Game changer: Unexpected partnerships


For the past 23 years, Dan Mikkelson, city engineer, has served as Salisbury's liaison to the North Carolina DOT (NCDOT). He coordinates land-use planning with transportation planning and advocates for new philosophies such as context-sensitive design as well as multimodal planning and traffic calming. Mikkelson has partnered with NCDOT for award-winning projects, and he has served as a municipal representative on multiple task forces. Photo: APWA



Dan Mikkelson insists that public works is too complex to name a single game changer and doesn't want to argue with his nine cohorts. But he does believe that projects and programs that combine interdisciplinary teams and share interdisciplinary resources will be most successful in obtaining funding.

“In the past year, our city and state governments cut professional staff 10% and asked employees to do more with less — again,” he says. “Funding for many long-standing programs has been reduced, frozen, or converted to a competitive grant format. Gaining access to scarce funding requires developing new partnerships.”

Last year, Salisbury was Rowan County's smallest city to receive a Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant. The money supported the preparation of a holistic plan for cradle-to-grave improvements to distressed areas.

“An unexpected partnership was formed that included the city, the local housing authority, the county health department, two local foundations, Livingstone College, and a grass-roots neighborhood organization,” Mikkelson says. “The partners completed the plan and are competing for a $500,000 implementation grant. If they're successful and prove the plan to be sustainable, the partnership may qualify for additional implementation grants.”