Deadline for Congressionally Directed Spending Approaching

February 27, 2023
By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator, WSB

Minnesota’s congressional delegation is now accepting applications for congressionally directed spending (CDS) requests. CDS can help fund key infrastructure projects for cities throughout Minnesota. The deadline to apply is March 10, 2023, at 5pm (CT). 

With the deadline fast approaching, here are a few things that you can do as you prepare to submit your CDS request. 

  1. Submit individual applications to Senator Klobuchar, Senator Smith and your House Representative as recommended in the delegation request questionnaire. Doing this will help your project gain traction and approval as it moves through the submission process. The more offices looking at your request, the greater the chance that it will be approved for funding. 
  1. Connect with congressional staff to talk about your project. Although the deadline is tight, reaching out to congressional offices and staff to set up even a brief zoom or phone call to talk about your project ensures your project is on their radar before you submit it for consideration.  It’s also a positive long-term strategy to build meaningful relationships that can benefit your community and future projects. 

The Application

The application for CDS funding is broken down into three sections. The first section is the funding request. For this section it is important to know the project cost, city information, and if you are submitting multiple proposals. 

The second section is focused on the project description and why it’s critical for your community. Here you will need to know things such as start date, description, justification, and whether or not your project meets eligibility requirements (eligibility requirements can be found here). 

The final section of the application is funding background information, so be sure to include past funding and future project funding needs. 

How WSB Can Help 

Due to a rapidly approaching deadline, it is important that requests are submitted as soon as possible! If you need help with the application, understanding eligibility requirements, or building relationships with your congressional delegation, our team can help. We are able to assist with consultation, application submission, and connecting you to the right people to ensure your project has the best chance for success.

Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator. Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.

[email protected] | 651.485.1839

WSB Branded Background

Jennifer Edison elected to 2023 City Engineers Association of Minnesota Executive Committee

February 20, 2023

Jennifer Edison

Jennifer Edison, WSB Municipal Project Manager, was elected to join the 2023 City Engineers Association of Minnesota (CEAM) Executive Committee as an Associate Member-Private Sector. Her role on the committee is an important leadership position and her primary responsibilities will include helping the Executive Committee through active participation, leadership, and organizational oversight. Jennifer will represent private sector consultants by providing municipal engineering services for municipalities in Minnesota. Jennifer’s work with CEAM will help advance the field of engineering across the state of Minnesota through education, communication, and advocacy. 

Jennifer has over 15 years of experience in civil engineering, client development, and project management. Jenn’s expertise lies in the management of complex projects that involve street reconstruction and preservation, storm water management, water distribution systems, sanitary sewer systems, municipal state aid systems, construction management, and development review.

[email protected] | 612.219.3500

Pavement Inspection

Q&A with Bart Fischer | Reducing Greenhouse Gases Through Sustainable Pavement

February 13, 2023
By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator with Joe Carlson, Project Engineer and Amy Fredregill, Sr Director of Sustainability, WSB

Government entities, at all levels, are working on plans to reduce greenhouse gasses. Many cities have been establishing sustainability and climate plans that aim to decrease their carbon footprints while some states have enacted laws to support more climate-friendly building practices.

When it comes to building resiliency and establishing more sustainable practices, pavement isn’t always top of mind. Bart Fischer, Sr. Public Administrator, sits down with Joe Carlson, Materials Project Engineer and Amy Fredregill, Sr. Director of Sustainability to discuss the advancements in sustainable pavement and how cities can help achieve their resiliency goals

BF: First, what is driving the push for more sustainable pavement options?

AF: There is an increased focus across the nation to reduce greenhouse gases and build resiliency. A lot of this is being driven by evolving customer demand and federal, state and local government. I think we’ll start to see more incentives and expanded programs in the coming years related to this developing area of emphasis. For example, the Governor of New Jersey signed the Low-Carbon Concrete Law earlier this year. The bill allows producers to receive an income tax credit of up to 8% of the concrete cost for providing low-embodied carbon products on state projects. It’s thought to be the first tax-incentive-based legislation of its kind in the nation.

