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Making Infrastructure Actually Happen

Excerpt from Justin's September Newsletter

In May of 2010, the City Council adopted the Capital Improvement Program covering Fiscal Year 2011 (July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011) through Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020). This Capital Improvement Program was notable as it was the City's first 10-year program. Prior to Fiscal Year 2011, the City had planned capital investment in a six-year time horizon.

The City's first 10-year plan included $707 million of capital investment planned over the 10-year period. In May of this year, the Council adopted the Capital Improvement Program covering Fiscal Year 2018 through Fiscal Year 2027. This 10-year plan includes $2.1 billion of capital investment.

The dramatic increase over seven years is the direct result of the Council's efforts during the past several budgets to address decades of infrastructure deferral and delay.

Yet, budgeting the money for capital investment is just the beginning. We must execute.

We cannot assume that the same methodologies, staffing, planning, and engineering that supported $707 million of capital investment can support $2.1 billion of capital investment.

Candidly, we have had challenges.

A City project to address pedestrian and transit challenges at the King Street Metro originally was programmed in our Capital Improvement Program during the Fiscal Year 2011 budget process. At that point, we believed it would cost $4 million to make the necessary improvements.

Construction will begin next year and it is now budgeted at $12 million. Significant additional resources were required to make this project a reality.

Construction is now underway to build a new Patrick Henry Elementary School and Recreation Center. Last month the School Board voted to allocate an additional $3.8 million to this project. Earlier in the year, an additional $5.7 million was allocated to the project.

The project now totals $61.8 million, with $52.3 million attributable to the new school and $9.5 million attributable to the recreation center and artificial turf.

These are two examples. There are perfectly good reasons why these costs have increased (procurement challenges, scope changes, unknown conditions, etc). However, we must prevent these overruns in the future.

In both of these cases, filling the funding gaps in these projects required taking money from other projects. This means that other capital initiatives are delayed or cancelled.

This cannot happen.

Maintaining public support for the taxation required for needed capital investment requires that we plan and execute: on time, on budget, and within the planned scope.

In recent years the City created the new Department of Project Implementation. The department is designed to be a "Center of Excellence" for project management to execute upon the City's major capital infrastructure efforts.

I have written previously about the City's Ad Hoc Joint City-Schools Facility Investment Task Force that has been hard at work this summer. Most of the attention has been around the group's charter to help the City synthesize the City and School capital plans. Yet, the group is also charged with looking at alternative construction methodologies and financing arrangements.

With significant municipal facility, sewer and transportation initiatives ahead of us, we must improve our execution and management of capital projects.

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