Volume 12, Issue 21 - Wednesday, May 20, 2020
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

The demand for water has been on an upward spiral for years. And, municipalities have come to rely on utility fee revenue for big chunks of their budgets. In fact, water has provided funding for all kinds of citizen services in the past. Unfortunately, that revenue has been diminished significantly of late.

Because of COVID-19's impact on the economy, many cities have been forced to suspend or waive utility fees for citizens and businesses. The loss of that revenue directly impacts many planned projects and services. As critical as water infrastructure is for economic vitality, many critical water projects will be put on hold because of revenue shortages.

Congress has passed legislation for supplemental funding to some cities, but not to all cities. Unfortunately, Congress allocated funding for cities with populations of 500,000 or more. The lack of inclusion is more than hurtful for many municipalities.

In Texas, the city of Laredo set aside $1.5 million for citizens and businesses unable to pay their utility bills in March, April and May. The city's financial situation was dire before COVID-19, and before it became necessary to forego that funding. The city's projected budget shortfall is now at $18 million-$27 million.

In Tennessee, the Brentwood City Commission voted last month to waive a 10 percent late fee and disconnection charge for water and sewer service through May if residents and businesses become past due on their accounts. The loss for the city is conservatively estimated at $30,000, but, the loss will increase significantly if the problem continues. Similar situations exist throughout the country.

The Brockton City Council in Massachusetts voted in May to increase rates and fees for water and sewer, but because of the economic stress of citizens, the increases had to be suspended. The city has longstanding infrastructure problems and an under-funded, extremely aging water system. With anticipated revenues curtailed, there is little that can be done by city leaders.

Proposed roundabout southwest of Sonoma
California - Nearly 900 state highway projects totaling an estimated $17.36 billion earned approval from the California Transportation Commission on May 13.

Commissioners authorized the 'fix-it-first' repair and preservation, safety, and operation improvement projects as part of in the 2020 State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP).

More than two-thirds of the projects are for pavement and bridge improvements. Other initiatives will focus on enhancing safety, repairing storm damages, and addressing infrastructure needs.

Among the projects funded in the 2020 SHOPP is the proposed roundabout at the intersection of highways 116 and 121 southwest of the city of Sonoma for $19 million. Funds will become available in 2022.

The commission will be working with Caltrans to estimate the impact reduced revenues from COVID-19 will have on its ability to fund all of the projects in the four-year SHOPP while keeping as many projects on schedule and doing work earlier than planned, when possible, to take advantage of the reduced traffic.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey
Alabama - Gov. Kay Ivey signed the state's general fund, record-breaking $7.2 billion Education Trust Fund, and a $1.25 billion bond issue under the Public School and College Authority (PSCA) fund on May 18.

The PSCA funds will support capital purchases such as school construction, technology purchases, and safety improvements.

Seventy-three percent of the bond funds will be distributed to every K-12 school system in every city and county, and 27 percent will go to state's two- and four-year colleges.

Ivey also amended the Senate bill to assign specific Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding amounts to various state programs from the $1.8 billion in federal assistance.

To help offset coronavirus expenses, state agencies will receive up to $300 million and local governments will get up to $250 million.

Health-care systems and providers will collect up to $250 million, and up to $300 million will go to citizens, businesses, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations impacted by COVID-19.

Up to $300 million will go toward technology and infrastructure for remote instruction and learning, and $200 million will reimburse Department of Corrections pandemic expenses.
Interstate 235 interchange
Kansas - Gov. Laura Kelly announced a plan on May 14 to advance 40 highway projects into the state's development pipeline in the next two years as part of its new 10-year Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program (IKE).

By adding the $1.6 billion in projects to the development pipeline, the state can begin design and engineering work prior to construction. The state's remaining Transportation Works for Kansas (T-WORKS)  projects are its priority for completion, but it will continue to add new projects to the pipeline every two years.

Reconstructing an interchange on Interstate 235 and widening a section of K-96 into a six-lane freeway are among the top projects on the list.

