"We are a small community that's facing some pretty big deficits. We need some way to leverage our finances more efficiently. Any suggestions on how we might increase our purchasing power?"
There is a well-kept secret that I'm going to share with you. U.S. Communities is a nonprofit arm of government established by public agencies to reduce the cost of purchased goods and to streamline the purchasing process. The program is nationally sponsored by the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, the Association of School Business Officials International, National Institute of Government Purchasing and U.S. Conference of Mayors. Through U.S. Communities, counties, cities and other public agencies such as schools and special districts can piggyback on competitively solicited contracts, thereby taking advantage of the enormous collective purchasing power of thousands of U.S. local government agencies. The program offers a variety of commodity lines, as well as services, on their contracts; everything from office supplies and furniture to janitorial supplies, park and playground equipment, and much more. For more information check it out at http://uscommunities.org or send an e-mail note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"With all the stories about the damage and loss of property created by the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast last year, I haven't read anything about the impact the storms had on the wastewater treatment infrastructure. I'm guessing the loss was tremendous."
Only if you consider $1.4 billion to be a tremendous loss! And, I'm guessing everyone who has built or improved wastewater treatment infrastructure would agree this may be an underestimated total. The Water Environment Federation, by contract with Black and Veatch, Overland Park, KS, completed a study on the issue since no one else seemed to be addressing it. The report focused on 118 wastewater facilities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which serve about 1.8 million people. The study estimates that the cost to repair and rebuild the treatment facilities would be $1.2 billion but that does not include the $163 million in revenue base which was lost due to the population reduction following the hurricane. We all know this is a national public health issue and communities are faced with overwhelming costs to repair and replace the infrastructure. FEMA won't pay for 100 percent of the repairs and smaller utilities may not be able to afford to make up the difference. FEMA does provide public assistance grants to pay for 75 percent of the cost of restoration or repair and EPA has some state and federal programs available. To read the full report, visit www.wef.org.
"I read a story on the Internet about Formosan termites being found in wood mulch shipped out of the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina. Is this something we should be watching out for?"
While the Internet is a variable wealth of knowledge, it is also a great source of misinformation, too. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry put in place very strict quarantines in October 2005 which prohibit hurricane-impacted areas in Louisiana to transport mulch, wood, or any other kind of wood waste outside their area. All the material is being put in landfills. They have even instituted warnings and quarantines against moving building materials from damaged homes for use in other structures or areas. It is highly unlikely that termites and their colonies would survive the mulching and chipping process, but if anyone is chipping, bagging and selling mulch from southern Louisiana, it is being done illegally.
"Is the Emerging Public Works Leaders Forum going to be a part of Congress again this year?"
You better believe it! And it will be bigger and better. The members of the Leadership and Management Committee, along with Mentors and Leaders from previous years, have really stepped up to the plate to enhance the program and this year's event will be one you should not miss. New to this year's event will be a Dutch Treat Get Acquainted and Reunion Dinner on Saturday evening where Mentors and Leaders registered for this year's event will be paired up, and past Mentors and Leaders will be invited to join in the celebration to see old friends and make new ones. The sessions this year will be held as Continental Breakfasts, and speakers for each session will focus on issues that will be beneficial to the Emerging Leaders in developing their career, getting involved in their local chapter, and determining what a leader really should be. For a packet of information, contact me at email@example.com and I'll gladly get it to you immediately.
Chapter Delegates and officers are being encouraged to sponsor Emerging Leaders this year possibly by offering a scholarship to cover a portion of the cost. Talk about this with your chapter leaders. These folks could be a great resource for building and/or enhancing your local chapter.
"The news media has everyone up in arms in our community about the Avian Bird flu and the big pandemic that's going to hit. Is APWA doing anything to help public works agencies assess what needs to be done?"
We're working on it. As you can imagine, the information available has all been of the "gloom and doom" variety designed to catch the TV-viewing public's attention. Much like Y2K and the prediction of dire happenings and the need for storing massive amounts of food and water, and even the threats from Soviet bombs that evoked the construction of many bomb shelters, no one really knows IF or WHEN the pandemic might occur. Hopefully, it won't. However, "better safe than sorry," so everyone, including public works departments, needs to determine how you would cope with up to 30% of your workforce infected with the flu at one time. From a public works standpoint, our major concern will be with providing continuity of essential operations—trash must be picked up, water and wastewater plants must operate safely and efficiently, traffic signals must function, and provision of emergency assistance will probably be required. The Emergency Management Committee is developing a subcommittee to offer suggestions but, as you can imagine, it won't be an easy task. For the time being, I can only direct you to the White House report on Preparing for the Pandemic Flu which can be found at:
Questions are welcome.
Please address all inquiries to:
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd., Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to: (816) 472-1610