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The $600 million expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center—managed by the city's public works department—will triple the building's size to 2 million square feet. Photo: Phoenix Convention Center

All of this activity keeps public works on its toes.

“I have one person dedicated to each one of these project teams,” says Mark Leonard, public works director. “We need to make sure we'll be able to support those projects, and that we're aware of absolutely everything that's going on. That helps us provide the best possible service to our people, without overstretching our resources.”

The other departments also keep open communication lines with commercial developers to help manage revitalization-related infrastructure needs. All of the departments meet and communicate on a regular basis to ensure they're all walking at the same pace.

Finding The Funding

Talking helps, but talk is cheap. Where does the money for all this come from?

“We all draw upon a number of funding sources for our projects,” says Ross Blakley, Phoenix's street transportation director. For example, according to Blakley, about 2% of the money for his recent and current street projects comes from impact fees collected from developers; the rest breaks down as follows:

  • 75%: state gas taxes and vehicle registration fees
  • 12%: bonds
  • 11%: funding from other government agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration.

The majority of Water Services' funding comes from bonds, which are supported by the residential and commercial customers forking over water and waste-water user fees. In addition, most of the construction and operation fees for the planned 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant will come from the four other cities to be served by the facility: Glendale, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe.

Public works draws its funding from a number of sources—user and impact fees, bonds, and the money it garners from maintaining the city's police, fire, and other service fleets.

Thanks in part to their heavy involvement in the planning process, funding for revitalization-involved projects has not proved as significant a problem for Phoenix's public works leaders as one might expect. All of the infrastructure managers expressed concern that the challenge of attracting and keeping qualified staff—especially engineers—is a greater obstacle and needs to be dealt with, so that keeping up with downtown and overall growth won't begin overwhelming their departments.

Building Greatness

Part of the city's efforts to revitalize includes attraction of significant educational and research facilities. The West campus of Arizona State University opened its doors in downtown Phoenix last summer. Most city staff now work in the state-of-the-art digs, housed in a new, 20-story centralized city hall. Two years ago, a statewide biotechnology initiative kicked off with a $46 million, six-story bioscience and medical research facility.

The city's public works department owns and maintains all of these, plus four other city buildings, and maintains a total of 12 facilities in the downtown area. As downtown Phoenix grows, the Facilities Division's burden is expected to grow with it.

“The city overall is investing some major capital in first-class facilities,” says Leonard. “That's impacting public works because we're providing planners with the technology and facility management perspective.” In addition to offering space-planning and construction consulting services, the city reviews plans for new buildings and remodeling projects to ensure that all projects conserve as much electricity and other resources as possible.

In addition, the Phoenix Convention Center is undergoing a $600 million expansion; public works will continue to maintain that facility. With the input of his people, Leonard ensures that the center and all other city-managed facilities are in line with environmental building requirements, and they encourage “green” features such as green roofs, stormwater-friendly native landscaping, and Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design-minded design features.