The highest-rated expansion project on the list is the $300 million widening of U.S. 69 from 151st Street to 103rd Street into a six-lane freeway to alleviate what transportation officials say is one of the worst bottlenecks in the state.

More information about IKE, including the 40 projects, is at www.ksdot.org/IKE.asp.
Connecticut River Bridge
Connecticut - Engineers with Amtrak submitted project documents to the Old Lyme Harbor Management Commission on May 12 for the estimated $400 million replacement of the Connecticut River Bridge.

Many components of the century-old bridge have reached the end of their design life, and the bridge requires extensive maintenance to remain operational. It must remain open from May through September for recreational boats to pass and only closes when trains approach. This frequent movement puts stress on the areas of the bridge prone to breaking.

Commissioners motioned in favor of the bridge design concept but delayed their final approval until timeline information is provided. Amtrak must get the town's approval before it can obtain a state license as well as federal and state permits.

The design phase is about 60 percent complete with final design completion scheduled for September 2021. Amtrak officials anticipate a 48-month construction schedule.
Rendering of previous Navy Hill proposal
Virginia - A Richmond City Council committee recommended declaring several city properties surplus on May 19 as a precursor to a possible request for proposals to redevelop sites that were part of a failed effort to revitalize Navy Hill.

Richmond's Land Use, Housing, and Transporation Standing Committee supported the mayor's administration in its request to declare the Richmond Coliseum, Public Safety Building, three parking lots, and the Theatre Row building as surplus.

Since the City Council rejected the Navy Hill development proposal in February that would have transformed the area into a $1.5 billion medical complex, the city received two offers that included properties from the failed project.

Councilmembers are set to review the committee's recommendation at their May 26 meeting. If they adopt a resolution in support of the measure, then the city would be allowed to issue a solicitation for proposals and begin a public bidding process for the city properties.
Brevard-Osceola County connector study area
Florida - The Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) commissioned a planning study to establish a proposed route for a future highway connecting Brevard and Osceola counties. The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization requested the study.

One potential route is a 30-mile expressway that would traverse the Lake Poinsett and Lake Washington areas to link U.S. 192 and State Road 528. It also would serve as a hurricane evacuation route and improve mobility in the Orlando area.

An east-west corridor has been under consideration for several years. 

The East Central Florida Corridor Task Force began exploring possibilities for a connector in 2013. In its final report, the task force recommended building an east-west highway that would connect State Road 520 to the Orlando International Airport area and constructing another highway to link the Pineda Causeway Extension to the Orlando airport.

CFX also is exploring options for a four-lane highway that would connect U.S. 192 to the intersection of state roads 50 and 520 to anticipate future development and to intersect with the future Brevard-Osceola highway.
Area of Caltrans rail tunnel feasibility study
California - Caltrans released a feasibility study on May 14 that focused on a double-track railroad tunnel through Miramar Hill and a multimodal transit station at the University Town Center (UTC) area of San Diego.

The study results showed that the new route would reduce vehicle traffic, shorten rail travel times, and decrease greenhouse emissions. 

As part of a settlement with the Cleveland National Forest Foundation that resulted from Caltrans' unsuccessful plans to widen Interstate 5, the state's transportation department conducted the feasibility study that focused on the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) corridor. 

Caltrans estimates the tunnel and UTC station alignment will cost $435.5 million to build. 

Both Amtrak and Coaster trains would use the tunnel to shorten travel times by an estimated 6 to 7 minutes by avoiding a lengthy stretch through Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. 

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) will use the study's findings to plan rail service from the Orange County line to Santa Fe station in downtown San Diego.
Missouri - Lawmakers passed SB 782 amending a state public-private partnership (P3) act relating to transportation to allow for a potential hyperloop. The bill is awaiting Gov. Mike Parson's signature.

