Services provided by Brotherton Engineering, Inc. (BEI) fall into several broad categories and under those categories are more descriptive headings of the typical services that can be provided by BEI. The broad categories and headings are:
Engineering Planning and Design Services
Town Engineering Services – Most cities with a year-round population of 5,000 or more will have on staff a full time “City Engineer”. Larger cities may have a City Engineer on staff, but may be short of licensed engineering staff to accomplish the administrative, plan review, and field inspection services required by laws of the State of Florida and local codes and ordinances. Cities have found that using the services of a licensed engineer is very valuable but also can be very expensive. BEI is a firm that can provide the required services and bridge the gap in the matter of cost for these services. It is often the case, that the licensed engineer function can be accomplished on a periodic basis and does not require the full time staff position. Also, cities find that the salary required to attract a full-time licensed engineer is not price competitive with other city staff positions, thus making the filling of a full-time licensed engineer position impossible in most typical city pay plans. Filling engineering positions with non-licensed engineers in cities, with the associated title, is also illegal in the State of Florida. Therefore, cities find themselves in a difficult position in providing quality public services. Brotherton Engineering, Inc. can provide the needed staff services of a licensed engineer to your town or government agency on an hourly basis and thus accomplish the needed work at a cost well below your budget.
Interim City Manager or Director of Public Works Function – Cities in Florida are finding that growth is a significant issue. This growth not only impacts the utility and other public services provided by towns, but also is impacting the turnover rate of critical city leadership positions. With over 1,000 people per day moving to Florida and over half of these moving to Florida’s West Coast, growth is a matter that is very difficult to control. From the experience of BEI staff and associates, the experience and qualifications needed for these key leadership positions is available on a temporary part-time basis as cities seek to find the most qualified permanent staff. Advertising, interviews, and often re-advertising and re-interviews, and the normal processing of paperwork by human resource departments will take time. If interim qualified staff are not available within the existing city staff, or if available in-house staff need assistance in the transition process, BEI is ready to provide quality high level management staff assistance for your immediate needs.
ENGINEERING PLANNING AND DESIGN SERVICES
Undergrounding of Overhead Utilities and Feasibility Analysis – Along the coastal areas of Florida, cities and condominium associations are discovering that their power is very vulnerable to storm damage. While hurricanes can cause damage to power lines and other overhead utilities in all parts of Florida, the coastal areas are especially subject to damage from the highest winds. This storm damage can result in not only the loss of food in freezers, loss of air conditioning, loss of cooking, etc., the loss of power can also result in the overflow of sewage lift stations, traffic signal outages, and other critical operations of municipal utility and condominium services. BEI has worked with power companies and telecommunications companies to contract for the design and construction of the undergrounding of these utilities and assisted in working with banks and the Florida League of Cities in the bond financing of these undergrounding projects. If your city or condominium is located within five (5) miles of the coastal area of Florida, you should be highly concerned about not only your local service lines in your community, but also the distribution lines feeding your local service lines for system reliability. Coming in contact with power poles and lines in the process of storm evacuation is a serious issue. Also, down power poles and lines will greatly restrict the ability to return to private property to protect that property and make other damage repairs. BEI is ready to assist you in working with your local power and telecommunication companies and County Government in putting together a program to underground the existing overhead utilities in your community. The following pictures show the recent project to underground utilities for the Town of Indian Shores including a 12,000 volt power distribution line.
Water, Sewer, and Reclaimed Water Utility Process Design Services – There is no more important utility service to local communities than the provision of quality water and sewer services. Water service not only involves the quality of the water, but also includes the proper pressure of the water for health and fire suppression purposes. Some cities may purchase their water from another city or the County Water system or directly from the Regional Water System. As water moves down the pipeline, the quality of the water also decreases. It is important to understand the quality of the water in each community and not simply look at published reports for average water quality of the overall water supplier service area. The Federal and State standards for acceptable water quality are getting more strict over time based on laws passed by the Federal Government. BEI is able to represent your interest before respective water boards. Condo Associations should be especially alert to their responsibility to what may be perceived as a public water system when in fact, the system in your development may be private and carry certain responsibility and liability. While water quality is typically the responsibility of the utility all the way to the user connection, the private association maintains the responsibility of maintenance of the private water lines past the master meter and also must maintain any fire hydrants within the private development. The proper testing of fire hydrants and filing of reports by companies who test hydrants does not guarantee that the hydrants are safe to use and will produce adequate flows in fire conditions. Those offering services to test fire hydrants in Florida are not required by Florida law to report defective hydrants and flows to the local Fire Department or even raise the issue of a hydrant failing to meet standards with condo association management companies who may not understand the reports. Failure of the hydrant to operate properly in a fire can cause loss of life and property and also result in liability on the association as a whole. Many cities also do not regularly operate and test their fire hydrants located in public streets. BEI is ready to assist in helping you obtain the most current test results or insist on proper testing and reporting of results in both private and public fire hydrants. If your Board is in need of new water and wastewater or reclaimed water equipment, BEI is capable of putting together a team of design professionals to address any issue concerning water quality, water quantity, water pressure, or any of the many water and sewer service issues including the development of local water supplies and wastewater disposal.
