EXCLUSIVE: Underground Construction’s 12th Annual Municipal Survey: Year of Hope and Caution

Recession Causes Budget Concerns While Stimulus Stirs Excitement, Potential Windfalls
February 2009 Vol. 64 No.2

Sixty-eight percent said trenchless has had a moderate to high impact upon their department. And impressively, 62.1 percent claimed they would prefer using trenchless methods whenever practical.

How Municipal Personnel View Trenchless Techniques

However, trenchless still has its detractors, especially when it comes to economics. A Wisconsin city official emphasized that “the cost for trenchless isn’t cheap enough – too many laterals that need replacement to make trenchless work.”

While manhole rehabilitation continues to draw strong attention from cities – and rightly so – in 2009, each city across the country will average rehabilitating about 95 manholes, down from an average of 101 in 2008.

While trenchless methods continued to penetrate applicable market niches, it is clear that education continues to be extremely important. Several respondents cited the annual Underground Construction Technology Conference as playing a vital role in their decision to incorporate trenchless considerations into their planning.

Asset management, a key buzzword and concept in recent years, has played a steadily increasing role with municipalities. About 63 percent now have an asset management plan in place. Of those without such a strategy, 72 percent plan on implementing an asset management plan in the near future.

Contractors

Cities’ relationships with contractors, according to survey participants, range from contentious to cordial, and everywhere in between. But overall, the rating given to contractors remained constant. On a scale of one to 5, city officials gave contractors a 3.71 rating.

Survey respondents had much to offer contractors. “Be up to date on current products and techniques,” encouraged this city official from South Carolina. “There is still a mentality in our area to look at ‘traditional’ methods first.”

Muni Personnel Performance Rating
This perspective from a Florida respondent was reflective of several comments: “Don’t lowball the bid and come back with change orders to ramp up the price once work has started.”

A municipal employee from the state of Washington lamented that “we need a great number of area contractors who are equipped and experienced to do trenchless work.”

A survey participant from Ohio suggested that contractors need to watch their “affordability (and I don’t feel this is the same thing as low cost).”