Volume 7, Issue 37 - December 30, 2015
|Initiative to enhance city programs highlight of 2015|
|Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.|
As a new year dawns, it's interesting to reflect on what happened in the year just ending. A number of extremely positive changes occurred in U.S. cities.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, a foundation created by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, initiated significant change through the formation of a "What Works Cities" program. Funding of $42 million was made available for cities willing to enter into collaborative efforts with outside experts to enhance government programs. The initiative encourages public entities to allow citizen access to more data online, enhance transparency and provide public officials a way to establish benchmarks for improving constituent services.
Congress passed a budget - what does that mean?
Congressional spending bill lifts ban on oil exports, heavily funds construction
of proposed federal courthouse in Nashville, Tenn.
As the year progressed toward its end, members of Congress began to get things done, big things - like pass a transportation bill and approve a budget that keeps the lights on and the doors open. Two weeks ago, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed a $1.14 trillion spending bill
for Fiscal Year 2016 (which began in September). It will allow the federal government to remain open and operating, and that means big things will be happening throughout the nation in 2016.
Included in the bill, for instance, was the repeal of the 40-year ban on oil exports and five-year extensions of tax credits for wind and solar energy. The General Services Administration's budget tripled to $1.6 billion, including $948 million worth of new federal courthouse construction projects, and the Department of Veterans Affairs saw its construction budget double to $1.2 billion.
The new budget also devotes $2.8 billion to rural development programs and another $36.7 billion in loan authorizations for rural communities. This funding will pay for basic infrastructure that aids those communities in upgrading their housing, electrification and telecommunication projects.
The spending bill, especially when considered along with the passage of the highway bill at the beginning of the month, is important news for the nation's construction industry. Jimmy Christianson, a government affairs representative for the Associated General Contractors of America, said, "It will be a much better fiscal year in 2016 for construction than it was in 2015, and even better compared to some years prior."
The funding for the courthouse projects will affect a number of different federal judicial districts. The new courthouse in Nashville, Tenn., has been planned for more than 20 years and ranks first among on the Federal Judiciary's priority list. The $182 million project was funded fully. In San Antonio, the Western District of Texas will get a new courthouse as well, after making use of a building that originally was constructed to be a theater for the 1968 World's Fair before being retrofitted to stand in as a courthouse. Other cities that will benefit from the funding include Toledo, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; Des Moines, Iowa; Greenville, S.C.; Anniston, Ala.; and Savannah, Ga.
USDOT announces 90-day IT purchasing freeze
Transportation CIO calls temporary halt while department reviews best practices The federal government, in an effort to bring transparency and more efficiency to its information technology (IT) operations, is requiring agency chief information officers (CIO) to have responsibility and accountability for all IT purchases. There still remains some ambiguity regarding how the move, which is a provision of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), will change the way governmental IT departments will operate.
Amid that uncertainty about how the regulations will be enacted, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) CIO Richard McKinney (pictured) has made the decision to freeze all IT purchasing within the department for at least 90 days.
"We've got to be more deliberate about what we're doing," McKinney said in early December as he announced the purchasing freeze. "I'm not going to approve any IT purchases," until the agencies under his purview submit comprehensive IT spending plans.
Part of the difficulty in implementing the new requirements is that even the CIOs of the department's component agencies (the Federal Transit Administration or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example) are often unaware of IT purchases made within their agencies. Those decisions are often made at a lower level without having to gain approval from the CIO.
McKinney said that in order to ensure FITARA's success, he needs better, more complete data. "We need to have ways of measuring our cost that are real. If we can do that and be successful, we won't have to flash our badge. People will line up because it's in their self-interest to do so," he said.
Transportation department officials will spend the next three months reviewing purchasing regulations and practices throughout the department's agencies to see how those decisions are actually made. McKinney will revisit the freeze at that time.
"We are what we buy," McKinney said. "If we want change, we've got to start there."
Nabers among experts addressing March P3 expo
Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., and a recognized expert in public-private partnerships (P3s), will be featured with two other P3 experts in a panel discussion at the upcoming annual Public-Private Conference and Expo. One of the largest gatherings of development professionals in the country, the conference will be held March 7-9, 2016, at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas. The annual event attracts more than 1,000 development professionals and government leaders for an educational conference to discuss public-private partnerships.
