Volume 7, Issue 26 - September 30, 2015
Collaboration, civic engagement - changing the way government interacts with citizens, taxpayers
Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
By 2050, seven of 10 people on Earth will reside in urban areas. As public officials realize the magnitude of this reality, it becomes immediately clear that finding ways to reach out to the masses is more important than ever. Elected officials and government executives can no longer be successful without finding ways to collaborate with stakeholders, citizens and taxpayers. 
 
Large public projects and innovative initiatives are critical to economic prosperity in the future. The country cannot maintain its global competitiveness without visionary leaders. Change is inevitable ... but change is difficult for the masses. It must be managed carefully.



In This Issue
Strategic Partnerships, Inc. provides opportunity
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View our other newsletter, Texas Government Insider
Federal government cuts through permitting red tape
USDOT to speed up transportation construction process ... highways bill next?
Don't look now, but it seems as if the federal government is serious about improving the state of our transportation infrastructure. Last week, the White House and federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Council on Environmental Quality announced changes to federal permitting regulations designed to speed up the process of getting transportation infrastructure projects off the ground.

Among the initiatives announced are the first update in nearly 30 years to the Synchronizing Environmental Reviews for Transportation and Other Infrastructure Projects handbook (known more commonly as the Red Book) and new guidelines to expand the use of the Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard. The Red Book provides guidance to federal agencies and contractors on how to improve efficiency and effectiveness in obtaining permits and reviews for infrastructure projects. The dashboard was created in 2012 to help streamline the permitting process and to place information in a public location for all involved parties to track.

As well, beginning in October, the 11 federal agencies that oversee aspects of infrastructure project permitting, review and development will begin to consider new projects, which will be required to post standardized milestones and coordinated schedules within 90 days. These projects will include transportation infrastructure projects for public transit, airport, ports and dams, as well as non-transportation projects that include energy transmission, broadband internet  and electricity and renewable energy generation projects. The milestones the projects will be required to post include both target and actual dates of receiving an application, permit issuance or approval, the release of environmental impact statements and final decisions for all required federal reviews

All of these projects, as a result, will undergo a more rapid review and permit process than normally has been the case. 

These moves are designed to break through the backlog of transportation construction projects nationwide. There's no doubting bureaucratic red tape is one hurdle in getting projects underway, but Congressional inability to pass a long-term transportation bill is the bigger problem.

And, while that hasn't changed yet, there at least is talk of the possibility that Congress will use the momentum provided by the coming House leadership changes to move forward with a concrete plan to pass a transportation bill.

Clark County will spend $4 billion to build schools
Giant capital improvement plan to build 54 elementary schools, two high schools
Clark County School District (CCSD) is the nation's fifth largest, serving more than 320,000 students. And with great size comes a great capital improvement budget, it seems.

The Nevada district's school board last week committed to a 10-year, $4.1 billion building plan that will see 35 new elementary schools, two additional high schools and renovations to more than 50 existing schools. The funding will be nearly equally split between construction of new schools ($2 billion) and renovations or replacements ($2.1 billion).

Of course, even this massive dollar amount and decade-long construction plan adds up to just about half of what the district says it will require over the next 10 years, $8.3 billion. That's why the district's chief financial officer said that CCSD will view the capital improvement plan flexibly and reserve the right to move money around and add or subtract projects as needs arise.

"We should really be moving forward on multiple projects right now," said CFO Jim McIntosh. "This gives us the ability to start moving on those projects. It will help us define what our land acquisition strategy will be (and) where we will start looking for land. We even need to start looking at our land inventory, or start acquiring land or start talking to developers."

The school district hasn't issued debt in almost 20 years, and the last time it did so, in 1998, the initial estimate of $3.1 billion rose to $4.9 billion and went to pay for several projects that had not been included in the original plan.

