The Good, The Bad & The Hope: 16th Annual Municipal Survey

Despite Extended Budget Crisis, Majority Expect Accelerated Spending
By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2013, Vol. 68 No. 2

Top concerns
In addition to funding woes, municipal personnel have a litany of other pressing issues. Unfunded state and federal mandates was one of the more common concerns expressed by survey respondents. “It is extremely frustrating to be forced to spend money we don’t have to comply with some ridiculous new mandate that is unnecessary or, worse yet, conflicts with existing regulations,” complained this official from a Southeast city.

In the upper Midwest, this city representative pointed out that they are having trouble “finding enough minority/woman business enterprise contractors to meet the requirements of public funded projects.”

Many municipalities are struggling with personnel issues as well. Said this respondent from the Northeast, “retirement and replacement of qualified personnel is a critical problem for a lot of cities.”

Behind funding, government and EPA regulations were cited by 60 percent of respondents as a major concern entering 2013. Other worrisome areas included safety, finding qualified employees and improving community relations.

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Trenchless
With trenchless construction and rehabilitation methods continuing to make their impacts upon the underground piping infrastructure markets, more and more cities are working with consulting engineers and contractors to utilize the technology whenever possible. Roughly 71 percent of American cities report using trenchless methods within the last year. Of those who have not utilized trenchless, 60 percent plan to do so in 2013.

Survey participants were asked their opinion of trenchless methods. While most replied favorably, many still have practical reservations or limitations. Some 51.2 percent prefer to use trenchless, when practical, for their projects; 18.8 percent still favor open-cut except for rare exceptions; and 30 percent of respondents didn’t have a preference – just whatever gets the job done efficiently, on-schedule and on-budget.

“As great as trenchless is, it is still only practical to us in certain applications. Some of these gung-ho contractors and even engineers need to sit back, look realistically at the job and then determine if trenchless is the best way to proceed,” cautioned this Mountain States public works director. This New York state employee believes that “where services are involved, there is no benefit for trenchless.”