"Those attending the conference will learn how this innovative funding tool can be used to deliver public projects that government otherwise could not afford - from roads and bridges to public housing and water and wastewater facilities," said Nabers (pictured).
The three-day conference will feature discussions on the state of the P3 industry in the United States and will highlight the various types of P3s under way. Nabers will be among more than 125 leading public agency officials and industry practitioners who will share their firsthand experiences and observations regarding P3 projects throughout the country. Speakers will discuss the many elements of P3 structures currently in use and how to evaluate their merits and risks. Billed as one of the premier conferences for collaboration between public officials and private industry that are considering, developing and operating P3s, the conference will emphasize both the challenges and advantages of the P3 concept. An agenda is available on the conference's website.
Upcoming contracting opportunities
Atlanta council approves long-range streetcar plan
The Atlanta City Council earlier this month gave its approval to the Atlanta Streetcar System Plan (SSP). The plan consists of a 50-plus mile streetcar system throughout Atlanta, which will expand the existing 22-mile Atlanta Beltline. The expansion project will add five separate routes across the city. The SSP will serve as the basis for a potential Fulton County referendum in 2016 that would seek voter approval to impose an additional sales tax to fund transportation projects. The city council's approval also enables the city to apply for federal funding. "Atlanta is a city that brings people together and connects them to opportunities," said Councilmember Andre Dickens. "The Atlanta Streetcar System Plan is a 50-mile system that connects Atlanta's people to jobs, vibrant neighborhoods and world-class entertainment opportunities. This plan, when implemented, will solidify our city's commitment to improving social equity and increasing economic mobility for all of our citizens."
West Virginia approves funding for school projects
The West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) has approved funding for school construction projects in 15 counties. The projects total about $56 million and range from $316,000 to Pleasants County for a new "Safe Schools" entrance to $20 million to Raleigh County to construct a new elementary school and make additions and renovations to a high school. Jackson County received $10.2 million, which will be added to $3.1 million of county funding to construct a new middle school as an addition to its high school. "Of course we're thrilled to have the project approved for funding," said Superintendent Blaine Hess. "In light of our declining student enrollment in Jackson County - in particular, the Ravenswood area - I think it's important to have those middle and high schools there at the same location to make sure we have good, strong, educational programs in Ravenswood for decades to come." The renovated facility will include a two-story middle school addition between the high school's auditorium and cafeteria. Construction for that project is expected to start in 2017.
Bozeman approves two plans to fix roads
City commissioners in Bozeman, Mont., have approved two five-year street construction plans that will total more than $33 million. The projects are designed to improve traffic at busy intersections and fill in gaps in the city's roads network. The focus is on arterial street corridors in northwest Bozeman that have never been fully built out and to complete two thoroughfares on undeveloped land south of Montana State University. Bozeman Public Works Director Craig Woolard (pictured) said the street plans are designed to address growth. "We're not meeting our level of service standards," he said. "If we continue on this trajectory of growth as a community, it's going to get much, much worse." The idea is to finish the build-out of these roads to encourage development, rather than waiting for developers to populate an area of town first, as Bozeman has traditionally done. The plans call for spending $6.3 million on road construction and design in 2016-17, rising to a total of $33.5 million by the end of 2021.
Washington county issues RFP for tourism marketing
Grays Harbor County, on the Pacific Coast of Washington state, has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to find a marketing agency to assist the County Tourism Department with the development of a marketing plan. According to the RFP, the chosen agency will work with the county to develop long-term and annual "strategic marketing plans that highlight Grays Harbor County's unique tourism assets. This plan includes, but is not limited to, identifying the most effective media outlets to reach specific tourist demographics." Additionally, the marketing agency will develop up to seven 30-second television commercials to aid the county in boosting its tourism business. Grays Harbor County is home to the Quinault Rain Forest; more than 50 miles of beaches that provide sport fishing, surfing and clam digging opportunities; and the cities of Aberdeen and Montesano.