Construction on the first of these projects should begin in the spring of 2016, with the schools opening for the 2017-2018 school year.
Roadmap to upcoming opportunities
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Livermore issues RFP for downtown development
Livermore, Calif., has issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking plans to redevelop city-owned property in the city's downtown area. The city owns a former grocery site, across from the Bankhead Theater, as well as a parking lot and oil change site that are adjacent to the theater. The RFP includes the possibility of including other properties if owners are willing to participate in development plans. The city hopes to find a developer to purchase the sites and then build a hotel and conference center. It also is seeking a mixed-use development with residential units and a parking structure. The RFP was written to provide some leeway for potential developers to decide how they envision the properties. While the convention space is a need for the city, City Manager Marc Roberts (pictured) acknowledged there are differing views of what should be built. Housing is a strong interest for the city's chamber of commerce, according to Roberts. The chamber wants to attract younger tech workers and, with the high cost of housing in the region, the downtown site could be attractive for apartments or townhouses. The city has not built an apartment in 25 years, Roberts pointed out.
Honolulu to build housing for homeless families
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell (pictured) has announced a plan to buy a parcel of land on Oahu's western coast and build temporary housing for homeless families. The project calls for the city to build up to 20 units to house 75 to 90 people. The housing would provide interim homes for families with children and would be available by summer 2016. The site is near the Waianae Boat Harbor, where about 300 people are living in a homeless encampment. The mayor's office said that the city plans to hold neighborhood board meetings to talk about the proposal with constituents. The project would cost $300,000 for land acquisition and $2 million for construction. "The proposal itself would help a lot of people, especially in the Waianae area, the families," Twinkle Borge, the leader of the encampment in Waianae Boat Harbor, said. "I hope the idea don't die. I hope that if it does work, I hope that there's more of it." This would be a second set of temporary housing that the city is building. Another site, near downtown Honolulu, is expected to house about 85 people and open before the end of the year.
Coppell City Council OKs library expansion project
A much-discussed expansion of the Cozby Library and Community Commons in Coppell, Texas, was officially approved by the town's city council last week. "I really consider this more of a celebration tonight because we are moving forward with one of the major projects associated with the CRDC (Coppell Recreation and Development Corporation) and the city of Coppell," Deputy City Manager Mike Land (pictured) said. The project will cost the city $5,927,965 and is scheduled for completion in Oct. 2016. Additional items for the library, such as improvements to the audio-visual equipment and security will be added to the renovation budget as the project progresses.  "You're going to see more of the project over the course of the next year," Land said. The project will add 4,100 square feet to the library, increasing its size to more than 32,000 square feet. The additional square footage will go toward a meeting room and new space for library staff. Parking will also increase from 114 spaces to 120 spaces. The library was first built in 1995 and covers two acres of land.
$9 billion school bond added to California's 2016 ballot
California voters will have the chance to approve a $9 billion school-construction bond when the November 2016 election rolls around. A petition to place the bond on the ballot was able to gather enough signatures, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced last week. The school bond would be the first such measure to go before California voters since 2006. Between 1998 and that last bond vote in 2006, however, voters approved about $45 billion in K-12 and higher education borrowing. Those four bond elections were called by the legislature rather than by ballot iniative, and that bond money is almost entirely used up, while the state faces an estimated $20 billion backlog of applications. "This bond will go a long way to ensure school districts have the necessary resources to create the best learning environments for students," said Eileen Reynolds of the California Building Industry Association, a group backing the petition. Her group and others in favor of the bond package led the effort to collect 365,880 signatures that enabled the measure to get on the ballot. 
RFP to be released for Turner Field redevelopment
The Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA) will likely issue in October a request for proposals (RFP) for the development of the area surrounding the current home of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field. Though Georgia State University had submitted a proposal for the property last year, the AFCRA will open up the property to competitive bids from developers with ideas for how to use the property once the Braves vacate the stadium at the end of the 2016 season. The RFP will probably require developers to purchase the land from the AFCRA, which owns the property, though that isn't set in stone. Executive Director Keisha Lance Bottoms (pictured) said the AFCRA will take into mind comments from and the desires of residents currently living in neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field, in addition to the needs of the city at large and the financial benefits offered. The city and Atlanta Regional Commission have commissioned a land use study for the property, and Bottoms said that study also will be factored into the decision. 
