3 Things Cities Should Consider About Smart Cities and City Staffing

April 17, 2023
By Alyson Fauske, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Like most industries, cities are facing numerous workforce challenges from city staffing to adjusting to more remote and hybrid roles. On top of that, many communities are also thinking big picture about how they can effectively build the smart cities of tomorrow.

As communities think about city staffing, here are some ways that they can rethink about how city staff play a role in building smarter, more efficient cities and how they can build engage, and connect workforces.

City Staff Are More Connected Than Ever Before

We may be passed the pandemic, but there were numerous lessons learned about how technology can better connect staff, and for cities, that is critical for cross-collaboration and problem-solving. Email, Zoom, staff management tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams – they all help with staff augmentation and close gaps on how staff are connecting.

Whether your staff is onsite, hybrid, remote, or all of the above, getting smart about technology gives city staff the tools to remain better connected and address critical community needs more efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively.

Understand How GIS Data Can Improve Efficiency

The need for on-the-ground repair and infrastructure services will never be fully replaced in cities. However, with tools like Google Earth Street view and GIS mapping, some investigative work to identify problems can be done off site. It can be a simple, yet effective tool, and it’s also one that is easily accessible to all cities.

Smart City Tools Foster Better Communication with Residents

At the end of the day, city staff are there to improve communities and the lives of residents. Smart tools and technology are significantly cutting redundancies in city staff time, improving connectivity, and making city government more accessible for everyone.

For example, phone apps and online tools allow residents to report city issues like potholes. Instead of creating multiple pieces of paperwork and follow up for each resident that reports on the same pothole, tech tools can measure the number of complaints and combine a single issue into one report.

Tools like these also ensure that residents can connect with city government at their convenience. They don’t need someone at a desk from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to submit paperwork, share resident input, or access important city information. Technology makes city government more accessible.

In short, as communities think about building smart cities and finding and maintaining a top-quality workforce, tools and technology are critical for fostering connections between city staff and between residents and local government. WSB has the staff and expertise to help support your community as you lead it into the future.

With over 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities. Her portfolio of work includes street and utility reconstruction, technical analysis and field observations, direct project planning and management, and comprehensive and capital planning services. | 612.263.1736

Drinking water

How Cities Can Prepare for the EPA’s New Proposed PFAS Regulations

April 17, 2023
By Jon Christensen, Professional Engineer and Steve Nelson, Sr Project Manager, WSB

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed establishing legally enforceable levels for six man-made Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) that are known to exist in the environment and drinking water. The EPA’s proposed levels are below most states current guidance levels and are near the detectable limits of the particular PFAS compounds. This move represents a significant step forward in safeguarding the health of our communities. To achieve this goal, the EPA is leveraging the most recent scientific data and building on existing state efforts to limit PFAS, aiming to provide a nationwide, health-protective standard for these specific substances in drinking water.

PFAS compounds are being detected in more and more water sources, both in surface water and groundwater systems. It is essential that cities stay up to date on this rapidly evolving science, so they can be prepared to adapt to new regulations and rules as they are decided.

Here’s what you should do now to be prepared and the potential solutions if these PFAS compounds are identified in your city’s drinking water.

Testing for PFAS

Many cities are not currently monitoring or testing for PFAS compounds in their water systems. The proposed EPA PFAS regulations lower the acceptable amount of PFAS compounds, which will likely affect a greater number of cities. That’s why cities should begin testing now. Keep in mind that the Minnesota Department of Health has a web tool that cities can use to determine whether testing has already been done in their area. If no testing has been done, cities should consider testing and eventually will be required to conduct testing, and if regulated PFAS elements are detected above allowable levels, then cities must begin evaluating and implementing solutions.

Solutions for PFAS Contamination

There are several options for addressing identified PFAS that include obtaining water from a source or system that does not contain PFAS, blending water from multiple sources to dilute the amount of PFAS entering the distribution system, or treating the raw water that contains PFAS. The cost of addressing PFAS in the water supply will vary depending on the amount of PFAS detected and the solution type that is most feasible for that community.

How WSB Can Help

Thinking through the next steps now, while communities await the EPA’s final ruling on PFAS regulations, can set a community up for success and better prepare cities for evolving water quality regulations.

