'A great loss to the city'

By: 
KATIE DUNN
S-E Reporter

The City of Colville has large shoes to fill with Municipal Services Administrator Eric Durpos' last day being Feb. 24.

“He will be a great loss to the city,” said Mayor Louis Janke. “He’s made great strides, and basically moved Colville to a position where it’s admired by many cities because of all the different projects we’ve got going on.”

Durpos is a Cascade High graduate from Everett who worked years in heavy and commercial construction before obtaining a management position.

For the last eight years, Durpos has helped transform Colville through capital projects and community facilities.

According to Janke, Durpos has worked on diverse and complex projects, like the city's Stormwater Management Utilities policy, the solar array, phases one and two of the Hawthorne Avenue reconstruction project, the tree removal in Yep Kanum Park and the reconstruction of the City Street Shop.

Mayor Janke credited Durpos’ unique set of skills for the success of many of the city's projects. Some of the skills the mayor listed were strong management, being creative and innovative, and the ability to form relationships inside the city and outside the city.

“He’s willing to work on the fringes,” Janke noted. “He's not always getting slowed down by process or policy, but instead focuses on getting things done.”

Durpos will be moving to Lake Stevens in Snohomish County where he will take on the position of Public Works Director. The city's current Public Works Director, Mick Monken, will become Lake Stevens' City Engineer.

Durpos said he wasn't looking for a new job when one found him.

According to Durpos, Lake Stevens had been paying attention to all of the changes happening in Colville -- from the money that’s being brought into town to the projects that have been accomplished over the last several years.

Challenge

“They’re in a position Colville was in seven years ago, where they’ve got all of this failing infrastructure and all of these issues in town,” Durpos explained, adding that Lake Stevens has been going through a growing phase.

“They’ve grown and they don’t have anybody over there steering the ship,” said Durpos.

When representatives from Lake Stevens approached Durpos asking him for help, Durpos said he became interested in working with them.

Durpos said it wasn’t about a better paycheck, or that he was unhappy in Colville, which he said wasn’t the case at all, it was the fact that this new city posed a new challenge for him.

For starters, it's a larger community. Compared to Colville’s population of 4,668, Lake Stevens serves 29,949 residents.

Durpos acknowledged how well he can work with all kinds of people, from mayors and city council members, to business owners and construction crews. He attributed it to the fact that he loves people.

“And that’s part of the reason I’ve been successful with all the projects and grants I’ve brought into town,” said Durpos. “I find when you actually put your heart on your sleeve and you ask people for help, they feel intrigued to and they figure out a way to help you, or at least point you in the right direction.”

With his set of skills, Durpos thinks he can help Lake Stevens.

“I hope I’m leaving the city in a lot better shape than when I found it, and that’s a big thing for me,” said Durpos. “The city was really struggling when I took over.”

Projects

Out of all the projects Durpos worked on for the city, he said the most emotional, challenging and rewarding one was the HUB Senior Center.

Most of Durpos’ work takes place behind the scenes, which he said doesn’t always get a lot of appreciation.

“It’s not the icing on the cake, it’s a water main under a street that nobody sees,” noted Durpos.

Instead people see the road being torn up, the dust, the noise and the inconvenience to their homes.

Durpos said working on the senior center was a chance to work on a tangible project alongside extraordinary people. It also posed its own set of challenges as the city struggled to obtain the funding for it.

The city's Stormwater Management Utilities plan was another project that Durpos said most people don’t know the amount of work that went into it. The management plan essentially allows the city to manage, regulate, and control the storm and surface water within the city.

“Everybody said that I would never do it, that we’d never be able to create this utility to address our streets in town and our drainage issues,” said Durpos.

For years he worked on this project, and for each setback he stuck to it and tried to prove the benefit.

As City Municipal Services Administrator, Durpos' job entailed planning street projects, figuring out the cost, water/sewer design work, managing the water and sewer system and the wastewater treatment plant.

Durpos said he just happened to become the established “go-to guy” for the city. As an example, when the Colville Public Library’s roof began leaking in January, it was Durpos who was called in to fix it.

Durpos said he tried to be a support to everybody, a “jack of all trades” for the city.

The diverse nature of his work kept his job interesting, and according to Durpos, he never knew what was going to transpire each day.

Replacement

During his second to last week working in Colville, Durpos was preparing lists for each project of what still needed to be done and where the city was currently at on each of them.
“That’s a lot to fill,” Durpos said, adding that while he feels bad, there would have never been an ideal time to leave.

Durpos said he had wished to see the city’s splash pad project through to completion, because like the senior center, it was a tangible mark on the city.

This year, 20 to 30 projects are scheduled for work, according to Mayor Janke.

While Durpos' departure will probably slow some of the projects, Janke said city staff will work to complete them.

Janke said it will be difficult for the person coming in to replace Durpos because a lot needs to be accomplished.

The city is either looking for a Public Works Director or a Municipal Services Administrator as is. Janke said the only difference would be that with a Public Works Director, all of the infrastructure would be handled in one department.

“In theory, it would improve coordination and efficiencies within one department instead of two,” Janke said.

The position will be advertised once City Council approves it.

Janke said the open position will be advertised for three weeks before the interview process can begin. Council will then need to approve the new employee.
The hiring process could take anywhere from two to three months.

During that time, Mayor Janke said different City departments will handle the day-to-day activities. Janke said he will pick up the administrative work, along with taking the lead on the Astor Avenue/Heritage Court project.

With Janke’s civil and environmental engineering background and project management experience with the U.S. Forest Service, he said he “feels pretty comfortable” taking on the project.

Durpos said Mayor Janke has been great to work with and that he was sure the mayor would find someone to step in and do a good job.

“There’s not a corner of this town I haven’t worked in,” Durpos said. “And through all that you make a lot of friends, and that’s what makes it hard to leave.

“But hopefully, in 10 years I can have that kind of reward over there.”

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