Fingers Crossed: 15th Annual Municipal Survey

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

This Florida respondent would like “more effective bidding with fewer change orders.” A respondent from Missouri suggests that contractors should “increase their knowledge of installation procedures and products.” This Texas city official believes that it is time for contractors and cities to “look at risk sharing.”

Many respondents also expressed their growing displeasure with what they deem are excessive and unreasonable change orders. A Pacific Northwest municipal representative urged contractors to “provide a more reasonable and honest price for quality work; don’t expect change orders to make up the margin.” Another respondent from a Texas city added “they (contractors) need to be reasonable when dealing with to change orders.”

The recession has taken its toll on staffs, costing many construction firms veteran personnel. That fact has become pervasive in many areas. “Keep experienced personnel” was essentially the demand from a large number of city officials.

An interesting comment came from a small Alaska city respondent who stressed that contractors need to “make sure they make the utilities operations staff happy with the work they do; not just the engineering staff and management.”

Consulting engineers performance
Consulting engineers also experienced a substantial jump in their job performance approval rating (one being poor and 5 being the best) to a record high of 3.75.

“Quality” was the top trait cited by municipal personnel that they seek for consulting engineers with 77 percent, followed by “productive relationships with contractors” cited by 57 percent and “understanding of new technology” cited by 40 percent.

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

One of the most common suggestions municipal personnel had for consulting engineers is to keep up with modern and innovative technology. “We need reasonable, practical and affordable options. Too many times, the engineers we deal with are low on all three,” summed up this official from a large Northeastern city. A respondent from a Georgia city agreed: “We depend on our consulting engineers to work with contractors and provide us with the technology and right now that’s rarely happening. They need to forget about billable hours for once and go to a trade show like UCT where they learn about technology and innovations that can help their clients.”