Jon’s experience in water and wastewater engineering include water supply systems, sanitary sewer collection systems and water and wastewater treatment facilities. Prior to joining WSB, Jon spent two years with an NGO in Honduras designing and constructing electricity-free sustainable drinking water treatment plants. | 612.437.7967

Steve’s experience includes treatment plant designs and renovations (for both groundwater and surface water plants). He has experience with treatment process technologies such as reverse osmosis, ozone, activated alumina, biological filtration, lime softening, radium reduction, plate settlers, plate and frame presses and solids handling. He has worked with the AWWA Office of Government Affairs and the AWWA Research Foundation on water studies. | 612.258.8152


MDH Lead Service Line Inventory Regulations – What Communities Need to Know

April 17, 2023
By Jerry Schimmel, Project Engineer, WSB

In 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new rules that require the removal of service pipes in cities nationwide that contain lead and copper. Lead pipes, primarily used in infrastructure through the first half of the twentieth century, can have negative long-term impacts on human health and water quality. This new rule will help communities support sustainable water infrastructure that provides safe drinking water to all Americans.

State regulatory agencies are tasked with enforcing and administering funds for this initiative. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is the managing agency. This is a significant undertaking for many cities, and it is important that municipalities understand how to navigate and comply with the new rules. 

What do cities need to know to ensure compliance with this new regulation? Here are three things to consider.

There will be funding to help cities comply with these new mandates. While updating water infrastructure and removing lead pipes can be an expensive task, cities have the opportunity to access grants to help fund this process. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2022 set aside dollars for cities to help support service line updates. Grant funding can also be flexible to meet community needs, from paying for community awareness campaigns to self-testing lines to taking lead pipe inventory and more.

Cities must inventory their pipelines by 2024. By October 2024, all cities must complete the inventory of all service pipes in their community. This means cities need to act now. Meeting this deadline requires a multi-pronged approach that includes mapping out all the service lines in a city, determining which contains lead, and finally creating and implementing a plan for the removal and replacement of the lead pipes.  

Data is key, and that means educating and working with residents. Mapping pipeline data is a big undertaking for many communities, especially as many cities will need to go beyond historical records to map out their service lines, that’s why resident participation is important. Communities should leverage GIS data to help build and map which service lines are at risk of having lead components. Online mapping tools and tips can help residents identify lead service lines and report back to the city. The more user-friendly testing and data collection is, the more accessible it is for the public.

What’s more, because water quality issues more commonly impact disadvantaged and low-income communities, 49% of program funds are directed toward traditionally underserved communities to improve drinking water quality. Educating and engaging with these neighborhoods and residents will be important for cities, and the focus should be on raising awareness and helping with testing.

WSB offers all the services for cities to navigate and implement the new regulations, including grant proposals, inventory, mapping, and identification. We assist cities throughout every step of the process, including:

  • Establishing a database that meets the MDH reporting requirements
  • Creating and implementing a public engagement plan to educate and build community awareness
  • Gathering and tracking data by leveraging Esri Lead Service Line Inventory software
  • Planning and implementing a lead pipe replacement program
  • Building a comprehensive report documenting the lead resolution to MDH by October 2024
  • Identifying and applying for grants to support community compliance and pipeline updates

    Service pipelines supply drinking water to homes, businesses, and schools. Safe drinking water and sustainable infrastructure are critical to healthy communities, and while this new rule will be a significant undertaking, it also provides meaningful opportunities for communities to make much-needed improvements.

    Jerry is a project engineer and manager delivering complex projects in municipalities, small and large. He has a breadth of knowledge and understanding of full reconstruction projects, and can identify and solve risks and problems throughout the design process, delivering projects on time and on budget. | 612.409.1014

    Paving the Way: Four Proactive Trail Maintenance Tips for Communities

    April 17, 2023
    By Jordan Gedrose, Landscape Architect, WSB

    As Spring emerges, trail use will be in full swing with joggers, walkers, and bikers. When looking at the types of recreational trails, such as gravel, concrete, and bituminous, bituminous is the most common type of trail. Bituminous, also known as asphalt trails, are used in high pedestrian trafficked areas and are often the more cost-effective trail option.

    Trail maintenance is essential for trail user safety, accessibility, and trail preservation. It means creating equitable communities where all residents have access to similar-quality trails and outdoor amenities.

