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Vstakeholder Collaboration Improves Planning, Design, and Construction

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Stakeholder collaboration can be beneficial, yet difficult to achieve. Some would argue that stakeholder collaboration is costly, time consuming, and inefficient. Others will argue that collaborating with stakeholders, often with competing and conflicting agendas, will lead to a well developed, optimized solution that addresses multiple objectives, leading to sustainable solutions. For an agency like the Racine Wastewater Utility, it is important to address competing needs from multiple stakeholders, not only to provide the best overall solution, but to maintain relationships with the City of Racine and its outlying communities that will affect how the Utility does business in years to come.

The Racine Wastewater Utility is a regional wastewater authority responsible for maintaining an interceptor system collecting and conveying wastewater to a regional wastewater treatment plant from approximately ten (10) communities. One of the Utility's interceptors, close to the border of one of the outlying communities and receiving flow from this community and the City of Racine, has experienced excessive wet weather flow resulting in repeated basement backups and excessive surcharging over the past few years.

This paper demonstrates a successful collaborative planning, design, and construction process and describes the critical aspects necessary to balance competing needs in developing an efficient and cost effective project. Through a collaborative process, an optimized solution was selected, planning, design and construction costs were estimated correctly, and public concerns were addressed throughout the project; all of which lead to a sustainable solution that was completed on-time and under budget.

To address this issue and other multi-community issues, the Utility set up a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) consisting of technical representatives from each community. The originally proposed solution to alleviate basement backups, the construction of local sewers and a neighborhood lift station to remove the individual lateral connections to the interceptor sewer, was discussed and ultimately rejected by the TAC due to the inability of this proposed project to provide any regional storage or flow mitigation benefit. Through the collaborative process, ten additional alternatives were discussed, modeled (using the unsteady flow model MIKE URBAN), and presented to the TAC. The recommended alternative was selected based on its ability to meet multiple and sometimes competing objectives (storage, conveyance, maintenance, cost, property acquisition, etc.). The TAC was also used to develop a Cost of Service Study (COSS), which determines the cost apportionment to each of the communities, to meet the terms of an Intergovernmental Agreement, drafted and approved by all communities in 2002. Because storage provided a system-wide benefit to all parties, the TAC was used to work out issues related to the COSS and to develop a fair and equitable approach for the cost apportionment.

The recommended alternative identified the routing, size and storage volume to be provided for a 40-year design storm event. However, the final design effort needed to address two (2) major issues: the vortex valves for the flow diversion to and from the storage interceptor sewer and the laterals within Ohio Street, connected to a local sewer.

A Public information meeting was held to address traffic control, describe project benefits and timeframe, and obtain additional information that was used to improve the design.

The planning level cost estimate was supported in the completion of the design and verified by the construction bids received. All stakeholders supported the award of the contract to the low bidder as the planning level cost and schedule was maintained through the bidding process.

The construction had depths exceeding 25 feet, which required additional excavation protection requirements. The area within Lockwood Park was also adjacent to a previously abandoned landfill site, which required Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources compliance and acceptance that the project would not extend into the landfill area. Even with these challenges, the work was completed early and under budget due to an efficient and thorough design, excellent contractor-owner coordination, and good resident communication. Communications with the stakeholders were maintained throughout the construction through monthly Utility Commission meetings which communicated the status of construction, conflicts encountered, mitigation method, and resolution and estimated completion date and project cost. This open communication with all stakeholders efficiently managed the construction process and expectations.

The final construction cost was actually only 93% of the original planning level cost estimate of $1.5 Million. The cost savings were due to the elimination of temporary pavement restoration in Ohio Street, due to the contractor's proposed start of work location

There have been significant rainfalls since the installation of the storage interceptor sewer, but no reported basement backups. The storage interceptor sewer has been efficiently utilized to attenuate the peak flows within the interceptor sewer and to provide downstream peak flow reduction, a system-wide benefit that all of the shareholders take advantage of.

Collaborating with stakeholders throughout the project provided a cost-effective and efficient design, benefitting the neighborhood residents as well as the overall collection system. The collaborative effort eliminated any unknowns that could otherwise delay a project, and improved relations between and among the general public and the various agencies / communities.
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Keywords: Balancing competing needs; collaboration; modeling; optimization; storage

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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