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Project celebrated for being on time and within budget despite supply issues, escalating costs

City officials on Jan. 12 celebrated the completion of a new Oregon City Operations Center at 13895 Fir St., renovated from a nearly 5-acre site of a former beverage distribution company's shuttered warehouse.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - On Jan. 12, Oregon City officials cut the ceremonial ribbon on the new $12.8 million buildings that house maintenance and emergency-response services.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Oregon City Public Works Director John Lewis and Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith celebrate the completion of a new Operations Center on Jan. 12.

Prior to helping cut the ceremonial ribbon, Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith said that it should "put our minds at ease" to know that the facility will increase coordination and efficiency of response to future disasters, like the recent wildfires and ice storm. Smith commended the city for completing the $12.8 million project by saving funds over the past decades to provide a modernized public-works Operations Center.

"I am very proud that we've made this investment without going to the public for a bond or going into debt," Smith said.

Breaking ground in September 2020, the project redeveloped a 4.7-acre plot with a 53,000-square-foot warehouse and 26,000-square-foot office facility to accommodate the Oregon City public-works engineering/operations functions, geographic information systems and city facility/parks maintenance into one multipurpose site.

John Lewis, Oregon City's Public Works director, offered each attendee of ribbon cutting a total of 80 noble-fir seedlings, saying he hoped they would all get planted within city limits to help boost the city's goals to increase tree canopy. He said it was an unplanned but fortuitous coincidence that the seedlings were a type of fir, and the new building is on Fir Street.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Oregon City Commissioners Adam Marl and Denyse McGriff select noble-fir seedlings as Public Works Director John Lewis and Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith help celebrate the completion of a new Operations Center.

"This City Commission has been courageous with its Public Facility goals and this project is just one example," Lewis said. "It has taken many years and a lot of saving to help support this new facility. We are grateful for many past decisions and budget allocations setting aside annual contributions so that the city could eventually fund this project."

Oregon City's construction project came out of the City Commission's unanimous 2018 decision to approve the $7.1 million purchase to create this development for the city.

While both public works and parks departments provide important services, the old facilities were poorly located and ill equipped to keep up with Oregon City's growth. Construction of new facilities overcame several obstacles, most recently becoming completed on time and within budget, despite worldwide building-material supply issues and exponentially increasing construction costs.

Brandon Dole, an architect that the city hired for the project, said, "The site is dramatically different, considering we kept the structure intact. We are proud the project took the route of reusing the space with modifications to updates to fit the needs of Public Works now and in the future."

Lewis has led the city's process to complete the Operations Center through a process fraught for years with controversy trying to expand at another location. Now city officials can return Public Works' former Center Street property to the tax rolls, where it abutted with Waterboard Park, creating a controversy among those who enjoy the park.

In 2018, a county judge determined that the current Public Works area was never dedicated as parkland, even if thought of as parkland by local residents. Neighbors had threatened to appeal the decision that would have cleared the way for construction at the site without a public vote, but city officials found the Fir Street site just in time.

Renovations of the warehouse on Fir Street included seismic reinforcements to protect emergency response personnel housed in its building. Modifications to the office building now provide a reception area, customer service counter, training room, conference room, enclosed offices, open workspaces, storage and break room.PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - A crowd of approximately 100 people gathered to celebrate the completion of a new Operations Center in Oregon City.

Another more than 8,500 square-foot space houses a fleet workshop and vehicle wash-down area, indoor storage for material and equipment. Equipment involved with the construction, maintenance, and operation of the city's transportation network, sanitary sewer and storm water systems, and parks maintenance now has 51,000 square feet of covered storage areas.

The lot includes two 10,000-gallon fuel tanks with pumps, and all existing warehouse facilities are equipped with heat and fire suppression.

PlanB Cost Consultancy LLC, Scott Edwards Architecture and Emerick Construction Company contracted with the city to complete this project.

"It's been an honor working for the city," said Samra Egger of PlanB. "I'm super excited for everyone who gets to use this facility."

"When Emerick first learned of this project, we were excited for the opportunity to be part of a project of this significance in Oregon City because of the impact it was going to have for the community," said Jordon Fell, Emerick's director of special projects. "Issues are inherent to every construction project, but this one was extra challenging and unpredictable. You had to navigate through construction while dealing with COVID, wildfires, ice storms and supply-chain issues. Through all of this, we were still able to deliver this project on time and that's not a small feat."


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