Making Public Infrastructure a Catalyst for Economic Development and Community Prosperity

Making Public Infrastructure a Catalyst for Economic Development and Community Prosperity

February 6, 2024

By Jay Kennedy, Vice President, WSB

In the vast landscape of economic development, one key piece often remains hidden in plain sight: infrastructure. It’s not just about building roads and bridges; it’s about constructing the foundation for thriving communities and enticing businesses to bring jobs and investment.

Communities that invest in infrastructure with an eye to the future ensure they are the place that people and businesses want to be. Infrastructure is the lifeline that sustains economic progress. From utilities to public transportation to drinking water facilities, when these essential components are robust, designed with intention to the future and well-maintained, they create a fertile ground for businesses and communities to thrive.

Communicating with Businesses & Planning for the Future

The ‘build it and they will come’ approach, although powerful, isn’t the sole ingredient for sustainable growth. Communities need to actively engage with businesses and create an environment that welcomes investment.

Businesses looking for a community in which to invest can bring millions, sometimes even billions of dollars with them. Effective communication between communities and businesses is critical when it comes to infrastructure development. When local leaders say, “we are open for business,” they need the infrastructure and planning to back it up. 

When communities have plans that account for future development, population growth and supporting infrastructure, businesses can see a vision of why they should place their investment in that community.  

Relieving Infrastructure Stress & New Opportunities

There are also situations where upgrades and redesign can alleviate pressure on existing infrastructure and open new opportunities. Improving efficiency in public transportation and redirecting traffic from small community roads to major roadways, for example, can benefit both residents and local businesses. What starts off as one project opens the door for developers wanting to be a part of an up-and-coming area.

As infrastructure pressure is relieved and economic growth continues, it is critical to have a dedicated team that can manage an expanding community. It sends the message that the community is dedicated to growth, attracting even more investment.   

The Ideal Community: Balancing Residential and Commercial Zones

An ideal community strikes a balance between residential and commercial land uses, as well as public spaces. People prefer to live close to work and amenities. A blend of both residential and commercial spaces not only enhances convenience for residents but also attracts businesses looking for a customer base and workforce in proximity.

Collaborating Across the State and Region

Cities looking at their long-term community plans must ensure they also align with county-level planning and broader regional plans. Cooperation and coordination among various levels of government means that an infrastructure project is not operating in a silo, but instead part of a larger plan to drive people and businesses to the region.

How WSB Can Help

In Texas and beyond, the success of public infrastructure projects and planning is driving economic development. WSB is playing a pivotal role in communities throughout Texas, where expertise in smart infrastructure planning and execution has significantly reduced stress on resources while actively attracting businesses to the area.

WSB’s team can help with everything from community planning to public engagement to designing major infrastructure projects and more. We can help your community find ways to bolster economic growth and build infrastructure that fosters the long-term success of your community and region. 

Jay is a Vice President leading Texas operations. He has over 30 years of experience overseeing the management, planning, coordination, design and construction of municipal and civil engineering projects. He works with staff and clients seeking new business opportunities and developing local staff.

[email protected] | 512.518.1819

How Communities Can Prepare for Minnesota’s New Native Landscaping Law

August 14, 2023
By Alison Harwood, Director of Natural Resources, Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development and Jason Amberg, Director of Landscape Architecture, WSB

Native landscaping is growing in popularity, from pollinator-friendly plants and prairie grasses to rain gardens. Now the state of Minnesota passed a new law, effective July 1 of this year, that requires municipalities to allow property owners and occupants to install and maintain managed natural landscapes.

What are the pros and cons of this new law, and what does it mean for cities? Here are some things to consider.

What are the benefits of native landscaping?

Native landscaping covers a spectrum of options that includes a variety of landscaping. This could mean including only plant materials that grow naturally within the region to combinations that blend some areas of native plantings with some areas of manicured lawns or ornamental landscapes. Introducing native plant communities can provide critical resources for pollinators and provide a place for certain species to hibernate in winter. Rain gardens can help manage stormwater run off and reduce chemical runoff.

In addition to the natural benefits, there are economic benefits as well. Native landscaping reduces the need for irrigation and watering as plants are often more drought resistant. There are also cost savings from reduced fertilizer and chemical usage, as well as reduced maintenance costs.

How are native landscapes maintained?

The new Minnesota statute clearly states that native landscapes must be well-maintained, but what does that mean? In the statute, managed natural landscape is defined as a planned, intentional, and maintained planting of native or nonnative grasses, wildflowers, forbs, ferns, shrubs or trees, including but not limited to rain gardens, meadow vegetation and ornamental plants.

