Public officials at the state and local jurisdictions of government have overcome the first quarter of 2021, but with so many looming problems and issues, most are struggling to establish their highest priorities.
Which problem needs the most immediate attention? Is it homelessness at the city level, funding shortages at school districts, broadband issues statewide, or policing reform? Or, do they focus on the critical issues of deferred maintenance, outdated technology, traffic congestion, or water resources?
Triage is a word most commonly associated with the sorting of medical priorities after a disaster of some sort. However, another definition of triage is “the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success.” That seems to best describe the situation too many public officials find themselves in today – they must triage.
At a time when government leaders could benefit from a slowdown – some time to back off and contemplate being practical and visionary – a pause is not an option. Federal funding, as a result of the American Rescue Plan, will deliver rather large revenue to all jurisdictions and that will definitely help. But, the funding will not be enough to cover all the immediate critical needs of cities, counties, school districts, health-care clinics, and universities. It also will not be enough to address big issues such as transportation, water resources, aging power grids, and broadband expansion. Perhaps Congress will pass an infrastructure bill and more funding will become available for those large infrastructure needs, but there’s no guarantee.
So, what will 2021 look like in our rear-view mirrors? What needs will have been addressed by this time in 2022? The outcomes are still evolving. But, to look for indications, it is interesting to see what priorities are being addressed now.
Here’s a quick peek at 2021 projects in the making – just one indication of what to expect in 2021 and into 2022.
The city of Evansville recently announced plans for the construction of a new water treatment plant. The new plant, with its projected cost of $177 million, will replace an aging facility. The fearful question on the minds of citizens and public officials alike, however, is: What will be the effect on water rates? How will they be adjusted? Government leaders everywhere are attempting to address critical water needs and hold down rates at the same time. That may be an almost impossible task.
Local leaders have announced plans for an Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge project which will be a tolled, four-lane bridge for trucks only. The cost of construction is estimated at $725 million. In the future, large trucks will no longer be allowed to pass through the Wallace Tunnel. Tolling, of course, is not an attractive component of any transportation project, but it often is the only way to fund large transportation projects.
Clackamas County officials have announced plans for a new courthouse that may result in a public-private partnership. That decision has not been made so the project also could be delivered through a traditional procurement. Construction costs are estimated between $200 million and $300 million. The Oregon Legislature set aside $94.5 million in matching funds, but additional funding will be required. A final decision is anticipated to be made by county commissioners in May.
The city of Cincinnati has been allocated $291 million as part of the American Rescue Plan. City leaders are considering a motion to use $20 million to $25 million of the federal funds to replace the city’s District 5 police headquarters. If the proposed allocation is approved, site selection and community input will occur soon with construction slated to begin in 2022.
The city of Minot needs a new City Hall. Attempting to hold down costs, city leaders plan to remodel a former bank building. The project has a $12.8 million budget. Design work has started. and construction is slated to begin in November. The new City Hall will be a user-friendly, one-stop shop that is adaptive to changing technology and staff needs.
Quincy city officials are planning to construct a new 16-story facility to house both a new city hall and Quincy College, a public community college operated under the auspices of the city. The total project cost of this project will exceed $100 million.
The town of Spencer will soon build a new middle school to replace the existing Spencer Middle School which was constructed in 1950. The new facility will accommodate 375 students. The school district has been awarded a grant of $13.95 million, and the facility will be built next to Roane County High School.
Recently, the Corpus Christi City Council unanimously approved a $14.2 million funding allocation for a project to renovate the downtown marina. The project will cost approximately $20 million. City leaders will release solicitation documents within 60 days. A total of five docks and approximately 200 boat slips will be replaced, and once the marina is renovated, it should have a 50-year lifespan.
A quick look at plans being announced now and upcoming projects in late 2021 and early 2022 will be about the norm – water, transportation, schools, public facilities, and public safety. However, sweeping trends tell us to also anticipate electric vehicle charging stations, large mitigation projects, renewable energy, and all types of transit and airport projects.