Flood Control Article Advice from Erin Letavic in Borough News

Erin Letavic, a project manager in HRG’s civil group, published an article in the July issue of Borough News magazine about flood control entitled “Mitigating Flood Risk in Your Borough.”  In it, she discusses the costs municipalities face when flooding occurs and offers  tips for how to minimize the risk of flood damage as much as possible.

Topics she discusses in the article include

  • Understanding your community’s flood risk
  • Improving floodplain management in your community
  • Expanding vegetation that absorbs flood waters and filters pollutants
  • Promoting the construction of green infrastructure
  • Obtaining funding for flood mitigation measures
  • Gaining public support for flood mitigation measures

Flood control strategies can help communities manage their flood risk and lower the potential cost of flood damage

Severe floods can happen in any community, and, when they do, they can wreak serious havoc: destroying homes and businesses, threatening people’s safety, temporarily shutting down the economy, and damaging infrastructure.

Communities can manage flood risk by implementing a flood mitigation strategy. The first step in flood control is to determine what areas of your community are most vulnerable to flooding and model exactly how those areas would be impacted by particular flood events. The next step is to make sure your ordinances and codes limit development in flood-prone areas and promote the planting and preservation of vegetation that will absorb flood waters and reduce flood intensity.

Successful flood control plans require cooperation among all stakeholders in a community, so it is essential to involve them throughout the planning and implementation stages. Obtaining grants and loans to support the initiative will help reduce opposition and lessen the impact on tight municipal budgets.

While the risk of flood damage cannot be completely eliminated, municipalities can greatly enhance the safety of their communities with a forward-thinking approach. The planning a municipality does today is key to weathering the storms tomorrow may bring.

Read the entire article here or in the print edition of Borough News magazine.

 

Watch Erin and other HRG personnel discuss the flooding that occurred around Harrisburg after Tropical Storm Lee and the measures local communities are taking to prevent similar damage in the future.

 

 

How to Choose the Best Method of GIS Data Collection for Water and Sewer Systems

Infrastructure Asset Management: Business Principles to Maximize Government Revenue Returns

This post is an excerpt from an article we published in the June 2017 issue of Borough News magazine entitled “Strategic Asset Management: Optimizing Your Borough’s Dollars.”

We hear a lot these days about the virtues of running government like a business, but what does that mean?

Any profitable business owner can tell you that success doesn’t happen by accident. Managers spend a good bit of time and money studying the environment in which they operate, identifying opportunities and threats, and planning the best ways to maximize growth while minimizing risk.

Though these efforts cost money, prudent managers know it is an investment in the company that will pay higher dividends over the long-term.

Part of a businessman’s overall strategic planning effort involves cataloguing his assets and maximizing their value. Assets can be wide-ranging: from people to trucks to buildings. The goal of asset management is to optimize the way you spend your budget dollars in order to make sure they are providing the biggest return: reducing the life cycle costs while maximizing the service each asset provides.

Who needs to optimize the way they spend their budget dollars more than cash-strapped municipalities under pressure to keep taxes low while obligations increase?

Most municipalities are grappling with aging infrastructure. Take water systems, for example: The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the cost to keep our water and wastewater system functioning over the long term is more than $1 trillion. While there is plenty of work to be done, there is simply not enough funding for communities to do it all at once. Therefore, ASCE recommends assessing the condition of every pipe and valve to determine the risks of failure and properly allocate funds where they are needed most. Asset management and capital improvement planning can help you target your limited budget dollars most effectively in all types of infrastructure: roadways, bridges, stormwater management systems and more.

For example, new technology is making it possible for municipalities to extend the life of their roadways through roadway management systems. Cameras and laser-scanning technology can be mounted to trucks that record the conditions of a municipality’s entire roadway system: noting cracks, pot holes, wheel rutting, and more. Doing this work manually would’ve been too labor-intensive and cost-prohibitive for communities in the past, but now, thanks to technological advancements, municipalities can collect better data at a lower cost without road closures or detours!

Once the data is collected, the municipality can work with an engineer to analyze it and prioritize a list of maintenance, repairs and reconstruction needs. A roadway management program like this emphasizes cost-effective, preventative maintenance activities to prolong the life of a roadway in good condition. By making well-timed, proactive investments, the municipality can enjoy better service from the roadway at a lower lifetime cost.

Silver Spring Township Roadway Management Program

HRG has designed a roadway management program for Silver Spring Township that is helping them save money and better position themselves for grant funding. Learn more

The same asset management and capital improvement principles can be applied to bridges, as well. Typically, this is done at the county level since they own more bridges than municipalities, but the process is similar. When Dauphin County first embarked on its bridge management program, 1/3 of its bridges were structurally deficient. They carefully catalogued the condition of each bridge and prioritized repairs and replacement contracts. Today, they have successfully eliminated all load-posted, structurally-deficient bridges in the county. The program has been so successful it’s generated a surplus of liquid fuels funding, and the county has been able to funnel that into a subsidized loan program for its municipalities to address their own infrastructure needs.