When thinking about a traditional manicured lawn, maintenance includes regular mowing throughout the spring and summer, regular watering when it gets dry and the application of fertilizers and herbicides. Then in fall, landscapes are often cleaned to remove dead plants and leaf litter.

For native landscapes, however, there is far less maintenance and plants often grow quite tall. In fact, the new law allows native grasses to grow taller than 8 inches high. Plus, as the weather turns cold, it’s better to leave the lawn and dead vegetation in place, providing quality habitat for wintering animals and insects.

What does this ordinance mean for local governments across Minnesota?

While many cities have adopted ordinances in the past decade allowing native landscaping, many others have ordinances prohibiting native landscaping or yards to have grass taller than 8 inches. This new state law supersedes local law, and it is important that communities update ordinances to comply with state statute.

Moreover, ordinance changes often take at least 60-90 days, so it’s important to act before next spring when many residents will begin lawn maintenance and planting. This ensures residents have a clear direction from the city.

Managing Public Engagement and Education

With this new law, there are a few issues local communities must navigate to ensure residents feel heard and legal requirements are made clear.

For residents concerned about unkempt lawns or who prefer neighborhoods to have a more manicured look, it’s important to communicate the benefits of native landscaping for the community and residents. Moreover, residents should be educated that while native grass and plants can grow taller than 8 inches, traditional manicured lawns cannot. And whether having natural landscaping or manicured lawns, noxious weeds are not allowed by this law change. Cities can and will still be enforcing unkempt lawns that do not meet state and local law requirements.

Educational community meetings, handouts, guidance on websites, and social media campaigns are all ways that cities can effectively communicate with residents about the new native landscaping laws.

How WSB Can Help

If you’re a city leader who needs help navigating ordinance changes around this new statute, WSB’s team can help.

Our landscaping team can also help clients design and build native landscaping into their public or private spaces, offering solutions that are aesthetically striking, environmentally friendly and economically beneficial.

Native landscaping is growing in popularity, helping bring people and nature closer together.

Alison leads the Natural Resources group. Her experience includes work in the natural resources field, including wetland and avian surveys, permitting, alternatives analysis, and environmental documentation for projects in both the public and private sector.

[email protected] | 612.360.1320

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

[email protected] | 763.287.8303

Kim Lindquist

Jason is the Director of Landscape Architecture at WSB with more than 25 years of experience in public space planning and design. From small-scale neighborhood park improvements to comprehensive park and trail system plans, Jason has worked with park boards, municipalities, governing agencies and community residents.

[email protected] | 612.518.3696

Jason Amberg

Supporting the Infrastructure of an Entire Community

July 18, 2023
By Brian Bourassa, VP of Corporate Development

Investing in the vitality of the city of Lino Lakes, Minnesota.

At WSB, we use the term infrastructure broadly to define the places, spaces and systems that support our lives.  As important as infrastructure is to our way of life, we don’t often think about it until something goes wrong.  We’ve been privileged to support communities across the U.S. with their infrastructure needs. The scale of the projects may vary, but the impact is always significant.  

For the last several decades, the city of Lino Lakes, just north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro, has been investing in their infrastructure across the community.  In the end, it’s not one single project that has helped to build a vibrant community, but rather the collective investment in varying infrastructure. These investments have played a vital role in spurring development and progress within the city.

1. Biological Water Treatment Plant

The city is currently planning to construct a water treatment plant due to some of the city wells having manganese levels above the recommended guidelines. A biological treatment approach is unique because it relies on natural microbial activity to remove contaminants rather than chemicals, an environmentally sustainable strategy.

2. West Shadow Lake Drive

West Shadow Lake Drive is a residential street that was plagued by potholes, had no sewer or water, and faced challenges from high groundwater levels due to its proximity to Reshanau Lake. As part of the city’s pavement management program, the road was removed and replaced to support the city’s roadway infrastructure and sanitary sewer, watermain and storm sewer infrastructure was also installed. In addition, environmental work and wetland enhancements occurred throughout the area.

3. 12th Avenue Trail Project

The 12th Avenue Trail connection was identified as a priority in the city’s Comprehensive Parks and Trails System Capital Improvement Plan due to the lack of trail connection along 12th Avenue.  Prior to project completion, the busy rural road was narrow with unsafe conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. The project resulted in increased safety and a more bikeable, accessible community.