California to build grand-scale recycled water program
The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California and sanitation districts in Los Angeles County are developing plans for what could be one of the world's largest recycled water programs. Currently, hundreds of billions of gallons of treated sewage flow from Southern California communities into the Pacific Ocean each year. Water treatment authorities, however, have begun to recycle some of this water for human use, taking treated sewage water and using it directly to irrigate crops, parks and golf courses, though not yet as drinking water. The MWD, though, has put together the framework of a plan to reuse as much as 168,000 acre-feet of water annually, which could be enough to serve more than 335,000 households. The plan would require the water district to build a treatment plant and delivery facilities at a cost of about $1 billion. Officials hope that within a decade, their treatment plant will produce 150 million gallons per day. The MWD and a partnership of two dozen county wastewater districts have been working on the project since 2010. They hope to launch a "demonstration project" in Carson, Calif., within two years.
UNC may outsource campus stores to private company
The UNC Student Stores recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, but it could be its last as a university business. The University of North Carolina (UNC) is considering to issue a request for proposals (RFP) seeking private companies that want to take over operation of its university-owned retail outlets. The move comes after a national college bookstore owner approached the university with an unsolicited proposal to buy the Student Stores. The proposal detailed parameters for a deal, including an annual commission to UNC of at least $3 million. The company also said it would invest $2.5 million toward store renovations and spend $200,000 on marketing each year. "They expect to be able to pay us significantly more than we receive from the store now," Matt Fajack (pictured), vice chancellor for finance and administration said. The store employs 49 people full-time and has 200 students who work part time throughout the year. The proposal stated the company would hire the current bookstore employees for the first year, as well as offering "them a tremendous opportunity for professional growth."
Chicago considering privatization of city 311 service
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (pictured) has proposed the idea that the city may turn to a private company to operate and maintain its 311 non-emergency call center service. Privatizing the 311 call center could save the city "about a million dollars a year" to replace union workers with outside contractors, the mayor said in his 2016 budget address last week. It could also save the city from having to make upgrades to the technology at the information center, and those savings would be considerably higher than those from handing over operations to a private contractor. "Chicago invented 311," said Emanuel. "We need about $40- to $50 million to modernize it in the coming years, which we don't have. So there's an operating cost savings of $1 million, we think appropriately. There's also a capital expenditure that only a private operator can do." City officials said the administration will put out a request for proposals (RFP) to determine whether taking that step makes sense, but suggested the level of service will be considered along with the price. "Put an RFP on the street, and let's take a look at 311 and see whether we can provide a higher level of service, either at lower cost or at the same level of cost," an administration spokeswoman said.
Sonoma issues affordable housing RFP for county land
Sonoma County, Calif., is seeking proposals from developers interested in constructing an affordable housing project on county-owned property in Sonoma. The city of Sonoma's Community Development Agency purchased the property in 2007, though it is the Sonoma County Community Development Commission that has issued the request for proposals (RFP). The property is designated and zoned for mixed-use development, but no commercial component is required and proposals are expected to address just the residential rental development. The project is eligible for subsidies, including possibly from the city of Sonoma, which currently has about 385 affordable housing units. The Community Development Commission is seeking proposals from developers who have experience with affordable housing projects. The deadline for submission of proposals has been set for Oct. 30.
Gloucester seeks bids for former Fuller School site
Gloucester, Mass., has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) from potential bidders to redevelop the 10.6-acre former Fuller School site. The city council approved the sale of the property, which stopped serving as a Gloucester school in 2008, earlier in September. "This is perhaps our single best development opportunity in the city," Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken (pictured) said. "The property is set in an ideal location, and we are going to work together to make sure the winning bidder will be a positive presence in Gloucester for years to come. This is an important time for our city, and it's come after many months of hard work by city officials and the council." The RFP calls for a mixed-use development for the site, which could entail a mix of commercial, industrial and/or community service uses. Any non-profit organization interested in the site would have to agree to a payment to the city in lieu of taxes, which would be paid by a for-profit use of portions of the site. Bids are due by November 24.