Duke Street Ribbon Cutting

Thanks to careful planning and a wise use of funds, Dauphin County recently completed the replacement of its last load-posted, structurally deficient bridge. Now they can use their Liquid Fuels money for an innovative infrastructure bank that is helping municipalities and the private sector improve local communities. Learn more

Asset management programs can be very important to municipalities looking to meet their MS4 stormwater obligations, as well – particularly if they are considering the implementation of a stormwater fee. Aging infrastructure and growing MS4 permit obligations are compelling municipalities to upgrade their stormwater systems. Though legislation allows them to charge a stormwater fee, they must be able to justify it, which means they must conduct a thorough inventory of their facilities and document the work that must be done to keep it functioning (along with cost estimates for that work). These are crucial facets of an asset management system.

Mobile GIS Development for MS4 Inspections

Municipalities will need a thorough inventory of their stormwater facilities and their condition in order to keep up with the increasing burden of MS4 permitting. Learn about a GIS application HRG created for Hampden Township to help them meet MS4 inspection and reporting requirements.

 

What is asset management?

Asset management is a systematic approach to minimizing the cost of owning, operating, and maintaining your infrastructure at acceptable levels of service.

It is not a computer system or GIS, though these are often valuable tools employed in an asset management program for record-keeping and data analysis.

A proper asset management and capital improvement program will help a municipality identify areas where money is not being spent wisely and reallocate those funds where they can be most beneficial.

It will also help you recognize and evaluate options for keeping your assets functioning for a longer period of time, so that you don’t need to invest in expensive upgrades or replacements as frequently.

It is a circular process that never ends.

Circular Nature of Asset Management

Many things change over time: the condition of your assets, regulations and the business climate you operate in, the number of users you serve, etc.  A good asset management and capital improvement program helps you plan for these changes in advance and respond proactively before they become threats to your bottom line.

 

What are the benefits of infrastructure asset management?

As we’ve already stated, an asset management and capital improvement program helps you identify exactly what maintenance and repair work is necessary without guesswork. This approach has multiple benefits:

Minimizing Risk
Knowing which infrastructure is most likely to fail (and correcting deficiencies before it does) can save you major expenses later. Knowing which failures would be the most catastrophic helps you target money toward their prevention as a first priority.

Maximizing Returns
Asset management and capital improvement planning is all about proactively investing in measures to extend the life of your infrastructure.  These small investments can extend the life of an asset by several years.

Optimizing Service and Satisfaction
Proactively maintaining your assets ensures they function at peak performance for a longer period of time and are replaced before they fail. This means your constituents receive top quality service without disruption and are happier for it. In addition, many asset management solutions include optional customer service applications that make it easier for residents and business owners to submit service requests and track them to completion.

Justifying Your Tax Rates or Fees
Rate increases are never popular, but they are easier for people to accept when they are backed up with clear data showing exactly what improvements are needed and why.

Accessing grants and loans
Competition for funding is fierce, and government agencies are under pressure to make sure the money they invest is used wisely. As a result, they’re more likely to award funds to municipalities who have clear documentation of the project need, its benefits, and a plan for getting it built, operating it, and maintaining it at optimum levels over time.

Improving your worth
Many municipalities have been considering the option of leasing or selling their assets as a response to growing financial obligations in the public sector. A comprehensive asset management system provides documentation of the value of your assets, so you can ensure you are in a position to negotiate the best possible deal for you and your constituents.  Potential investors will be more comfortable making a significant investment if they fully understand the value and the risks they’re assuming.

But asset management can benefit your financial picture even if leasing or selling is not on the horizon.

Under GASB standards, governments can either subtract a standard portion of their infrastructure’s value each year to account for depreciation (the traditional approach), or they can regularly assess the condition of the infrastructure, invest in maintenance to keep it in good condition, and then report the amount of money they have invested in maintenance (the modified approach, which is similar in scope to a typical asset management program).  Using the modified approach, the assets don’t have to depreciate in value like they would in the traditional approach.

A recent article in Governing magazine showed how investors appear to prefer trading bonds from governments that use the modified approach:

“Governments that use the modified method trade at much narrower price ranges compared to bonds from governments that depreciate. In other words, when a government uses the modified approach, investors are much more likely to agree on how to price its bonds. For governments, this can ultimately translate into lower bond interest rates.”

(excerpted from “Selling Your Sewer’s Story – Financial statements can make the best case for public works investors”)

 

The truth is, you’re going to have to invest in maintenance and repair anyway. If you invest in an asset management program, you can take a proactive approach to determining what maintenance is needed and then plan and budget for it in advance. This means you can target your maintenance dollars where they’re needed most and make sure you have the funds available to do the work before infrastructure failure brings even greater costs to bear on your budget.