4. Master Plan and Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan

Located in the northeast corner of Lino Lakes is a 1300-acre greenfield area that is prime for development opportunities. WSB was contracted to develop a master plan, comprehensive stormwater management plan and update the Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) for the area. Development opportunities will include residential, industrial and commercial that will spur economic activity in the area. 

5. The Rookery Activity Center

When the local YMCA closed in 2020 it left a hole in the community. The city of Lino Lakes took action to reinvigorate the space. To establish itself as a new asset within the community, the building needed an overhaul, not just in amenities and programming, but also the brand.  WSB worked with the city to develop a story, identity and brand assets.

6. Tower Park  

Tower Park is located on a 60-acre piece of land that was purchased by the city over 20 years ago.  The city council felt strongly about developing the space into a destination recreation area for the community.  WSB provided the park master plan and phase 1 design support. Tower Park is now home to some of the city’s most popular pickleball and tennis courts.  The project was completed last year. 

7. Birch Street Roundabouts

Birch Street is a heavily traveled roadway through the city with frequent accidents occurring due to the number of entrances to the high-speed roadway.  There were safety concerns from residents and a nearby school. To help alleviate the number of accidents and increase safety, several roundabouts, medians, crosswalks and safety signage were added.

8. Gateways to the City – Placemaking

Lino Lakes is a proud community and wants to enhance their welcoming presence by creating placemaking monuments at city entrances. The project is still under development, but once complete, the entrances will offer a ‘front door’ to the city and will invite visitors and residents to step inside and explore the community.

9. Feasibility Study – Lake Amelia Subwatershed

A 255-acre subwatershed of Lake Amelia is currently undergoing a feasibility study to address existing stormwater management concerns and anticipated future land use changes to the area.  The short-term phase includes solutions to address flooding concerns.  The long-term phase proposes more holistic improvements to the corridor that that would occur alongside its eventual development. The study will help guide future planning in the area and will ensure that the area is prime for development.

10. Shenandoah Park Improvements

In partnership with the Rice Creek Watershed District, the city is exploring multiple improvements to the Shenandoah Park area to improve water quality, ensure its habitat is supported, and create a destination for park users. WSB is currently exploring water quality improvement options, wetland restoration, flood retention and greenway spaces to support the goals of the watershed district and the city.

Brian has more than 25 years of experience in the civil engineering field and has worked extensively in both the public and private market sectors. This experience has provided Brian with a broad engineering background, and has allowed him to develop a strong understanding of both public financing and private business perspectives. Brian’s lasting client relationships are a testament to the focus he places on developing creative solutions and providing over-the-top customer service.

League of Minnesota Cities Conference

Gaining valuable insights at the League of Minnesota Cities Conference

Bart Fischer, Senior Public Administrator, WSB

WSB recently attended the annual League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) Conference in Duluth. At this conference, more than 600 city officials and staff attended from different cities in Minnesota. LMC is a membership organization dedicated to promoting excellence in local government. The goal of the conference is to join city officials from across the state to develop new skills, discover ideas and show love for our cities. This year’s theme was “City Love.”

City officials and staff are incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to their cities and communities. As we thought through how we could engage with conference attendees, while also gathering valuable insights, the “City Love” theme brought us to two prompts: “What do I love most about my city?” and “If I had a million dollars for my city I would….”  We displayed two boards with the different questions at the exhibit hall and below is what we heard.

What do I love most about my city?

We received a number of different responses to this question; however, they all shared common themes. What city officials and staff love about their cities is their community. The people, diversity, infrastructure, and nature of a community is what people care about. City officials and staff work diligently to create a safe community with a high quality of life. Several of the responses reflected on open spaces, parks, trails, lakes, and wetlands.

What do I love most about my city

It is crucial to understand this information because it matters when making decisions for the future of the community. When city officials and staff are providing their best to their community it grows and strengthens the city.

WSB works to grow with them, and we want to strengthen our cities infrastructure through partnership. Understanding what is important to the people we work with allows us to better serve a city’s unique needs. We incorporate our client’s values to build what is next in infrastructure.

If I had a million dollars for my city I would…

On this board, the many responses reflected similar ideas, and all revolved around making their city better. Responses talked about infrastructure, parks, landscaping, safety, and economics.

If I had a million dollars for my city I would

Gathering this information, our team reflected on how WSB can play a role. We have collaborated with different communities to support their needs for nearly 30 years. Throughout this time, we’ve found that in many cases, one of the largest barriers to completing projects is funding. We work with cities to find a way to get their infrastructure projects completed from start to finish.

