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March Upfront News & Views

March Upfront News & Views

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    CityFIRST may be more appealing to homeowners than refinancing over 20 years or taking out a home equity loan.

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    The “filtering flux sensor” measures ammonia and nitrite levels to reveal the ion flux, or how many ions are being transported into and out of the bio-film per minute. Photo: Purdue University

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    In honor of National Engineers Week, the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York promoted the profession with billboards, ads in state publications, and posters with this image. “Greater understanding of the engineer's inventive role should enhance the perception of the profession and its essential — and often overlooked — contribution to our quality of life,” says Hannah O'Grady, the council's deputy executive director.

Tight credit takes a bite out of infrastructure construction

In a survey conducted in December and January, one in two finance directors told the National League of Cities they'd had trouble accessing bond financing, and one in 10 had difficulty obtaining short-term credit such as tax anticipation notes. After hiring freezes and layoffs, cities are coping with the worst fiscal conditions since the league began keeping track in 1985 by delaying or canceling capital projects. Fourteen percent are reworking employee/ retiree health-care plans. For our special coverage of this topic, see page 38.

Vegetation management winners announced

BASF Professional Vegetation Management announced the winners of the 2008 QVM Project Habitat awards in January. The annual awards program honors projects that create and sustain healthy habitats through professional, ethical, and responsible practices. Among the 16 winners are the South Mississippi Electric Power Association and The New York Power Authority in the utility division; the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Kansas Water Office in the invasive vegetation management division; and both the Indiana and Tennessee DOTs in the roadside division.

Washington wells tap Ice Age aquifer

A two-year groundwater-mapping study conducted in eastern Washington state has revealed that most deep wells examined are tapping into a 10,000-year-old aquifer that is not being recharged. About 1 million acre-feet of water are being withdrawn annually from the aquifer.

Computer-based testing for fleet, inspection certifications

The American Public Works Association (APWA) recently launched computer-based testing for Certified Public Fleet Professional and Certified Public Infrastructure Inspection exams. More than 170 U.S. testing centers offer the exams, reducing the amount of travel and cost required for those applying for certification. The format allows for flexibility to take the exam within a two-week testing block and immediate scoring results. The first exams were administered this month.

Book explains ‘machine control' in construction

Make More Money with Construction Machine Control, published by Memphis-based TrenchSafety and Supply Inc., provides an overview of machine control technologies — including lasers, “indicate” systems, 2- and 3-D automatic systems, and GPS-based systems — and how a contractor or utility can determine if machine control is appropriate for the kinds of projects they work on. The book is available at www.amazon.com for $29.95.

Drain commissioner says ‘fire me'

Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner Dennis Lennox asked the Michigan county's Board of Commissioners to fire him by passing a resolution to abolish his office in February. The state, which was once overrun by swampland, mandates the election of drain commissioners in counties with more than 12,000 residents. Under Lennox's proposal, the population exemption would be boosted to 35,000 — allowing rural, cash-strapped counties to save taxpayers money and eliminate unnecessary expenditures.

Economic stimulus package supports solar powerOperations

California and Colorado have passed legislation that allows cities and counties to use a new financing model, similar to the Mello-Roos law, that enables property owners to lower their electricity bills; and at least 10 other states are considering similar statutes.

Communities create a land-secured finance district that issues bonds to pay the upfront costs of property owners who install photovoltaic panels and other solar-energy technology. Property owners repay the community over 20 years from a new line item on their property tax bill. The taxes of residents who choose not to participate aren't affected.

In California, chartered cities have the authority to create such special-improvement districts. Last summer, the state passed Assembly Bill 811 so non-chartered cities can as well. Thus, any county, city, special district, school district, or joint-powers authority can establish a Contract Assessment District to finance public improvements and services.

In the fall, Berkeley, Calif., authorized a $1.5 million, 40-home pilot program that's expected to increase the average participant's monthly property tax by $180. Since then, the city has authorized an additional $80 million in bond financing.