2013 Mayors Roundtable

Mayors Roundtable

Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2013 Report Card for America?s Infrastructure. As expected, the results were disappointing as the nation?s infrastructure earned a D+ grade. More recently, a survey by the U.S. EPA revealed that $384 billion in improvements will be needed for the nation?s drinking water infrastructure through 2030.

It?s no surprise that several of these funding issues still loom across the water sector, as municipalities and utilities continue to face critical decisions not only concerning the best methods to improve infrastructure, but also in determining the best ways to spend valuable resources. Despite these challenges, there are still positive developments emerging. New technologies and software platforms such as SCADA and GIS offer utilities innovative methods for monitoring critical infrastructure throughout a utility. Utilities are also taking the initiative to implement asset management programs in order to better manage and maintain resources.
Elected officials routinely make tough decisions, and the ones concerning a community?s infrastructure are no exception. This month, we sat down with a group of mayors from across the United States for our annual UIM roundtable conversation, to examine some of the different ways cities across the country are managing their water infrastructure systems. The mayors polled in this year?s roundtable are: Stephen Buxbaum, Olympia, Wash.; Christopher Cabaldon, West Sacramento, Calif.; Richard Carr, Maumee, Ohio; Brian Loughmiller, McKinney, Texas; and Ed Pawlowski, Allentown, Pa.


Stephen BuxbaumStephen Buxbaum, Olympia, Wash.

Mayor Stephen Buxbaum was first elected to the city council of Olympia in November 2009 and was selected by his fellow council members to serve as Mayor Pro Tem in April 2010. In November 2011, he was elected by the voters to a four-year term as Mayor. He brings more than 30 years of public and non-profit management experience, focused on community and economic development. While prioritizing city council service, Buxbaum operates a consulting business and teaches part-time in the Evergreen State College Masters of Public Administration program.

Christopher CabaldonChristopher Cabaldon, West Sacramento, Calif.
Mayor Christopher Cabaldon became the first mayor directly elected by West Sacramento voters in November 2004. He was re-elected in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and is currently serving his fourth elected term. Mayor Cabaldon was chair of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments? groundbreaking Blueprint for the Future project. He worked on state water and habitat issues for more than a decade, as a member of the state?s Delta Protection Commission, as well as the Regional Water Quality Control Board. He earned his B.S. in environmental economics from UC Berkeley, in addition to a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree from CSU Sacramento, where he subsequently received the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Richard CarrRichard Carr, Maumee, Ohio
Mayor Richard ?Rich? Carr was first elected to Maumee?s city council in 1989 before being re-elected in 1989, 1991, 2001 and 2005. A lifelong Maumee resident, Mayor Carr has been a Partner in the law firm of Balk, Hess and Miller since 1984. He is the chairman of Maumee?s Public Safety Committee and a member of Building & Lands, Land Use & Zoning and Public Information. Previously, Mayor Carr was president of the Maumee Chamber of Commerce and the Maumee Rotary Club. He received Maumee?s Outstanding Citizen Award in 2000 and is an Ohio State Bar Association Fellow and Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow.

Brian LoughmillerBrian Loughmiller, McKinney, Texas
Brian S. Loughmiller was elected Mayor of McKinney in May 2009, and was re-elected to the Mayoral seat in 2013. He is currently managing partner at the law firm Loughmiller Higgins P.C., a McKinney law firm specializing in family law. Loughmiller previously served on city council from 2002 to 2008 and was elected to represent District 4 and was appointed Mayor Pro Tem for three of his six years on the council. Mayor Loughmiller earned a bachelor?s degree from Illinois State University and graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He and his wife, Donna, moved to McKinney in 1989. They have three children.

Ed PawlowskiEd Pawlowski, Allentown, Pa.
Ed Pawlowski is a leader with skills honed by experience. Moving to City Hall six years ago as director of Community and Economic Development, Pawlowski oversaw five municipal departments, reorganized the bureau of permits and licensing to make it more customer-friendly and marshaled more than $100 million in private sector investment for the city. He drew on millions of dollars in new revenue sources to consistently operate his department under budget. Pawlowski received his master?s degree in urban planning and public policy from the University of Illinois and his bachelor?s degree from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where he met his wife, Lisa. They have been married for 22 years and have two children.

