ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Working with Municipalities

05.09.13 by Coby Crowl
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We serve several different types of clients, one being Municipalities.

I want to focus on the municipal approach and one way we help them create the “perfect project”. First, what is a “perfect project”? I will keep this term in quotes as nothing is perfect except Mary Poppins. I define it as a consultant-led project that is financially reasonable, fundamentally sound, meets the needs of the user, reduces maintenance for the municipality and eliminates municipal staff headaches.

In 2009, the City of Gladstone, Missouri hired Wallace Engineering to prepare a Water System Sustainability Study and Master Plan. This was a unique project as the City embarked on receiving their Green Badge by reducing carbon emissions through better operations of City facilities and services. Our mission was to identify ways to achieve these goals with respect to the water system. Our approach, conduct a charette.

A charette is defined as a ‘collaborative session in which a group of designers draft solutions to a design problem’. Typically, charettes are used for land use planning or urban planning sessions, but we saw this as an opportunity to help the City of Gladstone create a living document to use over time not place on a shelf to collect dust. The charette was attended by City staff that consisted of directors, superintendents, plant operators, distribution system maintenance and engineers. Throughout the session, many small fixes plus sixty-five real capital improvement projects were identified that met the parameters of the City’s initiative. The improvements ranged in complexity from tightening lug screws in electrical panels, replacing valves, replacing distribution mains, looping water mains to performing major plant upgrades and tweaking plant operations. Projects were broken into categories based on need, immediate impact, estimated cost, carbon footprint reduction and delivery method such that the City could implement over ten years.

In my mind, the charette was the best tool used to prepare the City of Gladstone’s Water System Sustainability Study and Master Plan. The City embraced the study and has completed nearly a third of the projects identified. They have also reduced carbon output by 16%, started using solar, reduced energy use and are looking for creative ways for staff to implement more. I’d say this was a perfect way to prepare a  “perfect project”.

Coby Crowl is an associate at Wallace Engineering, a structural and civil engineering consulting firm.  He can be contacted at info@wallacesc.com.  Follow us on Twitter (@WallaceEng) for blog updates.

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