A panel report in October 2019 estimated a hyperloop connecting St. Louis to Kansas City would cost $7 billion to $10 billion. Travel time would be about 30 minutes for a pod containing up to 30 people. The panel also explored the feasibility of a 12- to 15-mile test track with an estimated cost of $300 million to $500 million. 

Referred to as a "tube transport system" in the bill, the authorization for the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to pursue a P3 agreement for a hyperloop would expire in 2025.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport
North Carolina - The Charlotte City Council approved a zoning request from Charlotte Douglas International Airport on May 18 to convert nearly 80 acres of airport land to general industrial use.

The airport is planning to issue a request for information or request for proposals for development of the property.

Airport officials said they have been receiving interest from developers in constructing warehouse space on the site.

The airport will receive $135 million in federal funds from the CARES Act to help offset revenue declines caused by reductions in air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Depending on the rate of recovery, funds could also be used to help with capital projects suspended due to the effects of the pandemic. According to the airport's aviation director, those include Concourse A Expansion Phase II, the Joint Operations Center (JOC), the Concessions Distribution and Receiving Center, and the Concourse D/Federal Inspection Station renovation design.
Hale Building
Massachusetts - The Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) is planning to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the historic Hale Building at the former Worcester State Hospital.

The four-story 27,000-square-foot granite building, also is known as the Nurses Home, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Originally, the corporation sought the demolition of the building to make way for redevelopment of the hospital site into a biomanufacturing park.

After the Worcester Historical Commission rejected a demolition waiver, WBDC leaders are seeking developers who have preservation experience.
Village of Ilion, New York
New York - The village of Ilion hired a consulting firm on May 13 to develop a comprehensive plan and waterfront revitalization program. Ilion has 1.75 miles of shoreline along the Mohawk River and Erie Canal.

Village leaders will work with the firm to develop elements in the municipal code that will enhance and promote transportation, downtown revitalization, river tourism, and Ilion's character. The consultants also will integrate a Harbor Management Plan into the program.

In its solicitation for a consulting firm, the village prioritized projects that enhance the physical and visual public waterfront access and opportunities through traditional and alternative transportation improvements; support downtown revitalization through streetscape enhancements and form-based code elements; improve the ability of the community to take advantage of river-related tourism through appropriate development; and protect the village's character as a factory community through form-based code elements and encouraging restoration and preservation of historic structures.

The village will form an advisory committee comprising project stakeholders and non-governmental community organizations.
   View our Government Contracting Pipeline and Texas Government Insider newsletter archives

California - The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) board of directors appointed Sharon Cooney as chief executive officer on May 14. She succeeds Paul Jablonski who passed away suddenly on May 10. Cooney has served with MTS as director of government affairs, director of planning, and most recently as chief of staff and deputy chief executive officer.

North Carolina - The city of Southport's mayor and board of aldermen named Gordon Hargrove as city manager, effective June 11. He will take over for interim City Manager Chris May. Hargrove most recently served as town manager for Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina.

Louisiana - The Acadiana Regional Airport Authority selected Maurice Songy as the airport's new director, effective May 26. Songy most recently served as vice president of operations for the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority. Prior to that, he was manager of safety and operations for the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport and aviation program manager for the Louisiana Department of Transportation.

New Jersey - The Kean University board of trustees appointed Lamont Repollet as the university's new president on May 11. He will succeed Dawood Farahi who is retiring at the end of June. Repollet is the New Jersey Commissioner of Education. He previously served as superintendent of the Asbury Park School District and on the Kean University board of trustees.

Michigan - Livingston County commissioners named Nathan Burd as the new county administrator on May 11. He will take over for interim County Administrator Cindy Catanach. Burd currently serves as city administrator for Adrian, Michigan. Prior to that role, he was an administrator for the village of Wolverine Lake, Michigan.

Mississippi - Gov. Tate Reeves named John Rounsaville as the interim director of the Mississippi Development Authority on May 15. Rounsaville currently serves as the state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development in Mississippi. He previously worked as vice president of a civil engineering firm.
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