As a public official, how do you view the importance of water and sewer systems as how it relates to economic prosperity and quality of life? ?

BUXBAUM ? I see our water and sewer utilities as a core service ? they are a primary contributor to our health and well-being. Our citizens and businesses expect a high level of service and it is critically important that we maintain their confidence. We have invested over many generations in our water and sewer systems to keep them functioning well and at the lowest reasonable cost.? ?

CABALDON ? Elected officials and reporters love to do ride-alongs with our police and fire departments, but our water, sewer and wastewater systems are just as important to a thriving local economy and public health and safety. Our city incorporated 26 years ago partly to solve a water supply and treatment problem. Our semi-opaque water looked bad, smelled bad and tasted bad. Through the sheer will of the citizenry, the city went to a surface water treatment program with a state-of-the-art treatment facility. Not only did this improve the quality of life for the residents, it set the stage for our new city to pursue economic development consistent with its vision for the community. The city routinely touts its high quality and abundant water supply as assets.

CARR ? Clean water is perhaps one of the most important resources a municipality needs to support and retain its residential population and the local industries that employ them. An efficient, well-managed water infrastructure is critical, as it serves as the backbone for ensuring that this resource is readily accessible.?? ?

LOUGHMILLER ? Infrastructure initiatives are an important part of economic development. To attract new growth, companies have to be confident that they can build within 18 to 24 months, requiring cities to be proactive in implementing infrastructure improvements in undeveloped areas.

PAWLOWSKI ? The expansion of municipal water and sewer service is what allowed our cities and our region to grow. In its earliest days, it was the availability of water and sewer service that provided the impetus for cities to become manufacturing centers and it is that availability which continues to drive our development. The jobs that were, and continue to be created, drive people to the cities and fuel our growth. Our economy is changing, but it has done nothing to ease our reliance for quality water and sewer systems.

What are the major issues affecting your water/wastewater system (aging infrastructure, water supply, finance/funding, etc.)?? What problems are unique to your situation/location?

BUXBAUM ? We are constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency, reduce costs and meet the demands of a growing population. Understanding what our assets are, their condition, and staying on top of replacement, rehabilitation and repair are all high priorities. On the water side, we have been working for over 15 years on replacing our primary source of supply (a spring source) with deep groundwater wells. We have done this to develop a more productive and protected water supply for Olympia today and into the future. With wastewater, the cost of providing municipal sanitary sewer for infill and outlying development is high. We are engaged in a regional conversation about converting septic systems to municipal sewer and the cost tradeoffs associated with doing so. In Olympia, we rely exclusively on groundwater for our drinking water supplies, and therefore, put a high priority on groundwater protection efforts as a water utility.

CABALDON ? The major issue affecting the City of West Sacramento utility infrastructure is replacement costs. The economic downturn eliminated many funding sources available to upgrade or replace water and wastewater infrastructure. Our challenge is to balance the need for a proactive replacement program with rates that support this effort and that the citizens and businesses will see as reasonable. On a positive note, the city did upgrade many large pumping and treatment facilities during the last 10 years before the lean years.

CARR ? Maumee has grown to become one of the larger business centers in Northwest Ohio, and to support this growth, we significantly expanded our water infrastructure to the point where its size required our staff to spend excessive amounts of time manually collecting meter readings each billing period. Many of the water meters in our service area had also become inaccurate with age, which compromised our ability to accurately measure the amount of water distributed through our system, and it led to an increase in billing-related questions from residents that we could not answer due to the limited and potentially inaccurate information we had at our disposal.
To remedy this problem, we deployed a fixed two-way AMI network, known as Mi.Net from Mueller Systems and replaced all water meters in our service area. By taking such action, we now have the efficiencies in place to improve conservation, help customers better understand their water usage and support the increasing service demands that are inevitable as Maumee?s population continues to grow.? ?

LOUGHMILLER ? Aging infrastructure will be one of the largest issues for the city and will continue unless further investment in infrastructure is undertaken. McKinney is unique due to its explosive population growth. The city experienced a growth rate exceeding most other cities in the country between the years of 1999 through 2008, going from 44,000 people to more than 120,000 people. The current population in 2013 is estimated to be 141,000. The anticipated build-out population for the city is 357,966. The pipelines and other infrastructure that were installed will reach the end of their design lives at approximately the same time, creating a significant need for investment at that time.
As a whole, approximately 12 percent of the build-out infrastructure was in place prior to 1999, 21 percent of the build-out? infrastructure was built between 1999 through 2008, 6 percent of the infrastructure was constructed between 2009 and 2013, and 61 percent of the infrastructure remains to be constructed.

