Launch Slideshow

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Rising to the challenge

Rising to the challenge

  • John Bernal

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    John Bernal

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  • H. Reed Fowler

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    H. Reed Fowler

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  • Bret Hodne

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    Bret Hodne

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  • Joseph Johnson

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    Joseph Johnson

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  • Stuart Moring

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    Stuart Moring

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  • William Pugh

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    William Pugh

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  • Peter Steblin

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    Peter Steblin

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  • Gary Warren

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    Gary Warren

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Taking stock

Lawrence Bombara, Superintendent of public works, Uxbridge, Mass.

Money's tight for cities, even in relatively small towns like Uxbridge, which has 12,600 residents. Already plagued by infrastructure funding shortfalls, the municipality was besieged by a 10-alarm fire that destroyed 65 businesses in late July.

What kept a surprise such as the big blaze from becoming a crisis was planning and leadership on the part of people like Bombara. The superintendent of public works established a 40-year “rolling stock” replacement program, which helps prioritize equipment purchases and replacement across the town's various departments. “It keeps everyone on the same page and awaiting their turn,” says Bombara.

Among Bombara's other accomplishments in his three-decade tour of duty: installing a new state-of-the-art water tank (on time and under budget), securing a $250,000 grant to establish a bike/walking trail, and transforming a former sewage-sludge landfill into a recycling center. He makes the most of his department's resources by keeping an eye on the bottom line, and by focusing on maintenance rather than replacement.

“Upgrading and improving is one thing, but letting good things deteriorate before your eyes is bothersome,” he says.

Keeping it Cool

Bret Hodne, Superintendent of public works, West Des Moines, Iowa

Preparing for disaster is important, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun.

Hodne has worked in close partnership with other public works leaders in his area—such as Iowa Local Technical Assistance Program associate director Duane Smith—to develop comprehensive training programs for employees involved in snow and ice control. The group and local APWA chapter have worked together to create the Iowa Streets and Roads Conference, the Iowa Maintenance Expo, and a “Roadeo,” at which operators take control of loaders and other winter-fighting equipment to show off their skills.

“It's rewarding to see the results of these efforts, and the difference it has made for the hundreds of agency members who've participated,” says Hodne.

In addition to training, Hodne has helped beef up his agency's severe-weather preparedness by crafting far-reaching disaster plans.

“Having effective plans for both public relations and operations during emergency events is key to keeping your head above water,” he says.

Laying it all out

H. Reed Fowler Jr., Director of public works, Newport News, Va.

When GASB34 first arrived on the scene, Fowler—like nearly every other infrastructure manager in the country—was concerned about his city's lack of preparation.

“Records, reports, maps, and capital project information were maintained by a variety of departments in various formats,” he says. He challenged the city's Asset Management Division to find an effective way to address GASB34 reporting requirements, while also tracking complaints, infrastructure condition ratings, and other pertinent data (using a geographical information system) for all city departments. Under his direction, the city now has a fully functional geodatabase that makes it possible to access data for reporting and analysis.

With Fowler leading the charge, the city also is tackling the problem of attracting and retaining qualified employees head on with the Hampton Roads Public Works Academy. The “school” works to promote cooperative, comprehensive education and training of public works staff in Newport News and surrounding communities. The academy has offered classes in construction and building trade basics, stormwater management, and construction inspecting.

Flying high

Gary Warren, PE, Director of airside development, Metropolitan Airports Commission, Minneapolis, Minn.

Safety is a primary concern for airport managers like Warren.

“There's hardly a project that doesn't have an associated safety benefit,” he says. “This ranges from the higher-precision guidance systems for aircraft, to new runways and other projects that provide more capacity, thus relieving congestion.”

Funding the projects is another matter, but Warren is aggressive. When the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport wanted to install an enhanced approach lighting system and navigation aids on three runways, he paid for one-third of the project's cost through the Federal Aviation Administration's Cost Share Pilot Program.

Also, Warren worked to obtain all the permits needed to widen a portion of the river in front of Holman Field, a smaller airport in downtown St. Paul. The result: His agency will be able to construct a much-needed floodwall around the airport this fall.

Moving and growing

John Bernal, PE, Deputy county administrator of public works, Pima County, Ariz.

Rapid community growth and expanding demand for infrastructure services aren't unique challenges. What is unique is the creative, collaborative approach Pima County, Ariz., managers use to develop and implement solutions.

The county's public works leaders united with five neighboring municipalities and two Native American communities to pool brain power and resources in land use and planning. Bernal was instrumental in establishing a Regional Transportation Authority to meet the collective needs of the burgeoning population. Among the group's accomplishments: laying out a comprehensive 20-year program and securing $2.1 billion to fund highway and transit improvements.

Another goal Bernal shares with his colleagues is ensuring educational infrastructure isn't underserved. The mission of the Metropolitan Education Ad Hoc Committee on Infrastructure Near School Sites is making sure current and future school sites are suited for economical construction, and that they receive proper funding and regulatory review.

“With limited financial resources for educational opportunities, wise application of available funds for construction of new schools is a priority,” says Bernal.