Public works crews adapt, major projects on track

Contractors started clearing the way for a new asphalt pathway along Delight Street North this week.

Like many other agencies in the pandemic era, Keizer Public Works modified its operations in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Bill Lawyer, Keizer Public Works director, said the changes began on March 23. 

“The first thing we did was divide the field staff into two groups that are now working 12-hour shifts a day,” Lawyer said. “They work three days on and then three off and then four days on and four days off. That was done to reduce the opportunity for one person to be infected and take out the entire crew.” 

That is a model many public service agencies and first responders have switched to throughout the country to contain infections when they occur. 

“Beyond that we’ve buckled down with good housekeeping and cleaning measures. When they’re done with their week, they have a routine to go through to for cleaning before the next crew comes in,” he said. 

Public works staff plan to continue the rigorous schedules and cleaning until new guidance arrives from higher authorities. 

At the outset, Lawyer put the focus on maintaining and servicing the city’s water supply and let lower-priority items like meter maintenance rest on the back burner. In the weeks since Oregonians were told to practice social distancing and stay at home, parks have become more of a priority. 

“We’ve seen the usage of open spaces in parks go up and we want people to be outside and enjoy the parks as much as they can during this time,” Lawyer said. 

It means staff members are spending as much time as they can making sure parks look nice and hauling away all the extra garbage that comes with the increased usage.

Unfortunately, some have taken advantage of the less trafficked hours and chosen to dump large amounts of debris and other household items in spaces of Keizer Rapids Park. 

Other projects that were being planned ahead of the pandemic outbreak are moving ahead as contractors themselves take more precautions. 

An asphalt pathway for pedestrians and riders is underway on Delight Street North. The long-desired project will connect Cummings Elementary School to the south and McNary High School to the north. Lawyer was just waiting on some final paperwork to continue ADA ramp upgrades on River Road north of Chemawa Road North. A reconstruction of tennis courts at Willamette Manor Park is waiting for an extended break in the weather as is a planned replacement of a swing set in Northview Park. 

“We’re doing out best to keep things as normal as possible and these unusually abnormal times,” Lawyer said.