PAWLOWSKI ? As with many of the cities in the northeastern United States, much of the buried water and sanitary sewer system infrastructure is between 50 and 100 years old.? Funding to replace this infrastructure is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. Significant resources will be required to replace and upgrade this aging infrastructure over the next two decades. ?
Currently, the City of Allentown and its surrounding communities, like many cities across the country, are under an administrative order from the U.S. EPA to eliminate overflows from our sanitary sewer system by December 31, 2014.

Asset management and alternative projects delivery methods for water/wastewater projects, such as design-build and the use of public-private partnerships, are increasingly being discussed. What new initiatives, if any, has your city started in these areas?? What are the results to date?

BUXBAUM ? We have successfully been using trenchless technology and cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) technology for the past few years to repair and rehabilitate our sewer pipes. Our city crews do the trenchless work, and we contract out the CIPP work. By minimizing digging and trenching, we have realized significant savings ? over $1 million in 2013. We are also building the skills and talents of our staff to do more work in house. Pipe condition rating helps us understand the structural integrity of our systems and prioritize, plan and finance capital projects. Trenchless pipe replacement technology allows us to repair deteriorating pipes without excavation.? ?

LOUGHMILLER ? In 2007, McKinney began a 35,000-ft water rehabilitation project. Several different methods of construction were analyzed and it was found that by utilizing municipal staff and private contractors working together, with each maximizing their most effective capabilities, there was a 40 to 50 percent reduction in total cost-per-foot.

PAWLOWSKI ? The city utilized a public-private partnership with PPL, the local power utility, to construct a renewable energy facility at its wastewater treatment plant in the year 2000. The project utilized PA Act 29 funding to deliver a micro-turbine facility which converted waste anaerobic digester gas to electric and heat energy. The success of the project has prompted the city to enter into an additional contract with PPL.

Technology is changing the way utilities manage, plan and operate their systems.? How has technology changed your utility?? What new programs or technologies have you implemented and what has been the result (ex: AMI, Software/GIS, SCADA, etc.)?

BUXBAUM ? Technology influences our utility operations every day ? from learning to use smart phone technology and tablets in the field, to updating meter reading technology in order to more efficiently collect water use information, to operating our pump stations and reservoirs with real time remote control? technology. One big impact is ensuring our public works team has the training they need to use the new technology to best advantage. Building these skills in house through training is a priority.
The city will be implementing a water AMI system ?replacing approximately 14,000 aging meters and modifying another 6,000 to allow automated meter reading. The results we are looking for include: improved equity by ensuring customers are paying for water they are using, the ability to resolve water leaks sooner, saving costs for customers and water conservation. Once implemented, the new system will help us further reduce fuel consumption and improve service.

CABALDON ? West Sacramento is currently upgrading the water, wastewater and storm water SCADA control system. We can now control systems from home computers, tablets, and/or any city computer. This is a tremendous streamlining of effort needed to operate these systems and has enabled the workforce to focus on preventive and corrective maintenance. The city continues to develop the infrastructure GIS software and is currently 65 percent complete.

CARR ? Our recent water meter upgrades and AMI network deployment is helping us to more accurately and efficiently account for all of the water we distribute through our system. The new meters help ensure that we?re accurately measuring how much water our customers are using at any given time, and the AMI system is allowing us to monitor the entire distribution network and collect all meter readings from the office.
Previously, it was difficult for us to notice data patterns that were symptoms of potential leaks because it would take weeks to manually collect meter readings. Essentially, the data was obsolete by the time it made it to the water department. Now that we?re able to collect and access meter readings in real-time, we can quickly notice any anomalies that may indicate leaks in the system or other service-related issues. Plus, the AMI system itself is configured to alert us of any leaks it detects in the network ? 24/7.
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LOUGHMILLER ? SCADA and GIS have been vital tools utilized to manage our system. Water and wastewater modeling software has helped determine the optimal water line sizes based on existing meter data and pressure recorders in the system as well as future projections.? The modeling software is useful in keeping the elevated storage tanks within a given pressure plane working together with filling and draining cycles, thus minimizing energy use while providing exceptional service for customers. SCADA is also used to track pump operations related to ground storage and elevated storage tank elevations.