New York delivers state funding for 45 water projects
Nearly four dozen water infrastructure projects throughout the state of New York will receive funding thanks to the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015. That piece of legislation was created as a part of the state's 2015-2016 budget and will provide $200 million in grants over three years. The first wave of funding will include $75 million in grants and more than $360 million in interest-free and low-interest loans to ensure the infrastructure projects are built in an economically sustainable manner, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo (pictured). "These grants will make it easier for localities to make the critical upgrades that ensure their water systems continue to provide New Yorkers with safe, high-quality water," Cuomo said. The two largest grants, of $5 million each, went to Binghamton and two villages in Schuyler County. The city of Binghamton is rebuilding a $179.3 million sewage treatment plant to protect the water quality of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers. In addition to the grant, the city also received a $174.3 million loan. In Schuyler County, a $22.5 million project will combine the Watkins Glen and Montour Falls sewage systems under a single treatment plant.
Columbia approves plan for new school, roads
The city council of Columbia, Mo., last week approved a development plan to build a new school in the southwestern area of the city. The project will be funded by $50 million in bond money that had been passed by voters in 2014. The school will be built on 28 acres that originally had been planned to include additional housing and park land. The park remains a part of the design plan for the neighborhood. Additionally, the project will include a new access road into the neighborhood, new sidewalks and a gated road connecting the area around the school to another development adjacent to its neighborhood. About 650 students are expected to attend the new school, which is scheduled to open in 2018.
Florida county plans state's first 'Connected City'
The Florida Legislature last year established a pilot program to create the state's first "Connected City." Now, Pasco County is beginning to see what that will mean. The program was designed to transform the area by building an ultra-fast communications network with the intention of attracting high-paying jobs and entrepreneurs with new technologies. As well, the Connected City project will make use of different elements of modern urban design, including multi-modal transportation networks and a variety of housing types. The county is working with US Ignite, a nonprofit group founded by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation. "This is a concept that doesn't exist anywhere in the United States," Bill Wallace, executive director of US Ignite, said. "We think it's a 21st century necessity for communities to make use of fiber networks to create next-generation apps to drive quality of life and economic development. These are responsive, adaptive systems that will benefit the residents and create competitive advantages for Pasco County." The project will build five planned developments with a total of 8,610 residential units and 659,500 square feet of industry, retail and office uses. The ultimate goal is to have 37,771 residential units, with an emphasis on multifamily units, and 115.8 million square feet of nonresidential uses.
Minnesota town issues RFP for affordable housing
The Cloquet, Minn., Housing & Redevelopment Authority is seeking proposals from housing developers for the construction of an affordable multifamily housing project. The proposed housing development will be situated on city-owned property on 14th Street, adjacent to an assisted living facility and near an elementary school. The city is located in Carlton County, in northeastern Minnesota. Its population is about 12,000. The community also received $1 million in funding earlier in 2015 to renovate eight single-family units to be rented at rates that qualify as affordable housing. The city issued the request for proposals in mid-December, and responses are due Jan. 29, 2016.
Neighboring cities follow L.A.'s broadband expansion
Officials in Los Angeles currently are reviewing proposals from vendors that want to help expand the city's municipal broadband program. The chosen vendor will establish a citywide broadband network infrastructure for CityLinkLA, a five-year project to provide reliable Internet access to the city. Officials estimate that 30 percent of the city's residents now go without reliable access to broadband service. The program is expected to be a model for many of the surrounding municipalities. "I know there's been interest from municipalities in and around Los Angeles, and other parts of the United States are interested in the model," said a spokesman for the city council member who led the project. The city will provide the chosen vendor low-cost land and office space, expedite the application process and offer access to existing networks, like the city's SmartPoles, under a long-term lease.
Virginia plans tech investments for schools, colleges
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has put forth his administration's two-year budget proposal that for the first time in state history exceeds $100 billion. Within it, McAuliffe proposes major education spending, including hiring 2,500 new teachers and giving every teacher a 2 percent pay raise. The budget also includes a $16.4 million plan to increase technology in Virginia schools and institutions of higher learning. "Our education system was built in the industrial revolution, and it hasn't changed since then," McAuliffe said. "These jobs are different today than we had back then, and we have to adapt. And I want Virginia to be the leader in the nation for it." One goal of the plan is to increase the number of community colleges and universities that obtain certification from a joint program offered by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security designating "National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense." Another proposal earmarks $3 million for cybersecurity scholarships that would require recipients to commit to two years of state service after graduation.
