Volume 9, Issue 44- November 8, 2017
Mary Scott Nabers, President/CEO, Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
At the federal level of government, environmental standards for power are being rolled back and regulation is being reduced as fossil fuels make a rebound. But, at the local levels of government, green energy is one of the hottest top priorities. City leaders, with great support from citizens, are moving aggressively to launch green energy projects. 

Some are creating community solar gardens - centrally located solar power systems which allow individuals to subscribe and purchase energy credits. A few cities, St. Louis for example, have pledged to remove fossil fuels completely. The support for renewable energy has increased contracting opportunities exponentially. 

Five U.S. cities have switched to 100 percent renewable power over the past decade. Aspen, Colorado; Greensburg, Kansas; Burlington, Vermont; Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Rock Port, Missouri, are leaders in renewable energy commitments. And, in just this past year, 46 more cities committed to using only clean power sources. 

Solar and wind power are projected to become the cheapest sources of electricity by 2030 and as city leaders embrace sustainability, even more renewable energy projects will be launched. The contracting opportunities will open doors for firms that specialize in planning, consulting, professional services, financial assistance, construction, engineering and technology.  

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This is the time of year when bond proposals are voted on by residents so cities and towns can take on improvement projects. But new laws might be enacted in 2018 that could take some of the attraction away from bonds. Last week, a draft, called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, released by the House Ways and Means Committee, comes with provisions that, if enacted into law, would eliminate significant segments of the tax-exempt bond market. Bond reforms, under subtitle G of the draft, calls for the termination of private activity bonds, repeal of advance refunding bonds, repeal of tax credit bonds and no tax-exempt bonds for professional stadiums. 

 A few of the categories of private activity bonds (PABs) that could no longer be issued on a tax-exempt basis include airport and seaport facilities; certain mass transportation facilities even if governmentally-owned; charter schools, depending on their legal status in particular jurisdictions; state and local government debt components of public-private partnership (P3) arrangements where the governmental bond component would be private activity bonds; and private utilities or waste disposal facilities, as well as certain governmentally-owned facilities that significantly benefit one or a small number of private sector entities. 

Eliminating the tax exemption for PABs could have a major impact on important infrastructure. This would apply to bonds purchased on or after Jan. 1, 2018. According to the United States Department of Transportation, the current law limits the total amount of such bonds to $15 billion and directs the secretary of transportation to allocate this amount among qualified facilities. As of Jan. 23, 2017, nearly $6.6 billion in PABs have been issued to date for the 17 projects listed here.


California- The Rancho Santa Fe (RSF) School board has considered pursuing a general obligation bond in 2018 that would be added to the June or November 2018 ballot. The board will also make changes to the 2015 facilities master plan by issuing a request for qualifications and proposals for an architectural firm to review and update. The existing facilities master plan details acquiring properties along El Fuego to potentially expand parking, adding kindergarten through fourth-grade fields and hardcourt play areas. 

It also includes safety and security upgrades and future program needs such as expanded robotics labs and space for programs like dance and wrestling. There are also options for a modernized or new gym building that is Americans with Disability Act compliant. The current gym's usability will expire in 5-10 years without any repairs. A two-court gym would cost $19.2 million and a three-court facility would cost $23.5 million. The district's bonding capacity could reach up to $44 million based on current assumptions. The board intends to restructure a new survey for public opinion to be more detailed and concise in hopes of gaining stronger support for this project.
Pennsylvania- A University of Pittsburgh trustees panel has approved about $44 million, from bond proceeds and plant funds, for campus renovations. The projects include $13.8 million to upgrade network broadcasts, broadcast-studio, media control rooms and fiber optic installments. A plan for the new studio to be fully in operation by August 2019 tracks with the network channel's expected debut in fall of that year. 

The approved amount would also include $10.3 million in renovations of the Schenley Quadrangle structure, plaza and garage. Another $8 million would go towards renovations of 9,000 square feet of first-floor research space at the Center for Biotechnology and Bioengineering. Finally, $6 million would be used to renovate the ninth and 10th floors of the Chevron Science Center. The projects will be included in the university's fiscal 2018 capital budget.
Alabama- The Alabama Department of Corrections has issued a request for qualifications for a team to develop a master plan for existing prisons and any future ones it may want to build. Several of the current state prisons are over 75 years old. The department opened bids last week for a project management team and the due date is Dec. 4. 

The project is estimated to cost around $800 million. The initial outline would close most of the existing correctional facilities and replace them with three men's prisons holding up to 4,000 inmates and a new women's facility that would hold 1,200 inmates. It also specifies improvements to healthcare facilities specifically for mental health. Various compromise proposals failed to make it through the Legislature last year. It is unclear whether this new push for prison construction will be included in the 2018 legislative session.
Joe Louis
Detroit- The city of Detroit will name a new 26-mile recreational pathway connecting neighborhoods across the city to its international riverfront after Detroit boxing legend Joe Louis. Residents in neighborhoods along the Joe Louis Greenway will ultimately be able to travel safely and efficiently all the way from 8 Mile to the Detroit Riverfront without a motorized vehicle. The city was recently awarded a $2 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. That money will be used to contract for a framework plan to be released by January 2018. 