Publicly-traded companies are held accountable to their shareholders. They must demonstrate that they are making good decisions for the future health of the company and maximizing the value of the shareholders’ investments. Taxpayers are coming to demand the same sort of accountability from their government, wanting proof that their tax dollars are providing a good return, as well. Municipal managers that can prove the value of their decisions will enjoy broad support of their constituents while improving the long-term financial stability of their community.


Adrienne M. VicariAdrienne Vicari, P.E., is the financial services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc., a civil engineering firm that serves local governments and authorities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Ms. Vicari has assisted numerous municipalities and water and sewer authorities with the creation of asset management programs that have created increased value and lowered costs for her clients.

 

Carlisle Borough Uses Infiltration/Inflow Data to Devise Long-Term Plan for Infrastructure Repair and Replacement

Like many municipalities, Carlisle Borough is grappling with the challenge of aging infrastructure. Its sewer system features infrastructure that is more than 100 years old.  Since replacing it all at once is not possible from a financial perspective, borough officials needed to a way to narrow down exactly where investment should occur.  Which projects would provide the most value to Carlisle residents and business owners?  Infiltration and inflow data provided the answer.

Why infiltration and inflow data?

In the words of Carlisle Borough staff, “Inflow and infiltration is really just a symptom of failing infrastructure.” By figuring out where extraneous flow is entering the system, we get a hint as to where cracks or defects in the infrastructure may be located.

Josh Fox recently authored an article in the April/May/June issue of Keystone Water Quality Manager magazine on this project with the borough’s director of public works Mark Malarich, P.E.

The article discusses how HRG’s engineers evaluated infiltration and inflow data to determine what infrastructure needed repairs or replacement the most. First, the borough implemented a 16-week metering program to identify dry weather flow for comparison to wet weather data for the borough’s 21 sewer basins.

We then used the data to calculate peaking factor and total infiltration volume for each of the basins and ranked the basins accordingly. After analyzing the data, we determined that some basins had high peaking factors but infiltration dropped off quickly once the wet weather dissipated (like Area 1C in the figure below).  Other basins saw high infiltration volumes for several days after a wet weather event (like area 4 in the figure below).  This suggested that a high groundwater table was contributing a sustained flow via defects in the manholes, sewer mains and sewer laterals.  Therefore, total infiltration volume provided the best data for assessing the overall condition of the infrastructure.

 

Infiltration-Inflow-Data-from-Two-Basins

Taking our analysis one step further, we prioritized the basins with the highest total infiltration volume for further investigation and compared the total volume of infiltration/inflow in a basin to its size. By calculating the total infiltration per foot of pipe, we were able to more accurately estimate the severity of damage in each basin.  (For instance, two basins may have had similarly high total infiltration volumes, but one was significantly smaller than the other.  This suggests a higher severity of defects in the smaller basin for that much water to infiltrate in a smaller space, during the same time period, after the same wet weather event.)

Prioritized Basins by each factor

Using this data as a guide, HRG worked with the borough to devise a 20-year capital improvement plan for addressing the highest priority needs in the system.  HRG also helped the borough create a financial strategy for addressing these needs.

Rehabilitation of the highest priority basin is being completed in the spring of 2017 and is expected to come in almost $1 million under budget.

Read more about this project in the April/May/June 2017 issue of Keystone Water Quality Manager magazine.

HRG has written a great deal of advice on asset management and long-term infrastructure planning for water and wastewater systems. Read similar articles below:

 

 


Josh Fox, P.E.Josh Fox, is the regional manager of water and wastewater system services in HRG’s Harrisburg office.  He has extensive experience in the planning and design of wastewater collection and conveyance facilities, water supply and distribution systems, and stormwater facilities.

 

Adaptive Traffic Signals Reduce Delay, Increase Safety, and Improve Public Satisfaction

Could adaptive traffic signals improve traffic flow in your municipality? Read on to learn:
• The benefits of adaptive traffic signals.
• How they work (and what technology/equipment is required).
• How much adaptive traffic signals cost.
• Where you can obtain funding for implementing adaptive traffic signals.

As traffic engineers, friends have asked us for years if we could give them a magic button to turn traffic signals green whenever they approach the intersection. We smile and chuckle at the joke, but the truth is: The technology already exists for traffic signals to sense cars approaching the intersection and adjust their phasing in response.  It’s called adaptive traffic signal control, and you may already have encountered it in your travels without knowing it.

advanced traffic signal with mounted camera

Cameras mounted on the mast arm detect oncoming traffic and send this information to a central computer.

 

What are adaptive traffic signals?

In the simplest sense, adaptive traffic signals adjust the timing of their green light cycles to match current traffic conditions on the ground. They are constantly collecting data about approaching vehicles and creating new timing sequences to match them.

