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While you were sleeping...

— Several months ago, most residents of The Dalles were sleeping while 120-foot-long trucks rumbled through city streets.

These vehicles carried six wooden beams of 22,000 pounds each to the campus of Columbia Gorge Community College and onto the building site for Fort Dalles Readiness Center.

“We had some dry runs first to make sure we could get them here,” said Greg Garske, superintendent for Hoffman Construction, the Portland firm hired to build the 62,689 square foot structure.

He said the transport of six beams that are 96 feet long took place at night to avoid creating traffic snarls as the trucks maneuvered around corners.

The wooden girders were lifted into place by a 300-ton crane. They now hold up panels of a vaulted roof that looms two stories above a 10,000 square foot drill floor. The assembly hall can serve as drill floor for soldiers, college lecture hall, or conference space.

The design for the center that will house 150 soldiers from Alpha Company one weekend a month, and a staff of four during the work week, while also providing the college with a workforce training center, was created by TVA Architects of Portland. The firm wanted the final design for the facilities to blend in with the hillside where it is located. The 7.4 acre property owned by the college and leased to the Oregon Department of the Military for 50 years, with the option for a 50-year extension, is on the eastern edge of the campus and above a residential area.

TVA also wanted to capitalize on the scenic vistas provided by a sweeping view so windows will make up the entire north-facing front of the building. Garske said there are 55 workers involved in construction of the almost $28 million structure that began in May 2012. He said there has not been a single accident or workman’s compensation claim filed during the past year, which is a source of pride for Hoffman.

“Obviously, we put safety first,” he said. “The strong winds here have necessitated that everyone goes through an orientation to learn how to work in those conditions and no one carries sheets of plywood alone when it’s blowing.”

The ironworkers followed the long-standing tradition of signing the last girder and mounting a flag. The national colors are meant to be symbolic of the “Buy America” slogan and the fact that iron for the project is a U.S. product.

James Willeford, chief of military construction for the state, said Hoffman’s strong safety record has allowed less money to be spent on insurance and bonds. And that, he said, has freed up more taxpayer dollars for investiture into the project itself.

“The company is known for its rigorous safety program and we all benefit from that,” he said.


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