Thirty-plus years of family videos await Dave Marshall as he embarks on 2016 as a retiree.
The “profound” evolution of technology is the highlight of Oak Bay Director of Engineering’s career 33-year (and seven months) career under five mayor and councils.
“I’ve always enjoyed technology. I’ve enjoyed moving along with technology,” he says. “When I started it as all old-school pen and paper. When computers came here I embraced that, stayed here until 1 or 2 in the morning figuring them out.”
The district’s first computer, he said, cost $64,000 for the machine and another $64,000 for the software. A 5 mb hard drive, smaller than the thumb drive Marshall now carries around, cost $5,000.
Something like surveying that used to be a time-consuming, multi-person job has changed significantly over the decades.
“It was quite an onerous job just to get accurate measurements,” he said.
Now it’s a one-man job with electronic surveyor that also plugs the information directly into a computer – no draftsman needed.
“I was also involved in Oak Bay’s embarking on a Geographical Information System back in 1983. GIS was a new concept at the time that we discovered while researching electronic laser survey equipment with the WILD Survey equipment firm out of Switzerland. As I depart, the GIS is positioned to make a significant upgrade as it moves under the larger corporate IT umbrella.”
Other innovations include the rejuvenation of underground infrastructure in the municipality – a different technology of sorts. They started on a no-dig path, the less disruptive and costly way to work often used these days.
In 1983-84 era they had a California contractor come in for a concrete-lining program for the municipal pipes. That contract included hiring Oak Bay staff to do the work.
“They developed certain skills and we refined them. By 1988 we were able the launch our own cement-lining program. It’s a huge cost savings,” Marshall said. “We were pioneers. … We were the only municipality in Canada to use our own forces. It became a public works tool that served us very well over the decades.”
Also early in the 1980s, staff stemmed the floods that plagued the community after roots built up in the pipes.
“We would get several hundred flooding complaints,” Marshall said. They started a decade long program sending cameras into the pipes and recording the problem, followed by root cutting through the areas captured on the recordings.
“Now during a heavy rainfall we may get 10 reports of flooding,” Marshall said. “In the current program we’re televising all our sewers over five years, in a 10-year maintenance program.”
The regulatory changes too are astounding, where they would once think nothing of donning hip waders and clubbing into the trunk sewer to grab some measurements. Now a similar task requires tie lines, scuba tanks and more.
Where some of those sewers led would shock residents today, with “outfalls sprinkled along Oak Bay,” he says. Those are long gone and work is ongoing for sewage treatment in the region.
That kind of inter-municipal and CRD interaction has also grown over the years, for example, recent bike lane conversations with Saanich (for the Foul Bay/Lansdowne work) and an expected Cadboro Bay Road project in conversation with the City of Victoria.
Despite retirement, he plans to keep an eye on the Uplands sewer separation project, a mainstay during his entire career.
“I am pleased to wind-up my career knowing that the combined sewer infrastructure in the Uplands will finally be separated,” he said. “This challenging project has been part of my life for 30 years and I will continue to assist the Uplands Technical Team to see the conclusion of this important infrastructure project.”
Year’s end seems an ideal time to cut the ties to work, what with his four kids home for the holidays.
“My children are at the point where they can squeeze me in on their calendars and I’d like to take advantage of that,” Marshall said. The retirement plan includes tentative travel plans – to the U.S. to visit family and on holiday – as well as the usual array of projects put off until there’s “more time.”
One of those means three decades of kids’ activities that need to be organized.
“We’ve got 30 years worth of video tapes. I’ve converted much to DVD but I’d like to get that organized.
With less time chained to a desk, he anticipates more walking and jogging and living in Oak Bay, where “there’s no shortage of good places to run and walk.”
He’s open to the concept of future contract work and expects to volunteer in the community. “Being that I live locally, I want to make sure I give back to Oak Bay as a whole.”