Looking after the city’s old bones can be a thankless job.
Which is one reason it’s National Public Works Week in Trail and city crews are given the nod for all they do to keep amenities flowing freely through civil infrastructure year round.
In the 55th year of observance, the week is a reminder of the 24/7 service the department provides to make sure our water is clear, the parks are mowed, the cemetery is maintained, and the streets are clean as well as a myriad of other necessities and conveniences.
Duties for Trail public works have evolved over time from a hands on approach to more of a managerial structure.
Department positions shrunk by more than 100 once traditional core jobs were contracted out to the best bidder.
Over 37 years of working for the city, Warren Proulx has seen the changes first hand, as he rose from a junior engineering technician to his now senior position.
“When I started the city was self sufficient in terms of services provided,” he said, noting public works employed about 150 people. “The majority was full time while others were seasonal for summer construction and snow removal.”
Back then, the city workers completed all capital works projects, collected garbage, ran their own bus service, painted crosswalks, patched the roads, and maintained flower beds – in addition to everything else needed to run a municipality.
“Over the years a lot of core services were contracted out for various reasons,” Proulx explained. “Now public works is a maintenance crew looking after daily issues with a much smaller crew of 32 employees.”
When Proulx first began his profession, the engineering department looked after the design, surveying and inspection of public works projects.
Now the department is more of a management service for capital works contracts and other service contracts.
“Our greatest challenges are to set priorities and schedule all the necessary projects for construction,” he said. “While maintaining the core functions of the engineering department.”
The team of managers strive to provide citizens with the most efficient level of services the city has to offer, he added. “It can be a juggling act at times.”
With such a long career, Proulx has been involved in many of the city’s accomplishments.
Those include construction of the water treatment plant, the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre, the hospital’s Heliport, developing Gyro Park, the city’s expansion into the Waneta Junction area and the soon-to-be pipe/pedestrian bridge.