    Here are four trail maintenance tips for communities, especially after a winter of record snowfall.

    1. Seasonal Trail Inspections

    Municipalities must inspect trails during each seasonal transition. Each part of the year brings new weather that can impact the usability of a trail, and as temperatures warm up and snow melts, cities need to inspect trails to be ready for increased traffic. Identifying pavement cracking, chipping, and heaving are part of the visual inspection. Trails receiving routine pavement inspections and maintenance will save communities money in the long run instead of allowing trail issues to worsen over time resulting in more costly repairs in the future.

    1. Repair and Preventative Measures

    There are many different reasons for trail pavement failure. These include environmental factors, such as sunlight, oxidation, water, the freeze/thaw cycle, aging, and vegetation. Traffic usage from maintenance equipment, utility vehicles, and pedestrians also contributes to trail failure.

    There are several different options for preventative and minor rehabilitation practices that significantly increase the overall lifespan of a trail. Generally, applying a trail sealant every four years after the trail is constructed is ideal.

    1. Remove Debris

    A build-up of debris on the pavement occurs during the winter when usage is low—blowing and sweeping trails in the spring is essential to clear them. It can involve removing fallen trees and branches or trimming overgrown vegetation. Snowmelt can bring additional leaf litter and soil onto the trail, so be sure to identify any areas near the trail that are eroding to protect the structural integrity of the trail as well as limit the amount of debris getting on the trail. Check catch basins to ensure no debris obstructs the inlets to ensure water is not getting trapped on the trail.  

    1. Update Trail Markings & Infrastructure

    For the same reasons pavement may need repairs based on environmental, usage, and design, pavement markings such as walk and bike lanes, direction symbols, or trail instructions should be upkept and repainted as needed. This includes signage as well. This is critical for user safety. 

    In addition to trail maintenance procedures,  infrastructure such as pet relief stations, bike repair tools and pumps, benches, garbage receptacles and lighting should be operational and ready to use. 

    How WSB Can Help?

    WSB can help create a customized trail maintenance plan that meets your community’s needs. We also design, construct trails, and help communities implement preventative maintenance to ensure residents get the most out of local trails.

    Jordan is a landscape architect who has worked with many communities to deliver visionary and achievable park master plan projects. He brings his conceptual, graphical, and technical expertise to projects including streetscapes, park and trail planning, playground design, and athletic complexes. Jordan is committed to collaborating with the client and providing thoughtful design input to create unique outdoor spaces and experiences. | 612.263.0687

    How the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Can Help States, Cities, Municipalities, and Tribes

    March 13, 2023
    Andi Moffat, VP of Environmental Services, WSB

    Major infrastructure and spending packages passed in the last year by the federal government, including the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), are assisting communities across the country build a more sustainable, equitable and environmentally friendly future. There is a significant influx of dollars going into communities across the nation, and now is the time to ensure you do not miss out on these meaningful funding opportunities. 

    Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced eligibility requirements for its Climate Pollution Reduction Grant, and here is what community and tribal leaders should know about this grant program. 

    The Climate Pollution Reduction Grant

    The new Climate Pollution Reduction grant consists of $5 billion in funds and is broken up into two different phases. 

    The first phase is a non-competitive planning phase where $250 million in grants will be made available to qualifying communities. This phase is all about collaborating across government entities, assessing greenhouse gas emissions, and climate planning.

    • States must submit a Notice of Intent to Participate to the EPA by March 31, 2023. The funding that State’s receive may be available for cities within those states for additional planning funding. Please watch for updates from your local State Pollution Control Agency. 
    • Cities within Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) designated in the grant guidance may also be eligible when coordinating across the MSA. The lead entity for the MSA will need to submit a Notice of Intent to Participate for grants by April 28, 2023.
    • Tribal communities must coordinate with their EPA Regional Office soon to indicate interest in this funding.

    While this is a non-competitive grant, an application is required. States must submit the application by April 28, 2023. MSA’s must submit the application by May 31, 2023. Tribal Nations must submit the application by June 15, 2023.

    The second phase of the grants will have $4.6 billion available for project implementation for the year 2024 and beyond. It is important to note that to qualify for the second phase grants, communities must have received or been covered by the first phase planning grant either directly from the EPA or covered by your State grant. Applicants must have a System for Award Management (SAM) number and be registered in to apply for the grants. 

