Infrastructure is expensive

by Dianne Irby, Executive Director of Planning and Development

Infrastructure is expensive!  All across America, cities and states are dealing with aging infrastructure.  Not only is the City of Mobile the rainiest city, but it is further compounded by the fact that we have not had dedicated planning and investment to address our growing backlog of broken infrastructure and deferred maintenance within our public facilities.

historical cip expenditures

As Executive Director of Planning & Development, I have the pleasure of working with the Mayor’s administration and with City Council on several key initiatives. My role is to provide leadership and oversight of our City Planning, Engineering, and Real Estate & Asset Management Departments.  Everything from our Comprehensive Planning process “Map for Mobile”, to a Zoning overhaul, to a full city facilities condition assessment are among those key initiatives.  But the most visible one is probably the Capital Improvement Plan – CIP.

To continue to transform and grow our City, Mayor Stimpson has focused on fixing the broken infrastructure throughout the City. We have developed and are executing a plan to allocate more capital improvement and equipment monies than ever before.

cip website6

Fix Mobile is synonymous with building and re-building Mobile. Sound financial management within a municipality involves multi-year planning and budgeting. Without the longer view, decisions focus only on the problems of today.  Real, sustainable growth involves both near term and longer term planning.  The multi-year focus has several benefits:

  • Allows for baseline assessments and identifies current conditions while encouraging discussion of future needs and potential policy changes
  • Given the baseline assessment, initiatives can be developed and pursued, and the fiscal implications can be discussed.   There are always trade-offs with limited funding. Visibility of funding sources and justification for projects is transparent and fully vetted.
  • Enables better on-going management and monitoring of implementation and provides continuous “check-ups” so adjustments can be made and priorities can be revisited
  • These multi-year plans are iterative and designed to be reviewed annually, leaving room for on-going input.

Mobile Botanical Gardens Improvements

For Mobile, in fiscal years 2016, 2017, and 2018, the capital improvements plan (CIP) allocates funding for projects throughout the City/Districts based on $21M dollars per year tied to the extension of the penny sales tax. Everything from sidewalks, parks, road resurfacing, street light replacement, museum and library roofs to stormwater management, drainage and litter improvement projects are underway. This is a rolling 3-year program with a total of $63M being planned in this first 3-year process.

It should be noted, this is the first time the City has embarked on such a robust and well-defined long term planning process for capital improvements. So we chose to use the services of a Program Management firm (Hawksley/MWH) to assist staff in all departments with capital planning and execution, knowing that rapid development of project estimates and oversight of design and construction would require additional resources, cost control, scheduling, and QA/QC. We are bringing in best practices from work in other municipalities to complement our City staff and local resources.

We developed a decision making process to validate and prioritize project selection. Engineering, real estate, parks and recreation, traffic engineering, legal, procurement, architectural/engineering, and community housing and development departments were at the table with the Mayor’s office and City Council members for the deliberations and development of the 2016 and 2017 plans.  The process is on-going and will be undertaken again in the spring of 2017 for the 2018 fiscal year.

Our goal is to develop and grow our ability as a City to sustain a programmatic approach to rebuilding our aging infrastructure. We have appreciated all the feedback from citizens and have information on the website at www.fixmobile.org with an interactive map and highlights of current project activity.  I hope you’ll take the time to review what’s happening throughout the City.