Sunday, September 20, 2020
Sept. 20, 2020

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Vancouver Public Works back on the job, preventative measures in place

Maintenance restart in time of precautions looks down road a bit

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Storme Telford of the Vancouver Public Works department trims grass along Southeast 192nd Avenue on Tuesday morning. Vancouver has resumed some nonemergency public works operations, like mowing and street sweeping. Telford was given a protective mask but said she was not using it because she was away from people.
Storme Telford of the Vancouver Public Works department trims grass along Southeast 192nd Avenue on Tuesday morning. Vancouver has resumed some nonemergency public works operations, like mowing and street sweeping. Telford was given a protective mask but said she was not using it because she was away from people. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The city of Vancouver is resuming some nonemergency maintenance operations in an attempt to ward off future damage.

Starting Monday, crews from the Vancouver Public Works department picked a number of duties back up, including lawn mowing, street sweeping and stormwater facility maintenance. The resumed operations are focused on tasks that will keep the city’s infrastructure functioning properly and prevent the need for expensive repairs or replacements, according to a press release from the city of Vancouver on Friday.

“This maintenance is needed at this time to protect the community’s investment in these areas and prevent costly restoration in the future,” Loretta Callahan, spokesperson for the Public Works department, said in an email.

Street sweeping will only take place on high-traffic arterial roads, Callahan said. The maintenance is necessary because it makes the roads safer for drivers and cyclists, and also improves water quality by preventing debris from washing down storm drains.

There are currently two street sweepers back in circulation around the city.

Public Works staffers have also resumed mowing lawns at city parks and sports fields, anywhere that it’s needed “to maintain and protect turf from ‘spoliation,’ ” Callahan said.

Safety first

The news of resuming some public works operations came after a few false starts, during which the city wasn’t sure how to keep its maintenance staff safe and busy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Initially, the workers had been pulled off their usual groundskeeping tasks and reassigned to cleaning and sterilizing public restrooms. But the staff raised alarms about the lack of personal protective equipment offered by their employer — gloves, masks and gowns were in short supply, and the gear that the city did have went directly to first responders.

So Vancouver temporarily shuttered its public restrooms before bringing in a private janitorial contractor to clean the toilet shelters at its parks.

Now, the maintenance workers’ day-to-day tasks are similar to what they would be doing this time in a typical year.

But there are a few differences. First of all, the employees are working solo, Callahan said, with only one person per sweeper truck and mower, in an attempt to adhere to social-distancing protocols as laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Procedures are in place for sanitation prior to using a vehicle (or) equipment, during, and at completion of the shift,” Callahan said.

Workers have also been issued gloves and masks for personal protection, although they don’t need to wear them for their entire shift — only when interacting with the public.

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