It’s this second part that distinguishes them from the responsive signal systems many municipalities have today.  While a responsive system will adjust timings based on current traffic conditions, it can only respond with one of its preset cycle programs – trying to find the closest match it can.  An adaptive system creates a completely new timing sequence that is customized to current conditions.

It’s a very efficient way to move traffic through a busy corridor.

How do they work?

  • Video cameras and sensors collect information about the vehicles approaching an intersection.
  • Software analyzes this information and creates a customized timing sequence in real time.
  • The software communicates this sequence to coordinated signals up and down the corridor, so that they all function in sync with each other.

What are the advantages of adaptive traffic signals?

They move traffic along faster and with fewer stops. Signals are constantly being reprogrammed to maximize the green light length and allow the most cars through.  Multiple intersections are coordinated, so that traffic can move freely throughout the corridor, rather than encountering frequent starts and stops.

(It’s important to note, however, that adaptive signals cannot create more time or capacity. They simply allocate time in a more efficient manner.)

A study by the Federal Highway Administration shows that adaptive traffic signals can improve travel time by 10% on average. Intersections with particularly outdated timing plans can see travel time improve by as much as 50%.

Our client, Monroeville, saw travel time reductions of 20% when it installed adaptive traffic signals along the William Penn Highway (Route 22).

advanced traffic signals on Rt. 22 in Monroeville, PA

Adaptive traffic signals along Route 22 in Monroeville reduced travel time by 20% and the frequency of stops by 87%.

 

Adaptive traffic signals increase safety by reducing stops (and thus the opportunity for rear-end collisions).

Monroeville saw an 87% reduction in stops along the William Penn Highway after it installed adaptive traffic signals. It stands to reason this would prevent accidents, and data in other cities bears this out.

  • In Troy, Michigan, collisions causing serious injury were cut in half after adaptive traffic signals were implemented there.
  • Crashes fell by 38% in West Des Moines, Iowa, after the city installed an adaptive traffic signal system on the Jordan Creek Parkway.

Photo by Daniel Oines. Published here under a Creative Commons license.

advanced traffic signals can cut down on rear end collisions

Reducing the time cars spend stopped in traffic reduces the opportunity for rear-end collisions.

 

They tame the chaos that often occurs in unforeseen circumstances (like traffic accidents or special events). A conventional traffic signal system can only respond with pre-timed cycles – none of which are likely to be the best approach for an emergency situation like a lane closure caused by an accident or a downed tree.  Likewise, a special event may cause significant, unanticipated changes in traffic patterns that a conventional system could not respond to adequately.

An adaptive traffic signal system can rewrite the timing to fit the changing situation on the ground. Immediately. The moment the event occurs. (When necessary, municipal staff can override the timings manually– while viewing camera feeds from a remote location– to help emergency response times.)

They increase customer satisfaction and reduce complaints.

Drivers spend an average of 36 hours per year waiting in traffic – even more if they live and work in the city. This is frustrating, and people often complain to their representatives about the roadways where they wait the longest.  If you can reduce those wait times, you will reduce the complaints, as well, and relieve driver frustrations.

In the Harrisburg area, drivers have commented to us about how much better it is to drive on the Carlisle Pike and Route 22 corridors since adaptive signals were installed. Many have told us how they used to hit every red light, but now they cruise through a sea of green, making it to their destination much faster.

Photo via the State Farm Flicker page. Published here under a Creative Commons license.

adaptive traffic signals reduce the time people spend in traffic

Make your drivers happy: Adaptive traffic signals reduce the amount of time people sit in traffic and saves them money on gas and lost productivity.

 

Adaptive signal systems save drivers money and reduce vehicle emissions.

Reducing delays in this way doesn’t just save drivers time; it also saves them money. A study by the Texas Transportation Institute estimated that Americans waste more than $87 billion per year on gas and lost productivity due to congestion.  That’s more than $700 per driver!  The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates those costs will rise by 50% over the next 15 years.  But adaptive traffic signals can help us bring those costs down by reducing congestion and delay.

This will also reduce vehicle emissions, providing cleaner air for us all to breathe.

adaptive traffic signals can reduce vehicle emissions

Adaptive traffic signals make traffic move more efficiently and reduce the time cars idle in traffic. This reduces vehicle emissions. (Photo by Ruben de Rijcke. Used via Creative Commons license.)

 

Where are adaptive traffic signals currently in use?

Over the past several years, PennDOT has been working with municipalities to implement adaptive traffic signals across the state.

