Each community has a unique set of priorities and infrastructure areas in need of a solution. To accommodate these differences, they look to a municipal engineer dedicated to their city or village. This person studies the condition of existing infrastructure, such as roads or sidewalks, and designs or recommends improvements or plans for accommodating growth and future capital projects. Smaller municipalities may not have the need or resources for a full-time employee to take on this role and retain an engineering consulting firm instead.
B&N staff serve as the municipal engineer for cities and villages across the country. Our experts take an active role in the community to improve life for its residents. Four B&N municipal engineers share their experience:
Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have seen communities face?
Mary Ann: Funding is always an issue, but now even more so since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Cities know that unemployment has increased and that their residents are struggling, so they don’t want to raise taxes, and stimulus funding can be locked up in the legislative process. To address this, we identify the major infrastructure issues that will make the most significant positive impact on the residents’ lives and identify available funding sources.
Bryan: The combination of aging infrastructure and a growing population creates a challenge. Florida is adding one million people to the state each year, and local communities don’t have the funds to address all the infrastructure problems. Because of this, we help communities prepare a capital improvement project (CIP) list to prioritize improvements.
Q: What is the advantage of having a professional consultant serve as a municipal engineer?
Jim: Smaller communities may not have the funds for a full-time engineer, so hiring a consultant can help save them money on the salary and benefits paid to an employee. It is also beneficial when a community doesn’t require many infrastructure improvements because they can utilize the consultant on an as-needed basis.
Josh: The biggest advantage is having resources to stay on the leading edge. In this role, I’m able to leverage the depth of our personnel, developing new skills and technological resources at B&N to complete any improvement project efficiently and effectively. Our obligation to clients consists of a holistic understanding of the latest construction methodologies, evaluation and funding sources – a skillset that is extremely useful for municipal infrastructure improvements.
Q: What strategies do you use to address community issues proactively?
Bryan: I am involved in local and professional organizations to keep current on local interest topics. These help me understand what issues other communities face and determine how to address the issue before it becomes a larger problem.
Jim: I work with the Village of Riverlea, a community of 600 people in central Ohio. Our primary focus has been the development and implementation of long-term plans to repair or replace aging infrastructure proactively. We started by studying the condition of their assets and then prioritized based on the severity and feasibility of repairs. This process also helps plan future CIPs and funding strategies.
Q: What is the most important quality of a municipal engineer?
Mary Ann: Well-roundedness. Since there could be issues with roadways, waterlines and more, it’s crucial to have an engineer who is knowledgeable in various disciplines or to go to for any questions – with the resources of a consulting firm, it is is easy to find an answer.
Josh: The ability to build relationships. The city officials know the community’s history and hot-button issues, so it’s important to talk with them regularly. I also have formed relationships with other municipal engineers through the Central Ohio Engineer Group (COEG), which helps me address issues design engineers typically do not handle such as permitting fees or development issues.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a municipal engineer?
Bryan: I enjoy solving real problems for my neighbors, friends and family so that we can live and play in a safe environment.
Jim: I like that I can explore other disciplines. I have worked in a number of different specialties throughout my career, and it is great to use those skills to benefit the community.
Josh: My favorite part is seeing the impact of projects. I will often see the residents while working onsite and get the opportunity to talk with them about the project and how it will affect them.
Mary Ann: I enjoy problem-solving and going to the monthly meetings. It feels great to work together with a team to make a positive change for the community.