Indianapolis Clean Stream Team Public Participation Update

Author: Jacob, Mark C.

Source: Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation, Collection Systems 2009 , pp. 74-81(8)

Publisher: Water Environment Federation

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Abstract:

The City of Indianapolis (City), Department of Public Works (DPW) has been implementing periodic rate increases in its sanitary system to generate revenues for various projects associated with its twenty-year Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan (LTCP), as well as the City's rehabilitation, expansion, and septic tank elimination programs. The City also has programs for illegal connections, as well as its water quality initiatives; such as Correct Connect and Fats, Oils and Grease programs, respectively. These are but a few of the key efforts the City implements to keep its sanitary sewer infrastructure running cost effectively. As an ongoing part of those efforts, a vital process the City utilizes that gains public support is intricate and proactive outreach and communications procedures.

The outreach and communication professionals develop materials that keeps the public engaged, gauges their understanding of the issues, seeks feedback from those being affected, informs them of what their utility rates are ‘purchasing’, and ultimately seeks to be proactive with the residential and business communities that are affected. The techniques, timing, materials used, the way information is presented, the intensity of the programs, and strategies are all part of the outreach and communications ‘tool chest’ that can help communities successfully implement infrastructure programs with public understanding and support. In this way, monies used to implement these programs are effectively used and can be directly linked to the successfulness of infrastructure programs and rate increase. Conversely, a lack of proper outreach and communication can be the cause for an unsuccessful rate campaign; or a poorly understood or ineffective downspout disconnect program; or a poorly administered FOG program, etc.
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