PAWLOWSKI ? AMR technology is currently being installed with the replacement of all the City of Allentown residential and commercial water meters. The new meters will allow for automatic collection of consumption, diagnostic and status data from water meters and the transfer of that data to a central database for billing, troubleshooting and analyzing. This technology will save the city the expense of periodic trips to each physical location to read a meter. Another advantage is that billing can be based on near real-time consumption rather than estimates based on past or predicted consumption. This timely information, coupled with analysis, can help both the city and its customers better control the production, consumption and loss of potable water.

How are EPA mandates impacting your city/utilities?? Do any specific mandates affect your city? How are increased expenses, if any, being addressed?

BUXBAUM ? Additional staff time is needed to monitor and develop reports, in response to new EPA mandates under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Our storm and surface water utility is focused on improving surface water quality and has been impacted by a NPDES Phase II permit. Maintenance and documentation expectations have increased. More and more, NPDES is driving our storm and surface water program. Increased expenses in these areas are met by utility rate and general fund budget increases.

CABALDON ? The stringent requirements under the new phase 2 municipal storm water permit (MS4 permit) will impact the city?s general fund due to a lack of a storm water enterprise fund. California?s constitution makes it virtually impossible to meet the EPA requirements because any municipal charges for storm water management and treatment require voter approval. Our storm water master plan employs a variety of best management practices and other policies, but the financing Catch-22 in California poses severe challenges for MS4 permits

PAWLOWSKI ? Although infrequent, significant rainfall events associated with the remnants of tropical storms and hurricanes have caused sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) in the city?s and surrounding municipality?s sewer collection systems. As indicated above, this prompted the EPA to name the City of Allentown and all other municipalities (13) connected to its sanitary sewer system as respondents to an administrative order in September 2009. The city has dedicated significant economic resources in the form of consulting services and physical repair of the collection system components in order to comply with the order. Much of the funding has come from the operating funds, however recent funding has been provided from the issue of revenue bonds.

How has the recent economy impacted your water/wastewater system operations?? What have you done in response?

BUXBAUM ? Just like any business or household, we have focused on keeping our costs down and prioritizing our investments in essential capital projects and maintaining operations. Our primary response has been to delay capital projects where we can, and apply for grants and low interest loans to help reduce the overall cost of operations and capital improvement. The economic downturn has also highlighted the high costs of utility service and the need for improved technologies as well as communication about service expectations.

CABALDON ? The sudden halt of revenue from new water and sewer hookups threatened our ability to complete infrastructure investments and cover the cost of operating the capacity that we had grown during the pre-recession growth spurt. For the last five years, the public works department reduced all utility operations budgets and implemented cost cutting measures such as wholesale water contract sales, combining departments and purchasing equipment, which streamlined operations. The city remains concerned and committed to providing good customer service, and our citizens and businesses have not noticed the cost restructuring, much of which is permanent. The economic recovery that has taken hold in West Sacramento, combined with leaner costs, is restoring the fiscal condition of the water and sewer systems.

LOUGHMILLER ? Due to proper planning and efficient use of resources, McKinney did not experience dramatic effects as experienced in other parts of the country. Bonding capacity was somewhat reduced, but necessary projects were completed. McKinney has focused on conservation efforts that have reduced our water demands per connection. This helped us to minimize the expenditures for significant water and sewer infrastructure. Effectively managed conservation delayed the need for new water lines, water towers and pump station facilities.?

If you are a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors? Water Council, please describe why you joined and your experience.

BUXBAUM ? Although I am not a member of the Mayors Water Council (there?s only so much you can do) I applaud the efforts of my colleagues to raise a collective voice as to the importance of federal grant and financial assistance in meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act and driving home the need to invest in our nation?s aging infrastructure.

CABALDON ? I value the Mayors Water Council as an indispensable forum for mayors to share best practices, coordinate advocacy efforts with EPA and the rest of the federal government, and connect with private sector partners. In addition to our water, sewer and storm water systems, my city is acutely concerned with flood protection and floodplain management. On all of these issues, the Mayors Water Council has been an invaluable tool for me to learn what is happening in other cities across the country, and for me to connect directly with key federal water and flood officials with the collective heft of America?s mayors behind me.

