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Event celebrates public works efforts

If the parking lot filled with public works vehicles wasn’t an indication, the sea of neon safety vests made it clear: National Public Works Week celebrations were underway.

More than 40 employees and staff from Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village and Gresham gathered at the Sam K. Cox Building in Troutdale for an appreciation picnic on Wednesday, May 20. East Multnomah County’s small cities take turns hosting the annual event, with the focus on appreciating public infrastructure.

“It is easy to take infrastructure for granted because public works staff are committed to keeping things working for the citizens they serve,” said Steve Gaschler, Troutdale Public Works director. “In most cases, people only notice when it isn’t working — a broken water line, a potholed street, a backed-up sewer line.”

The lunchtime celebration included a feast of hamburgers, kicked off with remarks from Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust speaks Wednesday at a public works barbecue at the Sam K. Cox Building, featuring public works employees from Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview, Gresham and Multnomah County.

“I just want you guys to know I’m extremely proud of all of you, and I really cherish what you guys do,” he said. “If any local government had any role compared to other governments, it is to provide and take care of the infrastructure that you do.”

The American Public Works Association started the event in 1960 to raise public awareness of the importance of public works and the necessary projects to maintain infrastructure. In Troutdale, that focus has been on the potential for a local gas tax to supplement street maintenance costs.

“Troutdale’s road maintenance program is in jeopardy right now because available funds are no longer sufficient to continue the existing program,” Gaschler said.

The City Council approved $70,000 in funding for outreach on this possibility, and so far, it seems residents are supportive. The measure could be sent to voters in elections this November or in May 2016, depending on the success of summer outreach and education efforts.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Troutdale Public Works Director Steve Gaschler, serves potato salad at Wednesday's public works barbecue.

“For every $1 we spend on street preservation, we are saving up to $5 for rehabilitation or $12 for reconstruction,” Gaschler said. “Preventive street maintenance — there is no doubt it’s a good investment.”

Daoust admitted public works functions and infrastructure tend to go unnoticed by many residents and visitors.

“They don’t realize how important it is,” he said. “I just want you guys to know that you’re appreciated, and I’m really thankful that we have people like you that are working for all the cities, county, water districts. I really appreciate you.”

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