    Funding Opportunities 

    City planners, sustainability coordinators and local leaders can support a wide variety of planning and implementation projects with this grant funding. Projects can fall under a number of categories including transportation systems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, natural and working lands, resilient communities, and clean energy. 

    Additionally, each project must have a diversity, equity and inclusion connection, so it’s critical that applicants carefully consider and understand how these projects impact BIPOC and low-income communities, improve underserved neighborhoods, or incorporate an environmental justice lens in the project. 

    What To Do Right Now

    This is a substantial and historic funding opportunity for communities and tribes, so be sure to submit a notice of intent by March 31 if a State, by April 28, 2023 if a large MSA, or to start coordination with your regional EPA Office if a Tribal Nation. Also check with your state Pollution Control Agency or equivalent as states will also receive funding.

    If you are unsure where to start or how best to approach next stems, WSB is available for consultation, grant writing, and more. We can help partner with you to advance meaningful infrastructure and environmental improvement projects in your community. 

    Andi is a Vice President with more than 23 years of experience leading people and projects that include planning, environmental, energy, highway, natural resources, construction and development. She oversees our Environmental services and approaches her work with passion and positivity. | 763.287.7196

    Smart City

    Smart City – Building the Communities of Tomorrow

    January 11, 2023
    By John Bradford, Sr Project Manager, WSB

    From electronically monitoring water pumps to installing GPS trackers on city snowplows, many cities are embracing technologies and tools to become a smart city. Communities across the country are advancing initiatives that make their cities more efficient, while protecting resources and public dollars. 

    What opportunities are out there, and what does being a smart city mean? Let’s break it down. 

    What Does It Mean to Be a Smart City? 

    There is no one definition of smart city, but there are a few ways to approach the concept and adopt smart city initiatives that meet the needs of your community. 

    The first is to consider policies and tools that benefit the public. How can smart cities improve health metrics, the way that residents interact with one another, or best utilize community resources? There are numerous technologies and innovative ideas that can improve the lives of citizens and benefit overall public wellbeing. 

    The next area to think about is data systems, and how you can track information to improve the efficiency and life of equipment. Thorough asset management means understanding that infrastructure and equipment not only require preventative maintenance, but predictive management as well. New technologies can help cities understand when certain equipment needs to be repaired or adjusted, extending its life, and helping communities more effectively plan for capital improvements. Furthermore, for communities with sustainability plans, it’s important to understand how sustainability, asset management, and smart cities all connect. 

    Next, when thinking about smart cities, it is critical to map how using technology can more effectively utilize resources. For example, many northern cities are installing GPS tracking devices on city snowplows and making traffic light modifications that allow the plows to make it through green lights instead of having to stop. This improves the efficiency of snow removal, better utilizes community resources, and positively benefits public safety by clearing roads more quickly and effectively. Another example is having occupancy sensors installed at community parks and playgrounds to track usage and the best allocation of resources. 

    What it means to be a smart city can mean something different to each community, so it’s important to think about what works best for your community. 

    What are the Biggest Opportunities and Challenges?

    Smart cities are the future, and can help communities save money, direct resources more efficiently, and better connect and communicate with residents. The opportunities are endless, so communities need to look at places where they can find the greatest value and potential. 

    But because there is no one definition of what a smart city means, many communities can feel pressure to do too much, or fail to see how the small technological investments and changes they are making fit into the big picture of a smart city. 

    Furthermore, as every community faces limited budgets and funding priorities, understanding where smart city investments make the most sense and will have the biggest impact is key. Also looking at opportunities to expand funding resources is critical. WSB helps many communities with identifying and applying for grants. 

    Where to Start?

    Where do you start on the road to becoming a smart city? It’s important to think both big picture and in detail. 

    Start by defining your goals. Is it improving the efficiency of public works? Is it better communication with residents and the public? And how do these goals tie into your city’s larger strategic plan? 

    At WSB, we help communities navigate big ideas and in-depth planning. If you’re not sure where to start or have ideas, I encourage you to reach out for an exploration conversation. There are so many amazing new tools, technologies, and opportunities out there – and smart cities can help build a better future for all of us. Look to us this year to continue to share articles on the ways that technology can help improve your community.

