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NewsroomRole of a Civil Engineer: Working with Municipalities

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Over the years I’ve noticed that there is a common misconception concerning the role of a civil engineer in working with Municipalities. Since civil engineers are primarily trained to do such things as street and drainage projects; water supply, treatment, storage and distribution projects; sanitary sewer and sewage treatment projects; transportation projects; land development projects; airport projects; and other community enhancement type projects, they are perceived as only being needed when major infrastructure projects are needed. Because of this perception, civil engineers are generally only called upon when a project is required.

On the other hand, a Municipality has a team of other professionals who are consulted on various items in dealing with the operations of the Municipality. As a general rule, the Municipality will have a City Administrator/Manager and/or City Clerk, Treasurer, City Attorney, Public Works Director, and with larger communities there may be various department heads, that are responsible for certain operations of the Municipality. Each of these individuals has their  area of expertise and is considered a leader in their field of study. When questions arise concerning a specific function of the Municipality, the individual with the particular expertise is consulted for their input. This team approach between all areas of expertise within the Municipality leads to better planning, fewer problems and an overall better functioning Municipality. The community is better off as a result of the great teamwork using the expertise of the various staff members. Yet the civil engineer is generally only thought of when a major infrastructure problem occurs, an infrastructure improvement project needs to be done, an infrastructure problem needs resolved or a compliance issue resolved due to a Federal/State mandate.

A civil engineer brings another element of expertise to the team by assisting the Municipality in the routine decision making process in the operations of the Municipality. Making good to great decisions in the functioning and operations of the Municipality will, over the long haul, determine the future growth of the Municipality. Acting on a decision made could lead a Municipality down a path which, at the present time, may seem like a good decision from a financial aspect but could lead to an expensive fix in the future.

I’ve seen a community decide that keeping water rates low for a long period-of-time was beneficial to the citizens of the community. After years of this culture, the Municipality found themselves with a water system that had not been properly maintained and water line improvements made with line sizes which are not adequate for the future growth of their area. The end result was years later there was a major rate hike to just bring the infrastructure to a good operational point, with no major improvements made with the rate increase. By consulting with the outsourced civil engineer on their team, the ramifications of the various decisions made could have been discussed along with the anticipated results of various alternatives. This is just one example of how including a civil engineer as part of the Municipalities management team will lead to long term cost-effective decision making.

The Mission of EBH Engineers is to help Municipalities Prosper and Grow. This is done by making great decisions in all areas of the operations of a Municipality. The leaders of the Municipality need to seriously consider who should be on the team so great decisions can be made. EBH Engineers have the experience, expertise and know how to assist your Municipality in making great decisions so you can prosper and grow and have the community you want!

Article Written By:
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    Alan Luttrell, PE

Alan Luttrell, PE, EBH President and General Manager, is a licensed professional engineer with over 40 years of experience in engineering. He is responsible for the overall operations, growth and leadership of EBH. In addition to his administrative duties with EBH, he works with communities in the areas of strategic planning, asset management, wastewater planning and design, and water distribution planning and design. Contact Alan if you would like to discuss your municipality’s strategic planning, asset management, wastewater or water distribution needs at 620-672-1112.

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