Stormwater Utility Development Services – Stormwater Utilities are a relative new utility concept in Florida. The formation of Stormwater Utilities is supported by Florida law and many cities have formed their own stormwater utility in response to the Florida law. Historically, stormwater services were provided by the street budgets of each city. Street budgets are funded typically with advalorum taxes and gas taxes. With the need to add new roads and repair old road surfaces, many aspects of design, construction, operations, and maintenance of the stormwater systems have been historically neglected by government agencies and private property owners. The stormwater utility separates the function and budget of the street department away from the stormwater issues. Stormwater Utility Fees set by the City therefore are directed in a meaningful way toward improving the stormwater system for flood control and water quality improvements. These funds can be used for matching grant funds offered by the Florida Water Management Districts in their cooperative funding programs. New Federal laws now require the cities to permit and control their stormsewer discharges in a way similar to wastewater plant point discharges. These laws controlling the stormsewer discharge water quality are expected to become more strict over time. The stormwater utility fees are therefore set with public input to properly account for stormwater fund expenditures. These funds operate as a separate Enterprise Fund similar to Water and Sewer utilities. Fees can also be used to obtain Revenue Bonds for use by Stormwater Utilities since fees are not considered taxes by Florida law. This gives the local municipal Boards the option of issuing these bonds to fund construction programs without the requirement of a public referendum.
Most stormwater utility ordinances provide for credits if the private property owner or condominium association will make provisions for water quality improvements on their land. Often these improvements are a small cost relative to the amount that the fees can be reduced. This then provides in incentive for the landowners to make water quality improvements on their land or gain credit for water quality improvements already functioning on the land. In most cases, these credits will not be granted unless requested in the proper fashion by the property owner per city ordinance. BEI can offer assistance in the process of gaining credit for existing water quality improvements not previously requested or design improvements such that the fee reduction will more than offset the cost of the construction project. If a government agency is interested in establishing a new stormwater utility within its jurisdiction, BEI is ready to assist in developing the ordinance, staffing, and budget to support a quality stormwater utility program.
Downtown Redevelopment Design Services – Many towns have an old downtown core that has fallen into disrepair and/or non-use by the public. Shoppers have been attracted away to the larger and more modern malls being provided in the outlying urban areas. The old storefronts are often boarded up or have uses that do not require or encourage pedestrian traffic and shopping. Such areas can actually become designated as slum and blight areas. This has a negative impact on the tax and service base, discourages reinvestment in private property, and also results in the flight of remaining residential communities to the urban areas. A downtown area is always in a mode of growth and prosperity or decline and ruin. A downtown core area will not remain in a neutral position very long. The Community itself must therefore reinvest in its downtown area just as developers reinvest in their commercial business malls. Proper and quality investments in the downtown area can lead to increased tax base for the community and therefore reduce the rate of increase of property taxes for residents and business owners. Proper guidance in this reinvestment process is critical to maximizing the return on the public’s investment. Through experience in the redevelopment of downtown Dunedin, Florida and assistance to other communities, BEI is experienced in the quality redevelopment of a downtown. Pictures of how Dunedin was transformed in a very short period of time and at a very low cost are shown below. Proper design includes the provision for community events, street vending, wide sidewalks, traffic calming, street furniture, lighting, location signs, and decorative landscaping. The idea is to make the downtown a public place of community identity and community pride. Pictures below show Dunedin in 1947, then again in 1987, and then again just a few years after redevelopment efforts were implemented. Redevelopment is an ongoing process and not a one-time event. Taking small steps are preferred to taking large steps in this process since corrective action can be taken at low cost based on the public use.
