Was there any doubt? Tim Gross, a recent city hire from the midwest, and who almost single-handedly re-installed a CAN-DO attitude in the department, has been elevated from the rank of Special Projects Manager to Director of Public Works. It’s another stellar hire by City Manager Jim Voetberg who has been having a stressful time with most of the city council over personnel issues and his general management style, much of the angst stemming from recent employee surveys that were critical of Voetberg. But suffice it to say, Voetberg has gained a lot of ground by promoting Gross to the top slot in the PW Department. To be both accurate and fair, Gross would be a spectacular talent in any department with heavy equipment, big budgets and a need to get everything done right the first time. His recent assignment for overseeing the construction of the city’s new water treatment plant has been nothing but a near miraculous turnaround of what initially appeared to be a multi-million dollar migraine for the city and its taxpayers. The project is now back on track but it will, unavoidably, require extra money to finish because of what was determined to be an inadequate level of planning and specific operational requirements, both of which pre-dated Tim Gross’s arrival in Newport.
Gross also took the lead in documenting the city’s inadequacies in storm drainage. He has presented short term solutions to major overflow areas but with an eye to laying out the long term fix, which also unavoidably, will cost some pretty tall dollars. Gross will also supervise the construction of the new Agate Beach area water tank that will improve fire fighting flows for the north end of town. And the list goes on and on. And fortunately for Newport taxpayers, they’ll have Tim Gross’s steady hand on the plans and on the budgets. They will get top performance for their hard earned taxdollars.
Gross recently endeared himself to many when he announced that despite protests from the former public works director that NE 31st could not be repaired with city revenues at hand, Gross went out to the site, analyzed the slide that crippled the road for over 15 years and determined that there was no reason that it couldn’t be fixed for what amounts to “pocket change” in public works parlance. Gross called in Road and Driveway, based in Newport, and in a day the road was fixed at a cost of just $16,000. Over 15 years of driving the long way to work and then the long way back home for local residents when it could have been fixed years earlier for a tiny blip on the city’s bank account.
Gross also played “clean-up” with the Yaquina Bay Bridge. For three-quarters of a century, the north end of the bridge has had people scratching their heads wondering why such elegant stairways coming down from the span abruptly ended at the bottom with no sidewalks? Teaming up with city history boosters, Gross laid out a simple plan to add sidewalks in a pleasing and tasteful layout, and even convinced ODOT to pay for it. Gross says the sidewalks will be completed by early next year.
Tim Gross is the real deal because he delivers. The community is lucky to have him. He’s a very warm, smart and deeply committed family man. He recently agreed to be the solo adult in the musical theater performance of “Schoolhouse Rock, Live!” at the PAC. So when you’re cheering his performance with the kids on stage, you can also cheer him for the solid, competent performance he gives on the public works stage everyday.
Thank you Jim Voetberg for promoting Tim Gross. And thank you for hiring Fire Chief Phil Paige and Finance Director Dave Marshall; two additional steady, strong hands at the helm during a challenging time for the city. We’re sure your city council thanks you too.
(Editor’s note: The bridge sidewalks will be finished early next year.
Mr. Gross sent us his comments on the editorial. His thoughts reveals an attitude through which much progress is made; Smartly empowering good people to do good work.
I read your article this morning. Thank you very much, my ears are still red.
I did want to comment however, that all of the kudos you gave me were driven by a number of creative and energetic people besides myself. Therefore I want to be sure that the people receive the recognition due to them who have been instrumental in getting the great projects we have seen both created and completed within the past year.
I have done little for the water treatment plant. The design build team of Slayden Construction lead by Bob Montgomery and Eric Brahmer, and HDR Engineering led by Verena Winters have implemented a well-oiled construction process by which it is almost easy to track costs and changes. Steve Stewart, our supremely skilled water treatment plant supervisor, has coordinated most of the design and operational related issues. I usually just show up on Thursdays for project meetings and sign the bills.
31st Street was the brainchild of Dave White, our hardworking streets supervisor. Since the Council had turned over from the previous administration who had told staff not to spend more money on 31st Street, and Dave had money left over in his professional services budget for 2011, he asked why we couldn’t do more to improve 31st Street. One thing led to another and a series of fortunate circumstances occurred and 31st Street is now back to two lanes. All I did was ask the right people the right questions and track the materials during construction.
The sidewalks connecting Naterlin Drive to the Yaquina Bay State Park under the north side of the bridge was started at the prompting of Chuck Fornash, a member of the Bike and Pedestrian Committee and a business owner on the Bayfront. Chuck requested a meeting with the mayor, State Parks and public works and we met under the bridge and discussed what might be. The Mayor pushed hard to see the project completed by the Bridge Celebration in October but because of the time it takes to bid a public project of this size it was not meant to be. Public Works has set this project aside for a month or so we can focus on various drainage improvements around town before the winter rains come. We will likely advertise the project sometime in November or so to be built in the late part of this year or the early part of next year.
I really appreciate all of the support you have shown me. I just really think the City has a great bunch of people that work hard every day with little recognition. There is a saying in public works that if people do not know that you are there you are doing your job right. The water gets there, the sewage goes away, and your streets don’t have too many holes. Just like in School House Rock Live, I’m just the straight man. In the play, my role is to give a couple of lines to lead into the kid’s songs. They are the stars. At the City, all I do is make sure my people have what they need to take care of the City. They are the stars.
Timothy Gross, PE
Senior Project Manager
Interim PW Director/City Engineer
City of Newport
169 SW Coast Highway
Newport, OR 97365