  • In Central Pennsylvania, adaptive traffic signals have been installed at more than 40 intersections in Cumberland County and Dauphin County. The primary locations are along the Carlisle Pike and Route 22. Route 422 in Lebanon County and Route 501 in Lancaster County also have adaptive systems.
  • In Western Pennsylvania, adaptive traffic signals have been implemented along 18 intersections of the William Penn Highway in Monroeville.
  • In the State College area, adaptive traffic signals are being installed in Patton Township along Valley Vista Drive where it intersects with Green Tech Drive, North Atherton Street, Lowe’s Centre Driveway, and Carnegie Drive.   Adaptive signals will also be installed on the Waddle Road Corridor.

In fact, 3 percent of the nation’s traffic signals use adaptive signal control technology, and that number is rising fast. According to the Laboratory for Adaptive Traffic Operations & Management at Florida Atlantic University, the number of intersections with adaptive signal control rose by more than 40% between 2009 and 2014. Likewise, the number of agencies using them increased from just 30 to almost 150.  (The laboratory tracks the number of locations using adaptive traffic signals across the United State on a map.)

What does it cost to implement adaptive traffic signals?

The cost to implement adaptive traffic signal systems averages between $30,000 – $50,000 per intersection, according to data from the Laboratory for Adaptive Traffic Operations & Management at Florida Atlantic University.

Other studies by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and similar experts in the field have placed the numbers in this range, as well, but the cost can vary widely. (We found numbers as low as $20,000 per intersection and as high as $65,000.)

One reason costs vary is because adaptive traffic signal systems have many components, and each one has its own pricing variables:

  • New hardware and software
  • Detection devices (radar, loops, video)
  • Controller upgrades
  • Interconnection and communication changes (if intersections are not already interconnected)
  • Staff training
  • Traffic studies

The cost will depend largely on what brand system you choose because different systems have different software and equipment requirements. (Also, some require more training than others.)

The cost will also depend on the current state of your intersections. Many municipalities already have detection devices installed and have already interconnected signals along busy corridors. Costs to implement adaptive traffic signals at intersections like these would obviously be lower than at an intersection that doesn’t have these components.

Is there funding for adaptive traffic signal systems?

Yes, funding is available to help defray the cost of implementing adaptive traffic signals.

  • Programs like Green Light Go and Automated Red Light Enforcement monies could be used successfully to fund these projects in Pennsylvania. (Our article on applying for Act 89 grants provides more insight on the Green Light Go program.)
  • Full or partial funding could also be obtained through the land development process as traffic mitigation required during completion of a traffic impact study.
  • Federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality funds are another option that has been used in the past.
  • Other programs that could provide funding include:
    • The Commonwealth Financing Authority Multimodal Transportation Fund
    • PennDOT Multimodal Transportation Fund
    • Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank
    • Pennsylvania Municipal Liquid Fuels Funds

In Conclusion

traffic signal
Even though it is a significant investment, adaptive traffic signals may be worth the cost because of the benefits they produce:

  • reducing travel time and stop frequency,
  • reducing the number of rear-end collisions,
  • increasing customer satisfaction,
  • reducing the costs of congestion (like fuel and lost time), and
  • reducing vehicle emissions.

Adaptive systems can also handle unforeseen circumstances like a traffic accident or special event traffic better than conventional systems can.

Municipalities who do implement the technology should budget $60,000 per intersection, but the actual cost will depend on the system the municipality chooses and the current technology deployed on its intersections (i.e. the changes or upgrades the intersections will require).

Funding from grant programs like Green Light Go and Automated Red Light Enforcement can be used to defray these costs.

To discuss how adaptive traffic signals could benefit your municipality, contact Eric Stump or Darren Myer.


Eric Stump, P.E., PTOEEric Stump, is the traffic team leader for HRG’s Eastern Region. His experience includes preparing traffic impact studies for developments and reviewing them for municipalities, preparing signal permit and construction plans, developing coordination programs, preparing Highway Occupancy Permit applications, and more.  He has provided municipal review services for several municipalities implementing adaptive traffic signals and recently designed a system for Derry Township.

 

Darren Myer, P.E., PTOEMyer, is the manager of transportation services for HRG’s Western Region. In this role, he oversees the delivery of all roadway, traffic, and bridge projects HRG completes in Western Pennsylvania.  Myer also serves as the traffic engineer for several municipalities, including Monroeville, which recently implemented an adaptive traffic signal system along the William Penn Highway.


 

GUIDE: How to Obtain Act 89 Funding For Your Municipality

Cover of HRG's Guide to Obtaining Act 89 Transportation FundingIn 2013, Pennsylvania enacted Act 89 to increase funding for roadway, bridge and traffic projects.  This legislation increases transportation funding by uncapping the oil company franchise tax, increasing fees for driver services like vehicle registration and license plates, and increasing fines for traffic violations.