    John has worked in the private and public sectors for 29 years and has worked with the cities of Hopkins, Woodbury and Bloomington. His experience includes policy development, capital improvement planning, infrastructure planning, comprehensive planning, site master planning, facility expansion projects, and interagency partnership agreements, labor contract negotiations, and culture change management. | 952.210.8280


    The Top 5 Ways that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Benefits Communities

    January 11, 2023

    Late last fall, Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which infused an astounding $1.2 trillion into our nation’s infrastructure. The package, which includes $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, gave local and state governments significant opportunities to fund infrastructure improvements over the next several years, and many communities have already taken advantage of this influx of funding.

    Transportation, clean energy, clean water, broadband expansion, and more, gave communities across the country an unprecedented opportunity to invest in projects that will have a meaningful impact on the future for residents, businesses, and the environment.

    How Have Communities Benefited from this Funding?

    Every community is different, and every community’s needs are different, but here are some of the top ways that local leaders, planners, and governments have benefited from IIJA.

    Advancing Bigger Projects Sooner & Removing Financial Roadblocks

    Whether a large metropolitan city or a small rural town, every community has a list of needed infrastructure projects, but funding and resources are often limited. Communities must prioritize, and sometimes put larger projects on the back burner due to budget constraints.

    TheIIJA is helping to change that mindset for many communities, giving leaders a greater opportunity to think big. Whether it’s getting on a project funding priority list, putting forward a feasibility plan, or thinking more comprehensively about the environment, transportation, or other community infrastructure needs, the federal infrastructure law has provided meaningful opportunities to secure funding for projects that may have previously been out of reach.

    Viewing Projects Through an Equity Lens & Involving More Voices in Community Planning

    Equity is a major component of IIJA, creating a real opportunity for communities to invest in projects that benefit traditionally underserved communities, as well as advance sizable projects that create a better community for all. Including equity in infrastructure project planning not only enhances local communities and benefits residents, but it also gives projects a competitive edge in securing dollars from the federal funding package. 

    Many communities are viewing their infrastructure projects through an equity lens and incorporating more voices as they plan for the future.

    Addressing Climate Change & Infrastructure Resiliency

    Our climate is changing, and “once-in-a-century” storms no longer occur just once in a century. Higher temperatures, drought, more intense precipitation, wildfires, flooding, and changing ecosystems are all issues that impact communities’ infrastructure planning. Building greater resiliency in projects and planning for more extreme weather and climate events is critical and recognized within the IIJA funding.

    Green infrastructure, innovative stormwater solutions, water reuse systems, native landscaping, and more can help mitigate risk and better protect populations, native species, and habitats.

    Developing Brownfield Sites

    Brownfields – previously developed sites that are no longer in use – are underutilized space that present real opportunities for economic, social, and environmental revitalization. However, they are often costly to redevelop. With more than $1.5 billion allocated to brownfields in the infrastructure package, many communities are taking advantage of the opportunity to move forward with brownfield projects, and expand their city’s tax base, grow jobs, build housing, and develop sites in ways that benefit residents and the community at large.

    Building a More Sustainable Future

    Sustainability is a fundamental component to infrastructure, and IIJA allows communities to invest in forward-looking projects that will have long term, positive environmental and social impacts. From electric vehicle charging stations and energy storage to ecological restoration, greater investment in sustainability is allowing local leaders to make bigger, more thoughtful investments that will help address climate change and resiliency.

    Navigating a once-in-a-generation opportunity

    Our team of funding experts help communities navigate grant applications, data gathering, project design and engineering, sustainability planning, stakeholder engagement, and more. IIJA is a once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment opportunity, and communities of all sizes can and should tap into the extraordinary opportunity for infrastructure improvement and investment.

    Q&A with Bart Fischer | Know When the Time is Right for Staff Augmentation

    October 14, 2022
    By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator and Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning, WSB

    Staff turnover, economic conditions and resources all impact the capacity and workload of city staff. Scalable staff augmentation has become another tool in the toolbox of cities who are hoping to backfill a role, complete a special project or increase available resources. Bart Fischer, Sr. Public Administrator, explores the benefits of staff augmentation with Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development.

    BF: Why would a city consider staff augmentation?