News About public-private partnerships (P3)

St. Paul presents plans for Mississippi River Balcony
Planners have unveiled their concept of what St. Paul's Mississippi River Balcony could be and how it will connect the city to its 26 miles of riverfront property through parks, green space and walkways. Conceptual drawings and a 3-D model illustrated a master plan that will help developers and the city combine multiple upcoming riverfront projects into an overall theme, Mayor Chris Coleman (pictured) said. The city and the University of Minnesota's Metropolitan Design Center worked together on the concept of the River Balcony, with the city council financing it in part via a $100,000 contribution to the planning phase in April. Lucy Thompson, a project manager for the city, described the master plan as a combination of public facilities and private property. The creators of the master plan describe the overarching project as a public-private partnership in which developers pay for portions of the balcony project together with the city. Coleman said the project would be a continuation of decades of planning to incorporate the city's riverfront into its daily life. "The fact of the matter is, we are reclaiming the Mississippi River, and this becomes an important next step in that process," he said.
Philadelphia issues RFQ for port complex P3
The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) to develop up to three sites at the Southport Marine Terminal Complex through a public-private partnership (P3). PRPA is looking for developers able to design, build, finance, operate and maintain three sites in the complex through a 30- to 50-year lease agreement. The RFQ allows for the option to sublease or make license arrangements with third parties. Site 1 will need to serve as a container terminal and focus on multiple types of shore-to-land cargo transfer. The other sites can be developed for a variety of uses, from cargo traffic generated by transshipment centers near the Panama Canal and the Caribbean to automobile distribution to energy sector-related activities such as exporting domestically produced shale oil. The port authority is requesting responses that will use all of the acreage of the site for the first 10 years of the development agreement. The responses are due by Nov. 18.
USDOT secretary urges P3s for infrastructure projects
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx (pictured) last week advocated for increased public-private partnerships (P3) to finance transportation projects. Explicitly tying this call into Congress's failure to pass a long-term transportation bill, Foxx explained that uncertainty about future federal transportation funding has caused long-needed projects to stall in the planning stages. In his blog post on the USDOT website, Foxx also pointed out the country's growth rate: 70 million more people are expected to live in the United States within 30 years, and freight traffic is also expected to grow by 45 percent in the same time span. "So, we know our revenues and our certainty are about as low as they've ever been," Foxx wrote. "We know for sure that our country is growing and that we're going to have more people accessing our roads, rails, and airports and more freight to move than ever before. Rather than having a single strategy, we need to have an all-of-the-above strategy. ... That's where Public-Private Partnerships come in." Foxx wrote of the many different ways the USDOT and the federal government as a whole are making it easier for state and local governments to partner with the private sector before concluding, "The fact is - and you've all experienced it - our transportation system needs attention. And, while conventional funding tools are effective, they're no longer enough."
Baton Rouge P3 could relieve congestion ... if approved
Earlier this year, a private company approached the state of Louisiana with an $800 million toll road proposal that would provide a bypass around Baton Rouge, thereby relieving traffic congestion in the state capital. At the end of October, the plan will go before the Louisiana Transportation Authority (LTA), which reviews megaproject proposals and will "decide if they believe it is an economically feasible project based on the guidelines in the statute," Jeff Burst, a project management director for the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), said. The LTA will decide to decline the proposal, call for more time to study it or move it on to the next step, which would require the DOTD to advertise for proposals. The plan is called the Baton Rouge Urban Renewal and Mobility Plan (or BUMP) and would link Interstates 10, 12 and 110 as well as U.S. Highways 61 and 190 in a route around the often-congested Baton Rouge area. It would be set up as a public-private partnership (P3), with the private contractor fronting the costs and then making its money back through toll revenue. If the LTA does pass the project along to the next phase, it would be opened up to bidders rather than being contracted directly to the private company that brought the state the proposal in the first place.
Miami-Dade County pursuing P3s for major projects
Florida's Miami-Dade County is committed to public-private partnerships (P3). Last week, the county presented to investors, bankers and members of the construction industry plans to allow residential high-rise buildings to be constructed atop the county's central library and primary history museum as a P3 construction project. And Mayor Carlos Gimenez (pictured) said that wasn't the only major project for which his government is looking for private partners. "The only way we are going to get any of them done is with P3s," Gimenez said. "If we have to maintain and operate all these things, we couldn't do it." The mayor said the county will consider P3s for all of its future transit projects, including Baylink, a light rail line that will connect Miami Beach to Miami, and for an east-west transit connection from the airport. Among the other infrastructure needs that might be candidates for future P3 projects are a $2.1 billion wastewater treatment facility, a $700 million airport expansion and multiple projects that are designed to upgrade Miami's traffic signal system to include smart grid technology.
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