Thanks to this legislation, local governments are already benefitting from an increase in their Liquid Fuels disbursements, but millions of additional dollars are available to municipalities who know how to access them. Act 89 funding is not distributed through one umbrella program. It is actually disbursed through several different initiatives:

  •  The Multi-Modal Fund
  •  The Green Light Go program
  •  Low Volume Road/Dirt & Gravel Road Funding
  •  A bridge bundling initiative

In order to obtain the money for which your community is eligible, you’ll need to understand the different programs and the application requirements of each. In order to meet these requirements, you’ll need to implement a long-term strategic planning approach like asset management and capital improvement planning.

This guide can help you do that. In it, we will tell you:

  • What types of projects are eligible for act 89 funding
  • What information grant agencies are looking for
  • Ways to position your projects for grant success

Download our guide and learn how to obtain act 89 funding for your municipality!

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How EPA’s Stormwater Management Planning Guide Can Help with MS4 Compliance, Aging Infrastructure

EPA's planned guide on stormwater management planning can help municipalities address aging infrastructure and regulatory challenges under tight budget constraints.

Today, communities must address aging infrastructure and stricter stormwater management regulation (like MS4 permitting) under tight budget constraints. In order to be successful, they will need to take a long-term approach to stormwater management planning.  EPA’s new guide can help.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency published Community Solutions for Stormwater Management: A Guide for Voluntary Long-Term Planning. The current version is a preliminary draft (the final guide will not be published until later in 2017), and, when it is, it will be accompanied by a website and toolkit that helps communities navigate the recommended planning process.

But even in its preliminary form, the guide provides valuable advice about how to implement a long-term approach to stormwater management planning. Many of the steps outlined in the guide are an integral part of HRG’s approach to assisting our municipal stormwater clients.  Here are the major highlights:

Figure out where you want to go.

EPA recommends that you begin by identifying the goals you have for your stormwater management program.  This could include reducing runoff or improving water quality.  It could also include reducing flooding impacts or protecting natural resources like the floodplain and wetland areas.

The process for determining these goals includes talking to municipal staff as well as residents and business owners. One of your first steps should be to identify potential stakeholders in the community and a process for engaging them.  This could be the formation of a stakeholder advisory committee or open public forums.  At this time, you should also identify groups you can ally with as partners: watershed alliances, environmental groups, schools, businesses and community organizations, etc.

Throughout the entire planning and implementation process, you will need to communicate with the public, so now’s the time to establish how communication will take place: what media you will use, how often you will distribute information, and exactly what information will be communicated.

Determine where you are right now.

Before you can locate the path to success, you need to know your true starting point.  An early step in any long-term planning process is a thorough assessment of the current condition of your facilities. This includes finding and mapping your infrastructure, then documenting its condition and analyzing its performance.  It means determining the origin and destination of your stormwater management flows and considering future events that could threaten your facilities (significant weather events, new regulation, or the level of development in an area, for example).

This documentation could be made in the form of a paper map or a computerized geographic information system, depending on your goals and budget.

Chart a course.

Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, you can begin to evaluate the best possible way to get there.  In the previous two steps, you’ve identified your goals for an optimal level of service, and you’ve determined what your current level of service is.  In this phase of the process, a qualified consultant will help you identify the improvements you need to meet the desired level of service, including capital improvement projects and their associated cost.  He or she will also help you prioritize which projects should be tackled first.

In order to do so, the consultant will work with you to establish objective criteria for comparing various improvement alternatives. Some of the criteria you’ll want to consider include cost (not just construction cost but also life cycle costs associated with operation and maintenance), the potential burden on the community, the ability to reduce pollutants, improvement of receiving water quality, and public health benefit.

These steps are really just crucial components of an effective asset management and capital improvement plan.

Put it in gear.

This is the phase where you begin to implement the improvements you’ve selected.  It includes the creation of a detailed implementation schedule and the development of financial strategies to make sure the program is fully funded.

When looking for a consultant to assist you with a long-term stormwater management planning process, you’ll want to find one with ample financial expertise – someone who has extensive knowledge of the financing options available to municipalities, including grants and loans or user fees (among others).


HRG can help you evaluate whether stormwater user fees could benefit your community. Check out our guide:

Stormwater Utility Guide

Determining If a Stormwater Utility Is Right for Your Community

It includes:

• Answers to common questions about stormwater utilities
• Advice for how to build public consensus for stormwater fees
• An outline of the early steps you should take when investigating the feasibility of a stormwater utility

Download the guide at

www.hrg-inc.com/stormwater-utility-guide


Perform a check-up.

You’re not done yet! Once you’ve started implementing your plan, you’ll want to periodically assess how it’s working and make adjustments, as needed. Your consultant should clearly outline the metrics you will use to measure results. You’ll also want to track any cost savings your improvements produce.  This is important for providing the buy-in to keep the program going.  It will also help you identify ways to reinvest those savings.

As regulation and MS4 permitting requirements increase, municipalities will find that the historically reactive approach they have taken to stormwater management will not be enough to comply. They will need to take a more proactive approach to stormwater management planning based on their long-term vision for the community.  These tips are great place to start for creating that vision.

