A nearly decade-long identity crisis is finally over for the men and women who plow the streets and maintain the underground sewer pipes in Maine’s largest city.

The department formerly known as Public Services is once again the Department of Public Works, after the Portland City Council approved a renaming ordinance by a 9-0 vote Monday. It takes effect immediately.

City Manager Jon Jennings said the name change also had the widespread support of department employees, some of whom have found themselves being asked about social service programs such as General Assistance, the program that helps the city’s poorest residents pay for rent or heat.

“There has been a lot of people (who) present themselves at our office on Portland Street looking for human service issues (such as) rental vouchers,” Jennings said. “You can imagine, there has been a lot of confusion under the name Public Services. Frankly, all of us who work at the city perform public service every day.”

The Public Works Department is known for maintaining more than 35 million square feet of city streets and more than 2 million linear feet of underground sewer pipes in Portland, although it also maintains cemeteries and collects trash, among other things.

The City Council had changed the name from Public Works to Public Services in 2008, during a reorganization of departments that included dozens of layoffs to balance the budget during the recession. The parks division was absorbed into the new Public Services Department, and the Recreational Division was added to the Facilities Management Department. Nearly 100 positions were eliminated.

Because of the consolidation and the name change, the city had to relabel both its uniforms and its fleet of vehicles.

Interim Public Works Director Bob Leeman said the city aggressively rebranded the department in 2008, including changing the name that appears on vehicles, to make employees from other city departments feel more welcome, as well as reflect the new broader mission of the department.

“At that point there was a lot of change going on and a lot of downsizing of administrations,” he said. “It was to make everyone … feel part of the family. This time around, we’re just changing the name.”

City officials could not immediately say home much it cost to rebrand the department in 2008, because of staff turnover since then.

Leeman said the new rebranding can be done at little cost, because the city produces its own stickers for vehicles and staff will use up old business cards before ordering new ones. He said the city will have to purchase new lettering for the sign on the Portland Street offices, but other changes to department letterheads and the city website can be done for free.

“(There) isn’t an urgency to swap over the labeling of things,” Leeman said. “It will be over a period of time as things change over. We still have vehicles out there that have Parks and Recreation out there from the last time. (The rebranding will happen) more as we go and as we upgrade the fleet.”

Public Works has a nearly $16 million budget for the current fiscal year and about 190 employees, including 12 administrators, working in 11 divisions ranging from streets to cemeteries to traffic to solid waste. It is the city’s second largest department, behind the Fire Department.

The city is also looking for a new person to lead the newly renamed department. Longtime Director Mike Bobinsky resigned after Jennings granted him two months of paid leave starting Sept. 15.

The city has hired two individuals with previous experience in the city’s public works operations to help run the department on a temporary basis.

Leeman, who has worked for the city for 15 years and was the director of public buildings, is serving as interim director, while Steve Earley, who has worked for the city for 36 years, including as director of operations, is serving as assistant director of operations.

The council enacted the ordinance change renaming the department on Monday as an emergency measure, so the change could take place immediately.

“The reason for that is we’re under the gun to order our winter gear and we want to make sure we have the right name and so forth,” Jennings said.