Baby Steps: 14th Annual Municipal Survey

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2011, Vol. 66 No. 2

A respondent from a city in New York lamented that contractors should be more “upfront and honest – we pulled approximately a half-ton of stones out of a new water main.” This Texas official wanted contractors to have “knowledge of the use of GIS as a means to manage projects over a large area involving lots of assets.”

“Work as partners with the agencies,” advised a city official from Virginia. “Show integrity and honesty in the work, perform to the best of their abilities. Over the long term, the companies will benefit while the agencies receive the best value.”

‘Quality’ is still the most desired characteristic cities want from their contractors, being cited by 90.5 percent of the survey respondents followed by ‘experience’ tabbed by 74.6 percent and ‘timely completion of projects’ at 61.9 percent.

Conversely for consulting engineers, their job performance approval rating (one being poor and 5 being the best) grew to 3.72, up from 3.59 and a seven-year high. “We’ve had to rely more on consulting engineers to make the right decisions for us since our budgets are so tight – and we feel very good about those decisions,” said this satisfied Oklahoma respondent.

There was also plenty of advice for improving their relationships and job performance, according to city personnel.

“Be more aware of changing technology,” was the suggestion from a Wyoming respondent. “Stick to the basics and quit spending money on unnecessarily complex systems that are hard to teach to an aging work force,” pointed out a city official from Nebraska.

“The district’s engineer is near perfect. However, developmental engineers leave much to be desired – most of their work is poor quality,” observed this Colorado municipal official. “They do not follow district standards and specs and they don’t learn from previous mistakes.”

This North Carolina city respondent would like for engineers to do a better job of “staying on top of projects – have an inspector on site.” A city respondent from Pennsylvania suggests engineers should “keep local officials apprised of rule changes, grant sources and keep up with specific requests of the municipality needs or desires.”

Survey respondents also overwhelmingly (84.2 percent) cite ‘quality’ as the top characteristic they want from consulting engineers followed by ‘understanding of new technology’ at 47.6 percent and ‘productive relationships with contractors’ cited by 46 percent.

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