The COVID-19 virus may have changed the way information was presented but members of OACES still met virtually to exchange ideas, learn from industry experts, and elect new officers for the coming year at their OACES Virtual Fall Conference.

The conference started with the annual Business Meeting where the OACES budget for the next calendar year was reviewed and accepted by the members attending. Additionally, members nominated and voted in Mikel Diwan, Public Works Director for Hood River County as a new Road Officials Board Member. Mikel has been active already in OACES, serving on the County Road Program Budget Committee as chair, as well as serving on the National Association of Counties (NACo) Transportation Steering Committee. The current Board Members were nominated and approved by the members to move up in position and responsibility and serve for the 2021 calendar year as the new OACES board. These members include, Mike Bezner, Clackamas County, President; Bradley Cross, Wasco County, Vice President; Tom Fellows, Umatilla County, Secretary-Treasurer; Scott Young, Washington County, Board Member, Mikel Diwan, Hood River County, Board Member, and Don Russell, Morrow County Commissioner, County Representative to OACES.

Always a popular part of the conferences is the awards for Road Official and Surveyor of the year as well as any awards of Special Merit. This year the Road Official of the Year was awarded to John Vial, Director of Roads and Parks for Jackson County. John has been working double duty for much of the year as both the Director for Roads and Parks but also as Command of the Emergency Operations Center for the county. First dealing with the COVID response and safety for the county, and then with the devastating wildfires of Southern Oregon, John provided steady and quality leadership to both areas . In addition, John is the OACES Legislative Member to the AOC Board, very active in the ODOT Fund Exchange Workgroup, as well as the CRP Budget Committee.

Bradley Cross, Wasco County Survey, commented on the Surveyor of the year saying, “The recipient of the 2020 surveyor of the year, Ray Griffith, Clackamas County Surveyor, became a member of OACES in 2015 after many years in private practice and has been County Surveyor since 2016. He is strong in three key components to success: knowledge, dedication, and collaboration. He has been very active in our forums, often bringing complex and well thought out questions to the group as well as always having a solution or opinion for others members questions. He works diligently to find ways to improve his county’s surveyor’s office and we are fortunate that he shares his successes with the group. Particularly he has spearheaded the adoption of new plotter technology and the acceptance of new drafting media He is a respected mentor for our profession and has exposed new budding surveyors to our craft through his county’s internship program.

A special award of Merit was given to Ron Newton, Ron Newton, Engineering Technician 3 Tillamook County. Ron has worked for Tillamook County Public Works since January 12, 2009, and is currently mentoring other engineering staff in addition to his normal duties.

Ron served as the project manager for the replacement of a 6-span bridge over the Kilchis River (a sensitive salmonid river) in Tillamook County with a new 215-foot long 3-span bridge.  ODOT reduced the load rating for this bridge from 20-tons to 3-tons in mid-August, 2020 with a recommended closure in November, 2020, effectively isolating 12 residents and three farms.  An emergency was declared to shorten the contracting requirements and McGee Engineering was hired to quickly bring the plan set to 30% using beams that were already scheduled to be delivered to Tillamook County.  Ron orchestrated the design process, coordinated with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and utilities impacted by the project.  Design modifications happened at a rapid pace to meet environmental and landowner constraints.  Formal request for bids were sent out and two bridge contractors responded.  An award was quickly made with Farline Bridge (the low bidder).  The plans advanced utilizing materials located in the contractor’s yard in a quasi-design-build fashion.  Ron managed the day to day operations, including surveying, preparing easement exhibits and field staking.  Ron performed daily field inspections with McGee Engineering performing inspections during critical times.  Ron Newton’s dedication and long hours allowed the public to access their homes and farms throughout the process with road closure needed only when traffic was shifted from the old bridge to the new bridge.  The bridge was finished and opened to the public in mid-November, 2020.

In addition  John Waffenschmidt, Lincoln County Surveyor and Darrin Lane, Linn County Public Works Director were selected to the OACES Lifetime Membership Group.

John Waffenschmidt, county surveyor for Lincoln County, has worked for the county for 33 years holding various positions as Assistant County Surveyor, GIS and IT Director and was appointed  County Surveyor in 2012.  

John  has been a long member of OACES.  He was elected to the board 5 years ago, holding the position of president until his recent retirement.  During his membership, John was selected as the 2017 Surveyor of the Year.

Darrin Lane started working for the Linn County Road Department even before he earned his civil engineering degree from Oregon State University as an intern the summer between his junior and senior years. Darrin has worked for the Linn County Road Department for the past 20 years.  

Darrin is not retiring from Linn County, but has been selected to be promoted to the position of County Administrator for all of Linn County. OACES will miss his daily contributions and insights but look forward to his attendance at conferences and events in the future as a Lifetime Member.

Besides the election of officers and awards to individuals, participants to the conference heard from industry experts on a variety of topics.

Jay Gubrud was the keynote speaker and looked at and discussed tools and practices  to be more effective leaders by better managing change, establishing rewarding expectations, and showing others how much you appreciate them and their contributions.

Road Officials heard from Kevan Stone, NACE Executive Director, who updated members on Federal Policy Updates and NACE operations and responses as well as multiple counties that presented on how they employ Law Enforcement Coordination on County Roads.

Surveyors discussed PLSO Recommended Changes to ORS 92 with David R. Williams, PLSO and finished their sessions with a presentation on State Plane Coordinate Systems Updates (SPCS 2022) from Michael Dennis of NOAA and the National Geodetic Survey.

Presentations are available on the Conference page of the OACES website.

Mark your calendars to join us on May 17 – 19 2021 at Sunriver for the Spring OACES Conference. More details will follow. And keep checking the OACES meeting page on the OACES website for an updated listing of remote and in person meetings for 2021.