(If you’d like to learn more about stormwater management planning, visit our Water Resources page for a list of services we provide, more of our Insights on stormwater and MS4, descriptions of example projects we’ve completed, and profiles of our stormwater design professionals.)

 


Matthew Bonanno, P.E., Matt Bonannois the civil services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. He has 15 years of experience in stormwater management, water resources engineering, and municipal retainer services throughout Central Pennsylvania. He can be reached at (717) 564-1121 or mbonanno@hrg-inc.com

 

Adrienne Vicari, P.E.,Adrienne M. Vicari is the financial services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. In this role, she has helped HRG provide strategic financial planning and grant administration services to numerous municipal and municipal authority clients. She is also serving as project manager for several projects involving the creation of stormwater authorities or the addition of stormwater to the charter of existing authorities throughout Pennsylvania.

 

 

Could infrastructure asset management improve your municipal bond performance?

Financial Reports

If you’re a frequent reader of our newsletter and postings, you know we believe strongly in the benefits of infrastructure asset management. (This is a sampling of our prior articles about infrastructure asset management.) By regularly assessing the condition of your infrastructure and proactively planning its maintenance and replacement, you can reap many benefits. Most importantly, you will increase the useful life of your infrastructure for a lower long-term cost than the typical reactive approach many governments and authorities take.

A recent article in Governing magazine gives another good reason why investing in asset management can be beneficial: it just might lower your cost of borrowing through bonds. In this article, Justin Marlowe discusses the benefit of using the modified approach for calculating the value of infrastructure required in annual GASB reports.  Under GASB standards, governments can either subtract a standard portion of their infrastructure’s value each year to account for depreciation (the traditional approach), or they can regularly assess the condition of the infrastructure, invest in maintenance to keep it in good condition, and then report the amount of money they have invested in maintenance (the modified approach).  Using the modified approach, the assets don’t have to depreciate in value like they would in the traditional approach.

Marlowe cites research he’s conducted that shows investors appear to prefer trading bonds from governments that use the modified approach:

“Governments that use the modified method trade at much narrower price ranges compared to bonds from governments that depreciate. In other words, when a government uses the modified approach, investors are much more likely to agree on how to price its bonds. For governments, this can ultimately translate into lower bond interest rates.”

(excerpted from “Selling Your Sewer’s Story – Financial statements can make the best case for public works investors”)

 

He goes on to state that very few governments at the state and local level actually use the modified approach, so with a lower supply, the demand for such investments would likely be stronger yet.

The truth is, you’re going to have to invest in maintenance and repair anyway. At HRG, we believe that, if you invest in an asset management program, you can take a proactive approach to determining what maintenance is needed and then plan and budget for it in advance. This means you can target your maintenance dollars where they’re needed most and make sure you have the funds available to do the work before infrastructure failure brings even greater costs to bear on your budget.

Justin Marlowe’s study adds a bonus benefit to this type of approach: you can cite those proactive investments in your financial statements to make your government bonds a more attractive investment to traders.

Every client need is different, and HRG would be happy to discuss asset management planning, capital improvement planning, budgeting and/or rate making options to fit the unique needs of your community. Contact us to discuss your community’s infrastructure and financial goals today: (717) 564-1121!


Adrienne M. VicariAdrienne Vicari, P.E., is the financial services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc., a civil engineering firm that serves local governments and authorities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Ms. Vicari has assisted numerous municipalities and water and sewer authorities with the creation of asset management programs that have created increased value and lowered costs for her clients.

 

 

Benefits of Utility Asset Management

As our water systems continue to age past their useful life and utilities face increasing budget pressures, the terms asset management and capital improvement planning have become buzzwords in the industry. However, as utility managers struggle to squeeze as much out of their budgets as possible, it is hard for many of them to justify the additional expense associated with developing and implementing an asset management program. Just like with any other purchase, they want to be sure the benefits outweigh the cost.  So what are the benefits of asset management and capital improvement planning?

Target your money with asset management

Target budget dollars where they’re needed most and eliminate wasteful spending.

An asset management and capital improvement program helps you identify exactly what maintenance and repair work is necessary without guesswork. Why allocate money toward cleaning out pipes selected at random, when you could target that money to the pipes that need it most (and use the savings to accomplish other system goals)?  Why replace pipes simply because of age when they may be in perfectly good condition?  Many factors besides age can cause the deterioration of infrastructure.

Photo by TheeErin. Published via a Creative Commons license.
water main break sinkhole

Minimize Risk

Knowing which infrastructure is most likely to fail (and correcting deficiencies before it does) can save you major expenses later in the form of property claims, water loss, etc. Knowing which failures would be the most catastrophic helps you target money toward their prevention as a first priority. With the budget limitations of municipal utility management, you might not be able to prevent every system failure, so it’s important to know which ones have the potential to cause the most financial damage and impact the most customers.  This way, you can focus your efforts on preventing those first.  If a failure does occur, a good asset management plan will include a proactive response plan, allowing you to respond quicker and more efficiently (thereby reducing damage and disruption).