    KL: The number one reason to consider staff augmentation is to support staff turnover and coverage during a time of transition. If a staff member resigns, it often takes months to fill a vacancy. The great thing about staff augmentation is that cities can keep their projects and workload moving forward with limited interruption during that interim time. It also allows cities to evaluate a position to determine if it requires a full-time employee, or if tasks can be handled on an as needed or part-time basis.

    BF: Is there a magic number of hours or roles for staff augmentation?

    KL: No, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s scalable. A city may need support for a month, or for a long-term project. In my experience staff augmentation looks different for each community, which is great because WSB has the flexibility to fit the client need. We have situations where the augmentation is project based, like review of a specific planning project, and we have other clients where the augmentation is service based, for example conducting code enforcement for the community. We work with the client to arrive at a solution that works for their needs including providing in-office hours, dedicating two or three days a week or working within a specific time period until the project is completed.   It’s a flexible option for cities that can be scaled up or down at any time. It really depends on the community and their unique needs.

    BF: How is the talent shortage impacting staffing resources?

    KL: In many local governments, we’ve seen a wave of baby boomers retiring that held upper-level director positions. As they retire, finding leaders to replace them has been challenging as attracting and retaining talent is a struggle across industries.  Communities who are having a hard time finding candidates to fill roles are relying on augmentation to ensure they’re moving their projects and initiatives forward while they work to fill those positions.

    BF: What do you think are the biggest benefits of staff augmentation.

    KL: I think many communities don’t realize the financial savings that come with staff augmentation. It alleviates the need to hire an FTE and allows staff to have additional bandwidth to focus on higher level tasks and council policies rather than routine tasks. When the economy is strong, people don’t think about the pluses and minuses of hiring someone, but at the same time, no one wants to lay anybody off.  The true benefits lie in the scalability and flexibility of staff augmentation. 

    When WSB supports communities, we stress the full resources behind us. I work in planning, but have quick access to expertise in many areas including economic development, code enforcement, public works, city engineering, sustainability, etc. We bring a wealth of expertise to the table to help support a community’s comprehensive needs.

    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. | 651.485.1839

    Kim Lindquist

    Kim is a planning professional with over 30 years of experience overseeing a variety of complex planning projects. Kim worked in high growth communities working with developers and the public on entitlements for residential development and business attraction to the city. | 612.670.2790

    Writing an RFP to Maximize your Project’s Potential

    By Lori Johnson, Sr Professional Community Planner and Laura Melcher, Sr Business Development Coordinator, WSB

    Government leaders, whether at the city, county, or state level, face numerous engineering and infrastructure project needs that often require outside consultants and experts. When putting together a request for proposal (RFP), communities have an opportunity to better communicate those needs and requirements to improve the responses they receive. A well-written and informative RFP allows you to find the right outside partner to meet your needs. 

    Below are some ways government staff can build a concise, well-organized, and effective RFP to ensure hiring the right consultant to reach your goals.

    Communities can get more out of their consultants and establish better relationships by writing an RFP that lays out clear expectations and goals. A higher level of detail in your RFP will increase the responding firms ability to meet and exceed your RFPs expectations. 

    Here are a few things to consider when composing your RFP:

    1. Be specific and customize your RFP. It’s important to clearly outline specific sections that you would like answered so that every detail is accounted for, ensuring firms can provide meaningful details on how to accomplish your goals.  
    2. Be detailed about your specific project. The more details you can provide upfront the better. This will allow consultants to be more specific in their writing, better showcase their applicable skills, and maximize potential without guessing at what should be included or how their services will meet your requirements. 
    3. Highlight your top priorities and concerns. By being open about what is most important, what concerns exist, and what stakeholders will be involved in a project, consultants are able to better understand exactly who they need to bring in from their team and how they can provide proper support and expertise. 
    4. Allow time for questions and communication with potential partners. Creating set times for potential firms to connect and ask questions, like a virtual Zoom session, is helpful to ensure no details are missed and applicants have a clear picture of your expectations. Having these meetings at least two weeks prior to the submission date is helpful, as consultants work on specific timelines to ensure you get a quality proposal. 
    5. Ensure that your RFP defines specific submission requirements and clear deadlines. There should be at least one month between the release of an RFP to its application deadline, as this allows firms to put meaningful time and effort into a proposal. If you have a good idea about how the proposal should be organized, page number requirements can be used to ensure the consultant is concise and follows directions. It is also helpful to be clear if the submission should be electronic or printed and mailed. The address or contact email should be given to allow the consultant to deliver it on time and to the correct location/person.
    6. Provide a clear budget when possible and comprehensive scoring criteria. Every project has a budget and budget limitations. Communicating that information will help a firm build a proposal that fits within your budget. Make sure you accurately communicate how you weigh different sections of a proposal. If the budget is weighted heavily, state that clearly in your RFP. 
    7. If a firm isn’t awarded the contract, offer honest insight and feedback. After interviewing firms or evaluating the proposals, you must choose the right one for your project. For those who weren’t chosen, provide honest feedback. This ensures that consultants gain a better understanding of what they can improve for next time. A good consultant will take constructive criticism and use it to make their proposals better in the future. This will also serve to build a trusted relationship with the firm.