News about public-private partnerships (P3s)
White House encourages private investment in water
| In the wake of the international climate treaty signed in Paris by representatives of more than 190 nations earlier this month, the Obama administration is launching a series of moves designed to increase innovation in water infrastructure. As part of this initiative, the U.S. Department of the Interior has created the new Center for Natural Resources Investment. The center has been formed with the intention of increasing private investment in water infrastructure and facilitating water-exchange agreements. It will encourage the creation of "inter-connected infrastructure and functional market institutions," such as water banks. "As a former CEO, I am confident the private sector can play a meaningful role in working with us to advance the goals of smart development alongside thoughtful conservation," said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. "The Natural Resource Investment Center will facilitate this effort by building on current activity to incent private investments in the infrastructure and conservation of water, species, habitat and other natural resources." The administration has also issued a report laying out its strategy for encouraging innovation in water research and development and will host a White House Water Summit March 22, 2016, which the United Nations has declared World Water Day.|
P3 enables Georgia to lower project costs by 40 percent
Officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation have selected a consortium to build an interchange at Interstate 285 and State Highway 400 as part of a public-private partnership (P3). The chosen firm's bid came in much lower than anticipated and has lowered the expected costs of the project from $1.1 billion to $679 million. The private partner bid $460 million for its share of the project, which it will design, build and partially finance. The state's contribution to the project will come in the form of $130 million in bond money and another $81.5 million from state motor fuel tax revenue. Though the deal isn't official yet, the state and the consortium will now negotiate a final deal, which is expected to come together by April 2016. The project will reconfigure the interchange and build several miles of collector-distributor lanes along the two highways. Construction is due to begin in 2016 and continue through to 2019.
Illinois considering P3 for I-55 project in Chicago
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is considering a project that would add managed toll lanes in each direction along a 25-mile stretch of Interstate 55 between Interstate 355 in Bolingbrook and Interstates 90/94 (the Dan Ryan Expressway) in Chicago. If IDOT decides to go ahead with the additional lanes, a public-private partnership (P3) is thought to be a strong possibility for how the state would finance the construction. Among the possibilities for the potential form the highway could take are Express Toll Lanes (ETL), High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes, High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes and congestion-priced lanes. IDOT is conducting a study to determine which would be the best option for the highway to handle the expected level of travel in 2040. The transportation department is expected to make a decision on the project by next summer. If officials choose to go ahead with it, construction could begin by 2017 and be completed the following year.
Hemisfair P3 development narrows list to two
Last March, the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp. (HPARC) issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) to develop a five-acre portion of Hemisfair Park in San Antonio. The group is the city of San Antonio's designated representative to develop the property through public-private partnerships (P3). This parcel is the second such project. Eleven companies responded to the RFQ, and the choice is now down to two prospects. The project will include residential, commercial and retail uses. The ideal private partner for the project would be "a master mixed-use urban developer with experience developing mid- and high-rise residential and office buildings, boutique hotels, mixed-income projects, parking garages and ground floor commercial," according to the RFQ. HPARC officials likely won't make a selection until late January or early February 2016, after which will come negotiation of the final agreement, meaning the group's board might not vote for approval until late 2016.
Long Beach approves deal for new civic center
The city of Long Beach, Calif., will be getting a new civic center that will house the city hall, the headquarters for the Port of Long Beach and a library. The project will come out of a public-private partnership (P3), from which the private partner also will receive two pieces of land to develop as mixed-use buildings with commercial and residential uses and, possibly, a hotel. Those would come later, as part of a second phase of construction. The plan for the first phase calls for the construction of an 11-story city hall on the western portion of the property and an adjacent 11-story building that will serve as the port headquarters. The two buildings will have a 73,000-square-foot plaza between them and a new parking garage below them. On the opposite side of the property, a new Lincoln Park would be built, and the new library would be on the north end of the parcel. The project has been in the works for more than a year, but the Long Beach City Council approved the deal this month. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2016, with the demolition of the old courthouse. The civic center construction will take about three years and be completed in phases. The total cost will be more than $400 million.
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