Water, sewer, storm, dike, tide gates, garbage disposal, parks, trails and streets are all under the umbrella of Public Works in Warrenton. Tim Bish has been on the job in Public Works for five years. He says the department’s responsibilities continue to grow as Warrenton’s population increases.
According to the U.S. Census Department, the population has shown an estimated 10% rise since 2010. “There has been incredible unprecedented growth, and every new cul de sac, subdivision and box store has new utilities, garbage and roads that need to be maintained,” Tim explains. The growth stems from surrounding industry, according to the Warrenton Final Report’s history. Ever since D.K. Warren bought 900 acres in 1885 and began selling plots to homesteaders soon after, people have kept coming to the area for fishing, logging and shipping. Today, the public works department makes this city a true home by maintaining it as a full-service municipality.
Tim was working in the private sector for Wilkins Construction as a contractor before he joined the city in 2013. He began as a driver for a garbage truck. As a driver, Tim says, he became familiar with the city. “It was like a paper route, I learned the streets and the sheer size of the system, all the way to Gearhart and the far end of Hammond.” With his background in construction, including working with utilities and problem solving, Tim quickly became an important member of the Public Works team.
Knowing the vast expanse of the Public Works Department covers, Tim is amazed at the work the 19 Public Works employees are able to accomplish. “I wish I could pick people up and show it off,” he says of the crew’s work. It is an enormous undertaking to keep it all running, but the Public Works team including sanitation workers, office staff, and water treatment employees make it possible. Not only does the staff contend with the day to day workings of the city, like meeting drinking water standards, sewer treatment and utility billing, but they are also on call in a crisis. “When things break the public doesn’t see the hard-working crew that puts in their nights, weekends and holidays,” Tim explains. The “on call” team is properly trained for emergencies, he says, they know what to do and who to call if the problem requires it. They are the ones out during a storm when the power fails or flooding occurs. They are the ones maintaining the sewer pump stations and cleaning the parks and trails of debris. They do it all in order to make Warrenton a safe and secure place to live for its more than 5,000 residents.
Improvements to the systems in place are also sometimes done in-house. According to the city’s website, “The City of Warrenton operates a 6 million gallon per day Continuous Microfiltration Water Treatment Plant.” The facility, however, never had a way to stop the water flow inside the plant when needed. So, the public works team installed a gate valve assembly. This valve works as a mechanical dam. It can be closed at the plant to stop the water flow instead of up the road. It makes processing easier, Tim explains.
The department’s responsibilities also stretch throughout miles of streets in the community. Tim says, “It’s a never-ending job that we can never get caught up on.” From clearing catch basins to filling potholes, the crew is always maintaining Warrenton avenues and boulevards. Parks are another big investment in the department. Last fall Tim and his team helped renew Quincy and Bessie Robinson Park. New playground equipment was installed by volunteers, so the team came in to lay a blanket of bark chips, rebuild dugouts and reseed the fields.
As a coastal town, Warrenton has special demands of its Public Works employees. Because of the risk of flooding, Tim explains it is critical that the city’s drainage systems are working. “Grates have to be clean, storm pumps running and tide gates operating.” In major storm events, the water just can’t escape fast enough. Every city has its issues though, Tim explains, “It’s the ying and the yang, anywhere you are you have extreme weather, this is ours.”
In order to keep it all in perspective, Tim is an avid trail user himself. He bikes, jogs and walks the very trails his team maintains to destress. “That is what matters in a town,” Tim explains. “Do you have places for recreation?” No matter what he says, we can’t sacrifice parks, trails and waterways for growth.