JC: We are also seeing this expansion across Minnesota. Recently the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) issued a provision to their specifications that allows an increase in the Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP) content that new asphalt mixtures can contain. Prior to this adoption, most mixes were only allowed to contain up to 20% RAP. Increasing the allowable RAP content leads to a significant reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while simultaneously bringing down the cost of asphalt for owners.   

BF: Interesting. I didn’t realize that sustainable pavement options existed until recently. What are you seeing or hearing in the pavement industry?

JC: I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about concrete that has CO2 injected into the mix. This allows CO2 to be incorporated and locked into the concrete mixture and prevents it from being discharged into our atmosphere. Injecting the CO2 into the concrete has benefits including an increase in strength. The cost has little impact on the overall price of the concrete mix.   

BF: Stronger concrete and competitive pricing seems like a win for everyone. Anything similar in the market for asphalt?

JC: There is a recycled fiber reinforced asphalt available that is used for mill and overlays that provides performance benefits that dovetail with advancing sustainability goals. The fiber reinforced asphalt contains recycled plastic fibers that prevent what we refer to as reflective cracking. Reflective cracking occurs when there are cracks left in underlying layers of asphalt after milling. These underlying cracks come through (reflect) into the new pavement overlay surface rather quickly. The recycled plastic fibers are said to extend the life of the asphalt and significantly reduce the number of reflective cracks that develop. Extending the lifecycle advances sustainability because it reduces cost, waste, materials use and the overall footprint of a project.

How can cities implement sustainable pavement in their communities?

AF: Sustainable pavement is one area where cities can build resiliency and help reduce their carbon footprint, sometimes as stand-alone efforts, or increasingly as part of climate or sustainability plans adopted by cities we work with across the state. Net-zero goals and climate plans feel overwhelming but starting small has a major impact by testing out new approaches, engaging key stakeholders to get their feedback and build on their expertise, and learn from the experience. Sustainable pavement is one example of a minor change that has lasting impact.

JC:  We don’t need to rely on construction materials to make an impact. Our industry tends to overbuild and overengineer leading to more expensive projects, resulting in a larger carbon footprint. Communities can achieve success by ensuring a strong geotechnical exploration program is performed prior to any type of roadway construction or reconstruction. The results of these explorations provide the community with vital information and options for pavement construction or rehabilitation methods. In addition, a robust pavement management plan results in a more strategic approach to maintaining and repairing roads before pavement rehabilitation options become limited and expensive.  

Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator. Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.

[email protected] | 651.485.1839

Asset Management

How Rethinking Asset Management Can Build a Smarter City

February 13, 2023
By Kory Andersen, Sr Asset Management Planner, WSB

Infrastructure assets are not something we think about often, but we rely on them in our everyday lives, so it’s important we get the most out of them. When community leaders think about how to make their cities smarter, they often don’t think broadly enough. Leaders need to expand their thinking from an operations-centric perspective to thinking about how they maintain the assets themselves. 

When creating the smart city of tomorrow, there are numerous opportunities to integrate systems so that assets are better understood, better preserved, and better utilized. It means harnessing the power of digitization and predictive modeling, from major assets like roads and bridges, to smaller assets like streetlights and playground equipment. 

Here are some ways that community leaders can build asset management into their smart city planning. 

Ensure Smart Tools are Integrated When Managing Replacing Infrastructure 

Many of our major assets are aging and no longer able to be fixed and maintained with a band-aid approach. When replacing or upgrading assets, city leaders must ensure they are using the latest software and tools that allow them to better monitor assets and predict when they will need repairs. Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAMS) provide digital tools that allow communities to coordinate all of their asset management from a wholistic, cross-asset trade-off approach. Digital integration also ensures better communication among all city departments and leaders – from the person on the ground making repairs, to engineers, to the city official making long-term financial decisions. 

Integrating digital management tools into community assets can also help cities strategically rethink capital planning over 10, 20 and 30 years. Making the digital transition in how you manage ensures that you are not just being reactive, but proactive in asset management. Moreover, it also ensures that knowledge about asset management is institutional and not lost as workers retire or move to different positions. 

