How have operations, maintenance, and infrastructure been affected by recent events? Listen as Mayor McDonnell and Public Works Director Steve Wall talk it over: https://youtu.be/4PsRm5F9_rQ
For more on the City of Camas's COVID-19 response, please visit https://www.cityofcamas.us/ourcommunity/covid-19.
Today’s video is with Public Works Director Steve Wall. Steve has been with the City 6 years, has 22 years of experience overall, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Washington and Oregon.
Public Works oversees all the City’s infrastructure. That includes operations and maintenance of the City’s utilities (water, sewer, stormwater, and garbage); operations and maintenance of parks, streets, buildings, fuel, facilities, fleet, and equipment; and new infrastructure that is constructed, such as the current Brady Road project and the Lacamas Creek Sewer Pump Station project going on now at Third Avenue.
How is the coronavirus affecting operations?
We’ve reduced levels of service slightly, but we’re still able to provide the functions that we typically do. We are making sure crews have the protective gear they need to complete the work. When it comes to clean water and sewer services – people shouldn’t see a difference. We’re deferring maintenance, and we’ll get caught up with it after this emergency is over.
We are still picking up garbage every day, so people shouldn’t see a difference there. Drivers are in separate trucks and are able to be safe while getting everything picked up. Parks have recently been impacted the most. We’ve closed all parks facilities, including play structures and restrooms, for everyone’s safety, and hopefully people understand that. They still can enjoy the grassy areas and trails. We ask that people maintain six feet of separation put in place by governor, even while on the trails.
How are staff ensuring the right protocols?
Though we’re large as a whole, we’re broken up into crews. Our administrative and office staff are able to work from home, including answering the phone and taking questions. The biggest thing that we’ve done to minimize exposure is to split the crews up into two different groups, so they’re one week on, and one week at home, similar to what other local agencies have done. When they’re at home, they’re on on-call status. This helps with staff-to-staff and staff-to-citizen separation, while still providing services. It also helps minimize contact with any contagious persons and make sure we still have a crew that can provide services.
Like other cities around us are doing, we are asking that people only flush toilet paper down the toilet. No flushable wipes, baby wipes, paper towels, Kleenex tissues—none of them are supposed to be flushed. Especially given Camas’s type of system, those things can cause big problems (worldwide, in fact) for the homeowner and the maintenance staff.
The City supply of water is great. During this type of emergency, we have operators and backup plans in place. Bottled water is always good to have in your emergency kit, but in this case, we should have sufficient water and procedures in place, so we do not see a need for people to rush out and stock up on bottled water.
Is it a good time to do big infrastructure projects?
First and foremost, we’re following all directives and being safe. In terms of completing the projects, this is a really great time to perform construction projects; there’s less traffic, and less impact to the contractors and to those on the road. Contractors’ crews are always small and spread out, making social distancing possible.
We have dedicated funding for the upcoming projects, so none of our other services will be impacted at all. We have the money to move forward. From an economy standpoint, throughout history, in times of recession or when the economy’s down, the way we’ve pull out of those things is through building projects and getting people out to work.
We’re monitoring this on a day-by-day basis, trying to understand many different factors, and we’re figuring it out. It’s important for people to understand that we’re still here, the operations crews are still out doing work, and if something comes up, we’ve got people in place to be able to address them, to meet everyone’s needs, and to provide those essential services.