The West Coast’s infrastructure is aging and both Tofino and Ucluelet are reinforcing their municipal halls with new minds to help their towns plan replacement projects and upgrades.
Tofino recently announced a new addition to its district staff team as Fraser Work has been lured from the City of Victoria and accepted Tofino’s new Director of Infrastructure and Public Works position.
“The District is very excited to welcome Mr. Work to the team. There are a number of pressing projects on the go in Tofino, such as waste water treatment, and Fraser’s strong and diverse skillset will further assist the District in achieving our asset management and infrastructure goals,” said Tofino CAO Bob MacPherson through a recent media release.
Work has served as the City of Victoria’s Director of Engineering and Public Works since 2015.
“Fraser has made a big impact here,” Victoria City Manager Jocelyn Jenkyns told the Westerly News via email. “We all wish him well as he takes on this new position in Tofino.”
Work is expected to begin his new job on March 23 and his arrival will end Tofino’s search for a replacement of its former Manager of Engineering and Public Works Ricardo Araya, who left the position in November though, MacPherson explained, the role has been restructured and relabeled to emphasize the importance of infrastructure.
“We’re using the word infrastructure because in recruiting as well as in moving the department and the municipality forward, we really want to recognize the importance of maintaining and refreshing our infrastructure that is getting to kind of a critical point in its life,” he said.
He added Tofino has some big decisions to make about its water infrastructure over the next few years as well as a massive $55 million wastewater treatment project currently underway.
“I think that other municipalities in British Columbia, as well as our funders, are recognizing all at the same time here that our existing infrastructure in a lot of small towns in B.C. is getting to a point where it’s nearing end of life and there’s a need to replace things that are starting to fail,” he said. “We need to do a better job than we have done historically of planning for that replacement.”
He likened it to a family proactively planning to purchase a new vehicle.
“When you buy a car, you’re expecting it’s going to last so long and you plan for when you replace that car. For us in the municipal world, we’re planning for when we are going to replace infrastructure. And, historically, that has not been done well by very many municipalities. I would say 99 per cent of municipalities have not done a very good job of planning for infrastructure replacement. So, we are part of a growing number of municipalities in B.C. that are looking to do a better job planning infrastructure replacement.”
Work’s arrival will mark a reunion of two former City of Victoria staffers as he was Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen’s boss during Boysen’s time as Victoria’s sustainability manager.
“We actually go way back. We come from the same hometown,” Boysen told the Westerly News.
“It’s a great hire for them…I’d describe him as energetic, enthusiastic and somebody who has a passion for sustainability that will really align well with what we want to do on the West Coast.”
Boysen left Victoria for Ucluelet roughly three years ago and said the West Coast’s district offices are appealing to professionals for more than just their relatively minuscule commute times.
“He’s got a young family and my family’s young too and there’s something about being in a smaller town that’s very appealing. There’s a new generation of managers coming up and there’s some of us that appreciate the benefits of a small town,” he said, adding that Work has long been a fan of the West Coast lifestyle.
“He’s an avid surfer, so he’s a big fan of life on the West Coast. I can’t say I’m totally surprised he’s coming up. To find the right opportunity and the right fit is pretty amazing. The lifestyle is very appealing…It’s not for everybody, but it sure lures a certain type of professional out here and hopefully we can do the same for our position as well for engineering services.”
Ucluelet is currently searching for a new Director of Engineering Services though, unlike Tofino’s recently concluded hiring process, Ucluelet’s new position is not replacing a departed staffer, but adding to the district’s senior management team.
“Because we have a growing town, lots of projects on the go, a lot of exciting work that’s taking place and also expectations as well from the community, we needed to add this position,” Boysen said. “Consultants can only go so far for the work we need to do and in terms of long term planning and consistent help, we need that to be a full time position.”
The Director of Engineering Services position is part of a transition that will see Manager of Public Works Warren Cannon’s title change to Manager of Operations and Cannon will report directly to the new director.
“Warren has done an amazing job with our sewer and water systems, keeping them online and moving them forward,” Boysen said. “He is definitely still an important part of the team.”
The application deadline for Ucluelet’s Director of Engineering Services position falls on Feb. 21. Boysen said he hopes to have interviews underway in March and a hire in place by early summer.
“In a small town, we try to make everything fit under a few umbrellas. We don’t have as many resources, so we’re trying to do a lot of different things with limited staff and budget. So we’re going to be getting this director to oversee a large aspect of things and more on the future planning as well,” he said.
“Asset management has become such an important, key thing for sound financial planning for the district as we move forward, so we need to be able to have that person in place to be able to assist with that.”
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