Understand How Smart Asset Management Mitigates Risk 

Community leaders need to think about risk in two ways: the risk of an asset itself and the risk of an entire system of assets. Think about it as a pipe in a whole network of pipes. When one pipe breaks down it can impact the entire system of pipes. Better understanding when one piece of the whole will need to be updated or receive maintenance ensures a more efficient overall system, and better protects assets. 

Additionally, climate change also plays a significant role in asset risk. Many systems were built decades ago, using models and assumptions that no longer work as we face more major storms and weather events. Smart city tools reduce risk and protect assets like storm water systems. 

Think About Long-Term Savings 

For many leaders, adopting new technologies or implementing smart city policies can feel financially overwhelming, but there are numerous long-term benefits and cost savings. Predictive modeling can better manage and preserve assets, providing savings over the long-term while reducing unexpected costs. Resources and staff time are also better utilized.

Additionally, smart asset management reduces liability, risks, and improves community safety. When managing critical but often overlooked assets like sidewalks and crosswalks, for example, there are digital trails of maintenance and asset management plans. Not only is liability reduced, but city budgets, residents, and taxpayers are better protected too. 

Smart Asset Management Helps Humans Be Human

Relying on humans to know everything when it comes to asset management is unrealistic. There are so many variables and details that smart tools can predict and better manage. Rethinking asset management ensures that cities are managing all their assets in ways that are efficient, predictive, risk mitigation, and better serve residents. 

Not sure where to start, or unsure of the best ways to integrate asset management into your smart city planning? WSB can help your community integrate smart technologies and tools to better manage your assets. 

Snow Melt Offers an Opportunity to Improve Flood Management Systems

February 13, 2023
By Bill Alms, Project Manager, WSB

Since 2020 Minnesota has experienced drought conditions, with less than average rainfall. The five years before that, Minnesota faced several extremely wet years, and communities were more prone to flooding with average rainfall as much as a foot above average.

This winter, Minnesota has already received well above average snowfall, similar to the winter of 2019-2020. If snow melt trends stay similar this spring to the spring of 2020, it may offer communities a unique opportunity to measure flood storage capacity, identify underperforming outlets, and update flood resiliency plans based on real time data. 

Why This Spring May Provide the Perfect Test Case

Coming off of a wet summer and a snowy winter in the spring of 2020, many communities saw flood storage capacity at its limit. Numerous reservoirs and ponds were high or overflowing, and communities struggled with underperforming drainage outlets. 

Now, this year many of those basins and ponds are low due to ongoing drought and extremely dry conditions – the opposite of 2020. However, with similar snow melts expected in the spring of 2020 and our upcoming spring, this could be an opportunity to reexamine those stormwater basins and assumptions around storm events. 

In short, this may be a rare opportunity to compare real world outcomes with projected models in flood resiliency plans. 

Updating Flood Management Systems 

If outlets flood again this spring with similar snow melts, coming off drought conditions, it is an indication that flood capacity needs to be expanded or elevation increased. It may also indicate where underperforming outlets need to be redesigned or rethought to better reduce flood risk and protect infrastructure. 

Smart technology tools can help determine where to add more storage and how communities can do next step planning on flood mitigation. Communities can install pumps within storm basins, for example, in areas that need more flood storage.

Other Tools to Address Flood Risk During Spring Snow Melts

In addition to updating flood management systems this spring, communities should also ensure they are acting on current flood management plans and tools to prevent flooding and protect infrastructure. This includes zoning areas that need the most attention, educating residents on the importance of removing ice and snow at low points and ensuring storm drains are clear, sandbagging structures if necessary, pumping areas with poor drainage patterns, and more. 

How WSB Can Help

Not sure how to best update flood mitigation plans or where to allocate resources? WSB’s team has the technology, tools, and expertise to address stormwater systems, improve flood resiliency, and implement personalized flood plans that best meet the needs of your community. 

Bill is a project manager in WSB’s Water Resources Group serving clients with their water resources engineering needs. His experience includes planning, design, and construction management, research and inspection of municipal storm water systems, hydrologic, hydraulic, and water quality modeling, watershed permitting submittals, and development plan reviews. He is a technical resource in watershed policy, planning, and capital improvement budgeting.

[email protected] | 952.388.4188