June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

County recognizes employees for post-disaster debris project

8 min read
Anneka Scarpino: We had crews come from as far as Florence to help in this. We had Dexter, Cottage Grove, and these are not guys that traditionally work day to day together, either. They're on different crews. Some of them are operators, some of them are flaggers, and we all came together and the seamlessness in which that occurred amazed me.

Lane County commissioners recognized employees who conceived and led a project to support county residents after the ice storm. On April 16:

[00:00:12] Steve Mokrohisky (County administrator, April 16, 2024): One of the fun things that we like to do is recognize groups of employees. We have a great group of employees here from our Road and Bridge Maintenance division, as well as from our Waste Management division.

[00:00:24] We have Orin Schumacher, who is our Road and Bridge division superintendent, and Anneka Scarpino from our Road and Bridge Maintenance division as well, who was really instrumental in setting up and overseeing this effort. Anneka is one of our emerging leaders in our ‘Emerging Leaders’ cohort this year, as are some others that are here in the audience.

[00:00:46] So our Road Maintenance division, with help from Waste Management, set up and staffed multiple debris drop-off sites for residents over the two weekends after the ice storm. Collecting debris from private property is not something that we typically do as public agencies. But our staff advocated for doing this in this case, because they saw a need—particularly in our rural communities—and wanted to help. The sites were selected based on where the most severe damage happened.

[00:01:15] After weeks of extended hours and overnight shifts responding to the ice storm, people offered to keep working through the weekend so the sites could operate. Many of them delayed their own storm cleanup at home.

[00:01:28] And I want to pause there and just say, you know, we talk a lot about these three core behaviors of: a passion to serve; a drive to connect; and a focus on solutions. We extracted these core behaviors from the actions that our employees were demonstrating, they were doing it all the time, and they are doing it every day, but we didn’t call it out until a few years ago.

[00:01:48] So we now have identified that, and then we get to do these things. We bring employees forward. We say, ‘See? See what they’re doing to demonstrate passion in their work and connecting with other people and focused on solutions, not problems.’

[00:02:00] So that’s why we’re bringing forward this group of employees, it’s a reflection of those behaviors that we so value, behaviors that themselves when repeated, create a culture in our organization that is really powerful, right?

[00:02:15] It does things like—I didn’t come up with that idea. Orin didn’t come up with the idea. It was the employees that came up with the idea to say, you know, actually, folks in the rural communities need access to take all this debris.

[00:02:27] We all love the opportunity to lift up where our employees are finding solutions and meeting the needs of the community with their own ideas because they understand the services that are being provided the best, because they’re the ones in the field doing it.

[00:02:41] So, we’re so proud of the work that they did and the support that they were able to provide to our community. So I’ll ask Orin to share a little bit more about that.

[00:02:53] Orin Schumacher (Lane County Road and Bridge division superintendent): Thanks for having us here and recognizing the team’s efforts during the ice storm. In my 18 years with the county, this was the most impactful winter event we’ve had. Even the Holiday Farm Fire, as big as it was, didn’t impact the road system as much as this one did across the county.

[00:03:09] These crews are out there every day. I think we had crews working seven days a week for almost the first three weeks straight, going through and running shifts. And when these guys, the men and women of Roads, are out there working, they’re interacting with those public that have been impacted as well.

[00:03:24] And many of us were out of power for many days. I think I was out 14 at my house and I thought I had it bad. And then I started talking to some of the teams back here who were reporting every day and they had more days than me. I recall David Bixler back there, he’s out in the McKenzie Valley area and he was out longer than I was, with the EWEB corridor being so dismantled upriver.

[00:03:42] So. They did all of this navigation during those same impacts that they were experiencing, and then they got to see what the residents of the county were experiencing as we were cleaning up debris, and saw a need to support the community in getting this debris cleaned up. And they’d see property after property with every tree down.

[00:04:00] So the idea came forth. Great idea, now logistically, how are we going to pull this off? And so, for two weekends, Anneka Scarpino, Ethan Hibler, and this team put together a plan. And we’ve never implemented anything like that. We’re not Lane Forest Products, but we became Lane County Forest Products for a period of time and got to experience what they go through, and the rate of customers coming in.

[00:04:23] And in my limited experience doing this, I thought, ‘Well, we’ll just have people unload material themselves when they get there.’ Well, when you’ve got to queue up cars, that doesn’t work. And so Anneka and others quickly adapted to this process. And pretty soon I’d recruited people saying, ‘Well, it’ll be easy. We’ll be there. We’ll just be staffing, collecting cubic yard materials, letting people go to the area and we’ll deal with it later.’ Well, didn’t work.