Following the conference, it was interesting to reflect on the collective responses from each question.  While many cities share similar needs and thoughts, the scale and specifics vary greatly because of their unique characteristics, geography, and constructs.  

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

2023 Legislature Highlights

June 12, 2023
By Bart Fischer, Sr Public Administrator, WSB and Anne Finn, Intergovernmental Relations Director, LMC

Bart Fischer, Senior Public Administrator, WSB and Anne Finn, Intergovernmental Relations Director at the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) unpack the most recent consequential legislative session. The 2023 legislature began their session with a $17.5 billion surplus that is now gone with a number of spending provisions that will be distributed across the state and invested in nearly every state agency. Significant investments in transportation, the largest capital investment/bonding package, several environmental bills and large public safety and education bills will all have a major impact on communities across the state in the coming years.

BF: What can communities expect to see for investments in transportation?  

AF: This is one of the most robust transportation bills we have seen, on par with the transportation investments in 2008 following the I-35W bridge collapse. It is the largest capital investment bill in our state’s history, with $2.6 billion to be distributed around the state for transportation, water infrastructure and other facilities.

BF: Why is there currently such a focus on transportation funding across the state?

AF: A significant amount of money will be invested into our transportation system in the coming years. There was a lot of muscle behind this bill due to support from stakeholders including labor, the construction industry and local government groups, and many advocates believe this bill is very meaningful for the state of Minnesota. With single party control— the DFL was not going to let this opportunity to enact a robust transportation bill pass by. The public wants road repairs, and there was a strong desire to fill budget gaps for roads, bridges, transit, pedestrian and other modes of transportation. Now is the time to look at new and creative ways to put some money into our transportation system.

The bonding bill has a lot of money for transportation, something we advocated for strongly. The Omnibus Transportation bill provides permanent funding for the Small Cities Assistance Fund, which will support more than 700 cities. This will cover road and bridge improvement programs. In addition, the Omnibus Transportation Bill included the addition of a retail delivery fee of .50 cents for purchases over $100 that will fund both the Small Cities Assistance and Large Cities Assistance Funds. This is a nice chunk of money that cities can use on any streets they have road authority over and will have a large impact on communities.

BF: Were there any surprises in this session?

AF: Yes, the indexing of the gas tax came as a surprise. It wasn’t discussed early in the process, so it was very interesting how it played out at the end. Indexing will start in January of 2024 and will increase the gas tax by .50 cents per gallon by 2027. As inflation continues to grow over time, this will as well.

BF: In what ways will this additional funding impact or work with the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA)?

AF: The Omnibus Transportation Bill includes $216 million for discretionary matches in which grants are matched to local units of government for federal funds. Additionally, the Grants Technical Assistance Program was created and will allow the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to help local units of government secure federal funds. This new program can then maximize what Minnesota gets in IIJA funds— ensuring that projects at the local level can be accomplished.

BF: Any advice for communities or those with projects in mind?

AF: My best advice is to be prepared. If anyone has a project in mind that they would like to see funded, they need to start preparing for any potential solicitations now. This will allow communities to be ready for when solicitations come out and they can be first in line for funding.

I will also stress patience. At LMC, we’re still exploring how cities can take advantage of the additional funding as a result of the session. As we move toward fall, we’ll be sure to alert our members to any opportunities on the horizon.

BF: What do you think next year’s session will hold?

AF: I could see there being another bonding bill. If projects get built and there continue to be more shovel ready projects out there— many lobbyists agree that it could be a possibility. I also believe some bills could be reviewed and cleaned up. There were several lengthy bills that were drafted and passed, and after further review there may be some tweaks that need to be made.

All this investment in infrastructure has shined a light on the labor shortage, especially in the construction industry. They are anticipating a need for an additional 40,000 workers just to deliver the projects that were passed this year. I anticipate some initiatives to get more people interested in the trades so we can support these infrastructure projects.

BF: Thank you, Anne. As always, I appreciate your expertise and valuable insights.

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

Anne Finn is intergovernmental relations director for the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC). Since 2000, she has represented the League and its member cities before the state legislature and other levels of government on issues involving public safety, transportation, public pensions and local decision-making authority. Anne’s background includes a combination of legislative and local government experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from the College of Saint Benedict and a Master of Arts degree in public administration from Hamline University.

Staffing

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.

[email protected] | 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.

[email protected] | 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.

[email protected] | 612.258.8152

Water

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.

    [email protected] | 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.

    [email protected] | 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 Grants.gov 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.

    [email protected]m | 763.287.7196