The plan will include recommendations for land use and zoning, green infrastructure, connections to public assets such as parks, wayfinding and thoughtful intersection with local and regional multimodal transportation routes. The design process will begin in 2019, following the completion of the framework plan. This process will explore ways to honor Joe Louis and his legacy throughout the greenway, including possible murals and other art installations throughout the city. Construction of the greenway is expected to begin by 2020, with all segments completed by 2022. The city has raised approximately $10 million for the project and has applied for an $18 million Federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant to continue construction.
New York- The town of Tonawanda and New York State elected officials issued an expression of interest (EOI) statement for bringing new life into the former coal-burning facility, which was retired in March 2016. The site has potential for a renewable or clean-energy project on its hundred-acre site because of a national grid switchyard and connection infrastructure at the site. The EOI is extended to developers, real estate companies and power producers. 

NRG Energy owns and still maintains the site. They are forming a marketing plan and anticipate issuing their own request for proposals in the near future. That request would run parallel to the town's effort. Once responses to the EOI arrive, the town will explore the possibility of partnering with a local development corporation or non-profit organization to work with respondents.
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to develop technology that scans the faces of travelers as they enter and leave the U.S. without passengers getting out of their car. In addition, the capability must be able to account for environmental elements such as lighting, windshield tint, vehicle speed and infrastructure. The scanning technology must also account for traffic and occupant behavioral factors such as sun glasses, hats, driver looking away or an obstruction of facial view. Finally, the system must account for diversity in passenger demographics and socioeconomics - access to and use of mobile electronic devices. 

DHS has posted a public notice calling on technology companies to submit proposals for the system by January 2018. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is interested in both standalone and multi-configuration integrated system approaches. All proposals should detail the requisite camera parameters and infrastructure requirements, and characterize the impact of technical and operational challenges. The agency is hosting an industry day in Silicon Valley on Nov. 14 to give businesses more information. The directorate anticipates making awards for $50,000 to $200,000 for up to four phases, ranging from proof of concept, prototype, a complex test and a full-fledged pilot.

Washington- Seattle Parks and Recreation seeks investors for one of Warren G. Magnuson Park's historic airplane hangars. The 350-acre park is home to a former naval station which has been converted into an art gallery and event space. The park is also home to nine athletic fields, a nine-acre dog park and a field popular for outdoor movies. 

A structure in need of renovation called Building 2 houses two former hangars, one 15,500 square feet and the other 32,500 square feet. The parks department is also considering adding a former steam plant to the offer. The department requires potential partners to reach out to residents of the area. Several properties on the former base at Magnuson Park are already run through public-private partnerships totaling $30 million.
Mississippi- After 17 years, the city of Jackson is hoping to finally get a movie theater. One of its former theaters is boarded up, another is a cracked foundation with weeds, while a third one is now being used as a church. The city has announced it is willing to employ some form of a public-private partnership for the project. 

City leadership hopes the theater will become part of one of the upcoming developments and have begun promoting the idea as an added incentive. The theater would be the only one within city limits and one of a handful within the county.
Oklahoma- Oklahoma's Gilcrease Expressway project began in the 1950s to create a loop around the city. But the planned loop stalled at a necessary crossing of the Arkansas River west of downtown. The route of the five-mile, four-lane tollway, which will include an adjacent multiuse trail, was approved by the state in April. The plan should be finalized by May 2018, with construction to begin late in the summer. 

The estimated $290 million cost will be funded through a public-private partnership. The plan is to issue a request for information and then a request for proposals. The private partner will be responsible for about a third of the total cost, and will be repaid first out of the tolls. The other two-thirds will be funded through a partnership of six government entities - the city of Tulsa, the Indian Nations Council of Governments, Tulsa County, Oklahoma Transportation Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the federal government. Appraisals are underway on 20 parcels and an offer will be made soon on right-of-way acquisitions.
Colorado- This week, Aspen City council members extended the lease of the restaurant and bar currently housed in the Wheeler Opera House through April 15. For the past year, the agreement has been on a month-to-month agreement and the restaurant owner recently asked for lower rent and to close for two months during the offseason. 

While the city and restaurant have come to a temporary agreement, the city council wants to launch a request for proposals (RFP) for a new tenant to take over after the current lease is up. The 2,618 square-foot space went through a $600,000 remodel in 2012 before the current leaseholder took over.
California- South Coast Water District is proposing a 5-acre desalination plant on 30 acres of district-owned property. The plant would produce 4 million to 5 million gallons of potable water per day, with the possibility of increasing the output to 15 million gallons per day. 

South Coast hopes to establish a public-private partnership for the plant. Cost estimates for the project range from $70 million to $90 million. Since the district currently imports 80 percent of its water from the Colorado River, it is considering reaching out to other cities to split part of the cost.
Arizona- Under a federal law, only states with existing commercial activities before the law was passed - back in the 1950s - can allow for public-private partnerships when it comes to rest stops. As a result, Arizona, and many other western states, are blocked from those agreements. Advocates against a P3 at rest stops say the law in question was enacted because community leaders feared local businesses and tax collections would shrink if states were allowed to run commercial operations along the new interstate system. 

Running Arizona's 28 highway rest areas costs about $4 million a year. They are bare bones, with parking for commercial trucks and passenger cars, bathrooms and picnic areas. The push by the state to build new facilities at highway roadside stops is that these P3s will bring more gas-stations and fast-food restaurants to highways.
Alabama- Next week, the city of Mobile will release plans on how to revitalize a 50-year-old civic center that sits on a 24-acre site. The city is considering developing a public-private partnership (P3) for the Mobile Civic Center. Its three main goals are to provide a space for public needs, to improve and diversify the amenities and services provided by that site and to serve the purposes for which the original facility was built. 

Public feedback will be incorporated into planning efforts and the city intends to develop a request for proposals to address high-level needs including civic, residential, retail, recreation, arts and Mardi Gras. Construction is expected to begin in 2020.
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