Fingers Crossed: 15th Annual Municipal Survey

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2012, Vol. 67 No. 2

Much-needed rehabilitation of existing systems was also cited by a large number of respondents. A common thread among city officials was concern that aging infrastructure was not going to hold up much longer without major rehabilitation initiatives. “I know I can speak for most of us on the East Coast – and probably the rest of the country as well – when I say that we’re reaching an imminent failure situation. Something’s got to give – and soon,” predicted this survey respondent.

Another by-product of the recession and ongoing budget cuts is the loss of key personnel. Several survey respondents pointed out that their cities have encouraged early retirement and, in some cases, forced retirement, in order to meet reduced staffing quotas. “We have way too many retirees,” complained this Minnesota city representative. A survey respondent from Maryland agreed. “We’re short staffed without experience personnel and, as we are able to finally start tackling projects, it’s really going to hurt us by not having proper personnel resources.”

Also a major problem perceived by city personnel is ever-increasing regulations and unfunded mandates, both at the state and federal levels.

While the growing significance of water has clearly been documented in this survey over the past few years, the severe drought ongoing across much of West and Southwest drew many comments. From Oregon (“water reserves”) to Colorado (“water, water, water”), the concern over water resources is glaringly apparent. Their paramount issue, emphasized a large Texas city official, is going to be “water main breaks if the current drought continues.”

Trenchless impacts
Increasingly, cities around the country, large and small, are discovering the significance of having trenchless options. This small Florida city respondent said that “the town (residents) is highly influential with extremely limited right-of-ways. Trenchless is our only option for rehab.”

“Speed of projects, less permit issues and river crossings” are trenchless benefits says this Maryland city official. A California respondent added that trenchless is “great for non-closures and fewer interruptions.”

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A Pennsylvania city official pointed out that, for them, trenchless “can perform more work on smaller budgets.” Another respondent from Wyoming emphasized that “bursting and CIPP has reduced road repair and traffic control issues,” while this Wisconsin city official said that trenchless “saved several million dollars on sewer rehab.”