy is well underway, with its third class Thursday educating participants about public works, streets, water and sewer systems.


The Academy is designed to introduce residents to the inner workings of the city from day-to-day operations and activities to complex city projects such as long-term economic development. It is also intended to show how a council and city manager form of government actually works, as well as bearing light on the challenges that local governments face.


"We wanted a program available to all residents that would give them a way to ask questions directly," said Rachel Molina, the city of Hesperia's new public information officer. "It gives residents direct interaction with the people that run the city."


Half of each two-hour class is spent touring facilities and seeing elements of the city firsthand that most people never see. The other half is spent in a classroom-style setting with an in-depth presentation accompanied by questions from participants.


The eight-week-long program will cover many functions of Hesperia's government including community relations, public safety, finance, animal control and code compliance as well as many other functions.


"It's a commitment," City Manager Mike Podegracz said, "but it lets people know what their city government is about and what we do. It gets people more involved."


Molina said the cost of Hesperia running the academy is nominal and the return is evidenced in an increase in citizen engagement, such as citizens becoming involved in City Council meetings or becoming volunteers in a number of city-run programs and committees.


A number of people in last year's academy become involved in the Citizen on Patrol (COP) program and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), as well as the Public Safety Advisory Committee and the City Council Advisory Committee.


Hesperia residents Chris and Nory Swoboda said they will probably start going to City Council meetings because they are interested in keeping up on the Ranchero underpass and highway intersection projects. Chris Swoboda, who is active in the CERT and COP programs, said water management initially attracted him to the academy, specifically preventing and reporting water leaks.


Thursday's class was centered on Hesperia's streets, water and sewers. Public Works Manager Dale Burke ran the class and explained a number of things such as how cameras at stoplight intersections work, the differences between dry barrel hydrants and wet barrel hydrants and how often and in what ways water and sewage lines are cleaned.


Water conservation was a significant part of the presentation. Burke showed pictures and explained how water storage systems work as well as how water is moved throughout the city to where it is most needed. He also explained the many electrical functions that control water flow and how they can track water usage down to the gallon.


"We can tell when you flushed your toilet," Burke said, drawing laughter from the "students."


A total of 23 people signed up for this year's academy. The program is offered free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis to those who apply on the city's website. Both Podegracz and Molina said that reception for the academy has been great, and they hope to continue offering the class for years to come.


"It's good for people who want to take an active role in their community," Molina said.