    Following these steps to create a more effective RFP will help to ensure you hire the right consultant to meet your community’s unique needs. 

    Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning. | 612.364.3029

    Laura is a business development professional with over eight years of experience in the construction and engineering industry. She works with clients and internal teams to develop strategic solutions. Her experience in the construction industry across the United States has given her valuable insight on projects from the opportunity phase all the way through to the execution and completion of the construction project. | 615.772.4555

    The Top Takeaways from the 2022 Minnesota Legislative Session

    Bart Fischer, Senior Public Administrator, WSB and Gary Carlson, Intergovernmental Relations Director at the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC), unpack the issues communities should pay attention to post-legislative session and how to prepare for a potential special session.

    BF: Thanks for joining me Gary for another legislative recap. As always, there were some predictable outcomes and other issues that created a wild ride this session. What were the top takeaways that communities should be paying attention to?

    GC: The biggest question for everyone is whether there will be a special session. There were a lot of things left in limbo when the legislature adjourned. Many people, on both sides of the aisle, are wondering where we go from here.

    BF: Yes, I’ve been checking every day to see whether or not a special session will be called. What bills did not pass that are making things feel unfinished?

    GC: There are two big bills that were not passed: the Tax Bill and the Bonding Bill. More and more, you’ll see that legislators are piling everything into these bills. To gain more support, they compress everything into a few bills, and if they don’t have agreements, then everything dies. Much of what is traditionally in the Tax and Bonding Bills have direct impact on our communities.

    BF: What are the impacts if a special session isn’t called?

    GC: Well, the Tax Bill generally contains local sales taxes, tax increment financing, lodging, entertainment taxes, etc. Without this passage, communities are kind of left hanging. An even bigger issue is that the Bonding Bill was never unveiled. Usually, committees would release a compilation of projects they want to include, but they never got that far.

    The lack of a Tax Bill has a tremendous impact on the 15 cities that had local sales tax requests. In addition, it also impacts the 18 cities that received sales tax authority last year that have not yet conducted the referendum. Many of those projects have seen unexpectedly large construction cost increases due to rising labor costs and supply chain disruptions and those cost increases would have been partially addressed in the omnibus tax bill agreement that never made to a final vote.

     BF: What did get accomplished this session?

    GC: There were some pretty significant bills were passed including the Frontline Worker Pay Bill and the Unemployment Insurance Bill as well as the opioid settlement bill which will distribute $253 million to counties and many larger cities over the next 18 years. The state budget is in place and there is a surplus, so we’re in good shape there. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t a lot done that relates directly to cities and counties.

    BF: Any advice for communities post-session?

    GC: There is no time limit on when a special session can be called so be on the watch for it. There is still so much uncertainty. If a city or county has a project as part of the bonding request or local sales taxes, they should continue to push their legislators for a special session.

    BF: Thank you, Gary.  As always, I appreciate your expertise and the valuable insight you provide.

    Still have more questions?  Connect with the League of Minnesota Cities Intergovernmental Relations staff.

    Bart Fischer

    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.

    Gary Carlson

    Gary Carlson has 37 years of experience in government affairs. As the Intergovernmental Relations Director at the League of Minnesota Cities, Gary leads the League’s legislative efforts that matter to cities including aid to cities, economic development, employment and human resources, pensions and retirement, public finance, taxes, tax increment financing (TIF) and workers’ compensation.