And so this staff of operators to ticket takers to public engagement made it happen, and they made it happen with no experience. And it was amazing to watch, and the amount of material, we had no idea what we were getting into.

[00:05:00] But we knew that there was a need, so we opened up three sites on the east side. So everybody in the urban areas has an area to take stuff, but the rural residents of Lane County don’t. And so we opened up in Cloverdale, Cottage Grove, and then the Hendricks (Bridge) site. So three sites that logistically were the three worst impacted areas, to get people a place to take material.

[00:05:17] And it was an overwhelming reception from the public but it couldn’t have been done without extreme coordination and on-the-fly thinking. Anneka spent every day of that entire process from start to finish opening sites, getting signs out, coordinating drop-offs, meeting with the public, doing it all.

[00:05:33] These operators were able to logistically pull it off, get the equipment, make it happen. So I couldn’t be more proud of a team that was able to do that from the idea to the completion. It’s a pretty amazing feat. So I want to thank all of them from the bottom of my heart, and from the public’s perspective of getting that done.

[00:05:50] And I hope we never see it again, but if we do, we’re a little more prepared for this next time, too, for these sites. So, we could have gone on for months in all honesty, there’s still debris out there. I’m still cleaning up my place, and I know many public residents are as well, but we were able to accomplish, at least in the worst of it, to get people out there and help them.

[00:06:07] So, big thanks to everybody here. I also want to thank our Parks Division for providing the Hendricks site for us. That was logistically critical to have an area that we could get for people not having to drive too far from either the east or the west. So big thanks to them and the Waste Management team who supported, I think some of them are here today.

[00:06:24] So, yeah, thanks to everybody and I’ll hand it off to Anneka.

[00:06:31] Anneka Scarpino (Lane County Road and Bridge Maintenance division): Thank you guys for inviting us here today, and I really just want to echo what Orin said. The EOC (Emergency Operations Center) decided to opt to go ahead and authorize opening these sites, but we were given very little direction on what that would look like.

[00:06:48] And so it was just diving in headfirst and trying to anticipate what it would look like. And honestly, I just want to thank the crews because it wasn’t just me and Ethan (Hibler) doing this, making it happen. It was the sign shop. I don’t know how many times I went to the sign shop. And at the last minute I needed four of these signs by the end of the day and they were packed with their own business, and they got them done. They were happy. I never heard any complaints.

[00:07:18] The guys, when it came to scheduling this, again, like Orin said, a lot of these crews had been working seven days a week already on the cleanup efforts, and they still volunteered to continue to work, long days and not easy work.

[00:07:34] Like Orin said, the idea going in was that we would have people unload the debris themselves, and very quickly we saw a lot of our elderly come out there or people coming out by themselves who just couldn’t do it themselves and I watched our guys time and time again jump from one truck to the next, helping people.

[00:07:55] And it was amazing to watch. We had crews come from as far as Florence over to help in this. We had Dexter, Cottage Grove, and these are not guys that traditionally work day to day together, either. I think that’s something to point out as well. I’m more on the admin side. They’re on different crews. Some of them are operators, some of them are flaggers, and we all came together and the seamlessness in which that occurred amazed me, and the willingness that I saw from everyone that was there.

[00:08:29] So, I just really want to say a huge thank you because I know that Ethan and I could not have done it alone by any means. And having everyone who was so willing to show up at six o’clock in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, knowing they’re going to spend 10 hours a day hauling debris out of the back of pickup trucks, with great attitudes, was just phenomenal to see. So, again, just a huge thank you to everyone that stepped up to the plate.

[00:09:01] Orin Schumacher (Lane County Road and Bridge division supervisor): If the board would indulge me, I’d like to just go through the list of names and just recognize them individually: David Bixler, Jeremy Cook, Marshall Davis, Tom Decker, Reagan Deller, Ethan Hibler, (Rick Keene), Dan Keller, Tyler Lamborn, Erik Lillengreen, Adam Mead (one of the people who’ve traveled all the way from Florence to help out), Chanelle Moody, Anneka Scarpino, Paul Sharek, Chris Urie, Matthew Zilliot.

[00:09:26] And Waste Management staff: Tyler Cogswell, Zach (Flammang), Randy (Foster), Tatum Hibbard, Kay Jones, Cameron Rosenburg, Doreen Spaulding, Lucy Torgan, Lindsay Vetter, and then Chad West. This is the group. It’s not everybody, but this is a large group of people who participated. So just a large group effort to make it happen. I’m glad we did. And I want to thank staff for the idea and creating this impetus to help the public out. So great event for everybody.

[00:09:51] John Q: The Hendricks Bridge site averaged more than 400 loads each day. The county commissioners thanked everyone for their sacrifice and for their public service to the people of Lane County.

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