Editor's Log: Survey Surprises

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2010 Vol. 65 No. 2

This issue marks our “lucky” 13th Annual Municipal Infrastructure Survey. When we first undertook this task, we were not prepared for the work involved nor the positive reaction that followed. It took several years of refinement and work with statistical analysis experts to develop a template that is reasonable accurate and truly reflective of our market. I’ve seen others attempt to duplicate our survey, but the results are generally widely skewed and erroneous.

It’s a lot of work but also very rewarding. It allows us to connect more closely with municipalities of all sizes and from all corners of the country. Reading about the varied mountains of issues being climbed by cities is amazing. Tiny towns have just as many seemingly insurmountable issues as do the large metropolises. Yet, many of the concerns and issues are identical.

In this year’s survey, while it was not surprising that funding was the number one concern for cities, the depth and damage the additional project cutbacks of 2009 have caused is amazing. Several municipal personnel expressed deep concerns that they were already behind in maintaining their systems and now have even further to go. As one respondent lamented “we’ll never pick-up the funding we lost.”

As the economy regains its strength, catching up will be paramount for the sewer and water market. But how to generate the funding remains anyone’s guess.

Recognizing underground
I recently saw an interesting real estate ad in the newspaper (yes, I still read the newspaper on a daily basis – don’t trust most of the broadcast or web news and I don’t like the constant angling to grab your attention with gadgets, misleading teasers and non-news stories. Of course, newspapers are often stooping to broadcast/web levels, but that’s another story).

Anyway, the ad was fairly typical as far as real estate ads go, but one thing caught my eye. The ad was about selling three-acre lots for a high-end subdivision. Among the key bullet point items listing the advantages was an entry for “all utilities underground – no more eyesores and much improved safety and reliability.”