Increase ROI with asset management

Maximize Returns

Asset management and capital improvement planning is all about proactively investing in measures to extend the life of your infrastructure.  These small investments can extend the life of an asset by several years.  Over time, the money you save delaying replacement will far surpass the money you spent to maintain the asset, and your customers will have enjoyed better, more consistent service for this lower cost.

Water sustainability

Promote Sustainability

Finding and detecting failures in the system like leaks can prevent water loss and the wasted energy consumed to treat water that never makes it to a customer.

Rating Five Golden Stars on Blackboard

Optimize Customer Service and Satisfaction

Proactively maintaining your assets ensures they function at peak performance for a longer period of time and are replaced before they fail. This means your customers receive top quality service without disruption and are happier for it. In addition, many asset management solutions include optional customer service applications that make it easier for customers to submit service requests and track them to completion.

 

Justify your rates with asset management

Justify Your Rates

Rate increases are never popular with customers, but they are easier for them to accept when they are backed up with clear data showing exactly what improvements are needed and why.

Attract funding with asset management

Access grants and loans

Competition for funding is fierce, and government agencies are under pressure to make sure the money they invest is used wisely. As a result, they’re more likely to award funds to utilities who have clear documentation of the project need, its benefits, and a plan for getting it built, operating it, and maintaining it at optimum levels over time.

Know your worth with asset management

Know your worth

Many utilities have been considering the option of leasing or selling their assets as a response to growing financial obligations in the public sector. A comprehensive asset management system provides documentation of the value of your assets, so you can ensure you are in a position to negotiate the best possible deal for you and your customers.  Potential investors will be more comfortable making a significant investment if they fully understand the value and the risks they’re assuming. (For more Insight into the utility leasing trend, see our article on calculating fair annual rental value.)

Every manager must take careful stock of his revenue and his expenses, but not all expenses are created alike. There is a difference between a cost and an investment, and asset management is clearly an investment in your utility’s future.  In essence, it helps you provide better service at a lower cost with reduced risk and improved financing options. How many investments can you make that provide that kind of return?


Do you want to learn more about asset management and capital improvement planning? Read our other Insights on the topic:

What is utility asset management?

Many utilities struggle to respond to aging infrastructure and increasing regulation. This article explains how asset management works and presents it as an important solution to both of these problems.

Better Roads for Less Money with Asset Management

Graphical proof that municipalities that invest in asset management save money and get better infrastructure results.

Position Yourself for Infrastructure Funding with an Asset Management/Capital Improvement Plan

4 reasons why municipality’s with asset management/capital improvement plans are more likely to be awarded grants and low-interest loans.

Asset Management: What Does It Mean to You?

An introduction to infrastructure asset management and what you need to consider when picking a solution/getting started.


 

Asset management can also be a valuable tool for municipalities managing a stormwater system. As MS4 permit requirements continue to grow, municipalities need to know more and more about the location and condition of their stormwater infrastructure. HRG has extensive experience creating asset management systems for stormwater systems, and we offer a wealth of advice about meeting MS4 permit requirements and funding stormwater program needs through user fees. Check out these Insights for additional information:

Tips for Preparing Your 2018 MS4 Permit Application
Learn more about: the specific deadlines associated with the 2018 MS4 permit application, how to apply for a waiver from the new Pollution Reduction Plan requirements, what details must be added to the 2018 mapping, and how municipalities can collaborate with others to improve the effectiveness (and reduce the cost) of their MS4 program.


Paperwork

Stormwater Utility Guide
Get answers to frequently asked questions about stormwater user fees and advice on how to build public support for a fee in your community. This guide provides an overview of a user fee’s benefits and an outline of the steps one must take to decide if a user fee is right for their municipality.

Stormwater Utility Guide

Also check out these examples of our project experience with asset management for water, wastewater, and stormwater systems:

Capital Region Water, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PA
Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is developing/customizing a Geographic Information System (GIS) database for Capital Region Water (CRW) potable water, storm sewer and public sanitary sewer infrastructure networks.

CRW Logo


HodderHoward Hodder, GISP, is the manager of HRG’s Geomatics Service Group. As such, he oversees the delivery of surveying and geographic information system services to all of our clients firm-wide. He has extensive experience in asset management for municipal clients, particularly in the areas of sanitary and storm sewer systems. Contact Howard with your questions about asset management and GIS.

Join Howard at the 2016 Pennsylvania Utility Management Summit, being jointly presented by the PA American Water Works Association, PA Water Environment Association, and Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association! He will be presenting a workshop entitled “GIS and Asset Management: Putting a World of Information at Your Fingertips.”