LOUGHMILLER ? I succeeded our previous Mayor. The Water Council is important and provides insight into how other communities approach water conservation and delivery methods.
PAWLOWSKI ? I joined the Mayors Water Council to glean knowledge from more experienced mayors and cities with similar issues. There are few problems we face as a city that have not already been faced by others. Learning from others? successes and failures has been invaluable. I would recommend to all my colleagues to take advantage of the Water Council as a tremendous resource to help provide guidance and assistance in addressing issues related to their municipal water and sewer systems.

What area of your water/wastewater system are you most proud of? Why?

BUXBAUM ? I am most proud of the effort our community has made to ensure we have a long term supply of drinking water. I believe Olympia is the only city in the nation to have collaborated directly with a sovereign tribal government ? the Nisqually Indian Tribe ? to collaboratively secure water rights and develop a deep aquifer well field in order to meet our community?s drinking water needs for generations. I am also proud that we have emergency backup power for all our water and sewer facilities in case of a major power outage.

CABALDON ? Our city?s expanded and modernized water treatment plant, including the innovative Actiflo high-rate sedimentation system design, which saved the city more than $10 million dollars. The level of treatment is a key factor in business retention and growth, and has assured treatment capacity for at least 25 years of growth.

CARR ? We?re most proud of the AMI network we now have in place, particularly because it has improved our ability to serve customers while showing them that we take conservation as seriously as they do.
One of the components of this network is a web-based portal that customers can use to set budget alerts and better understand their water usage behavior by viewing their usage in daily, weekly or monthly increments. We?ve launched a campaign that encourages them to leverage the portal in order to help them notice time periods where they tend to use more water than normal and understand how this usage affects their bills. Having access to this type of data as well as the ability to set budget alerts through the portal will not only help customers save money, but will also give them the means to curb their water usage and improve conservation.

LOUGHMILLER ? We are most proud of our residents? ability to conserve water and accept water restrictions placed on them during this period of extended drought.? McKinney has residents who understand the need to minimize water use and have repeatedly demonstrated this for the last few years.

PAWLOWSKI ? In spite of the poor economy, the plant staff at both the city?s wastewater treatment plant and water filtration plant have been able to produce exceptional quality drinking water and treated plant effluent. Both plants have been recognized by state trade and regulatory agencies for the operation and maintenance proficiency.

What advice would you give to your successor regarding water and wastewater management?

BUXBAUM ? These utilities are the foundation of our city, and I would advise any mayor to make sure the maintenance and upkeep of these systems is a high priority. We tend to take for granted that we will be able to flush a toilet and turn on a tap and that everything will work. But if we don?t invest in these systems, they will deteriorate over time and cost more to fix in the long run.
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CABALDON ? Keep a watchful eye, because too few leaders pay attention, and the consequences of failure could be disastrous. Make regular investments in capacity, technology, treatment and innovation, even though there will often be little political pressure to do so. If you wait until the regulatory rules shift, often with little notice, you could be hit with hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades and fines. Be a thoughtful and proactive steward of the environment and public health. Not only is it the right thing to do for your constituents and the sustainability of your community, you can be sure that detection technology and permit requirements will outstrip you if you don?t.

LOUGHMILLER ? I would recommend: 1) maintaining a GIS database which includes information such as the year of installation, type of materials used and any repairs or replacement projects. Tracking this information will help utility managers more effectively conserve ratepayer funds through active management of replacement/improvement prioritization; 2) Budgeting annually for substandard line replacement projects; and 3) Preparing, modifying and subsequently implementing water and wastewater master plans based on the city?s growth patterns.?

PAWLOWSKI ? In April 2013, Allentown entered into a 50-year concession/lease of its water and sewer systems with the Lehigh County Authority. The city is turning over facilities in excellent condition and under the terms of the agreement will get them back in excellent condition in 50 years. The city was able to command a $220 million upfront payment in part because of the excellent condition of its facilities. I would advise that future mayors continue to invest in keeping the system in top flight condition, using innovation and cutting edge technology to deliver quality service and product to consumers.?

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