As can be seen by the photo above, in 1947 Downtown Dunedin was a destination for local residents to shop, get their haircut, and access other services. The parking was on one side of the street primarily since the road was not wide enough for angle parking on both sides of the street. There was no striping in the streets; however, the angle parking was used as the most attractive alternative for parking. There are also no parking meters in the downtown. In 2006, there are still no parking meters. In about 1915, there was a row of large oak trees down the middle of Oak Street (Now called Main Street). The men of the town promised the women they would not cut the trees. In the middle of the night, the men of the town showed up and cut down all the oak trees to construct this parking facility.
In about 1962, the idea of diverting traffic into the downtown and eliminating the angle parking was thought to be the right thing to do to improve business in the downtown. State Road 580 was constructed as an improved east/west two-lane facility. As can be seen above, the idea of bringing traffic through an area as a State Highway does not make it an area attractive to shoppers and pedestrians. In 1987, the downtown Dunedin area was in terrible condition with about 50% occupancy and very little business activity. Malls in surrounding areas had attracted much of the downtown business away. No planning or investment had been made in the downtown by the City of Dunedin since the trees were cut and the road originally paved back in 1915. The only road changes had been made by the State Department of Transportation as road widening and drainage improvements. In 1987, the City Commission expressed the desire to make improvements to the downtown and established a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Based on tax value increases in the core area, the money along with some County funds would be reinvested back into the downtown area. A CRA director was hired, however, the tax values actually decreased due the reclassification of certain structures to tax exempt status. The CRA floundered for several years due to lack of funding. In about 1992, Robert Brotherton met with the CRA director concerning some of his thoughts on how to begin the reconstruction of the downtown with funds within the budget of the Department of Public Works and Utilities. Staff within the Engineering Section were mobilized by Mr. Brotherton to produce plans, under his direction, to convert the downtown back to a pedestrian friendly shopping area with community identity. After gaining ownership of the road from the FDOT, the downtown was converted into its present form with internal Public Works staff. This work effort has gained acknowledgement and acclaim by Southern Living Magazine and redevelopment experts from around the United States.
As can be seen above, the downtown was converted back to its 1947 vintage but with wider sidewalks and extensive landscaping. The road was designed as a serpentine arrangement, which makes driving a car more than 15 mph a virtual impossibility. This facilitates pedestrian crossing of the road (parking area) at any point very easy and non-threatening. Key features include, bulb-outs at intersections, vertical curbs with tree planters in strategic locations, entrance signs with widths such that trucks cannot easily enter, fewer traffic signs with posts and the back of the signs painted black to reduce visual blight caused by signs, decorative street lights, wide paver sidewalks, decorative paver crosswalks, strategic parking lots with pavers and paver striping, underground stormwater retention facilities, decorative pedestrian walk areas between buildings, artist painted above-ground garbage dumpsters, and many other unique features. In addition to physical improvements made by the Public Works and Utility Department, the CRA worked with Mr. Brotherton to purchase land, trade parcels, and put out “Request for Proposals” to potential developers. Developers were selected to implement the City staff vision of downtown homes with shops in front of the homes. Development agreements were signed as part of the sale of the land to the developers. Recently, the town purchased a Church property and will develop this into a new City Hall and retail shop complex, following the initial principals set down in the original redevelopment efforts. Redevelopment of your downtown or select area is possible with some vision and assistance by BEI. If properly designed, redevelopment can be implemented at very minimal investment including the reallocation of some current resources. Gaining control of roads and land can be part of the key in implementing the vision and also make significant increases in the tax base and quality and function of the community.
Solid Waste Collection Services – Garbage is not hard to pick up but it can be quite difficult to put down. In areas with incineration facilities or extensive landfills with capacity anticipated for 30 or more years, the primary function of most private and public solid waste collection services becomes a matter of collecting and hauling the solid waste to the disposal location. Considerations for efficient collections include good budgets, application of the right equipment, emphasis on collection mechanisms that reduce injury to workers, and proper maintenance of the equipment. Any solid waste operation should be managed with a 5-Year Business Plan. This business plan can be updated on an annual basis, however, the changing technology of equipment, computers, and GPS systems mandates that decisions made on purchases and daily operations be made with a vision forward of at least 5 years. Government controlled operations of solid waste collection services have many advantages over private collection services including financial advantages. First, an efficient operation can bring in revenues in excess of operating costs that can be transferred to the General Fund as part of the shared administrative expense, thus reducing taxes or reducing tax increases. Governments can borrow money at very attractive rates for trucks and large equipment items under laws that allow financing advantages over private companies. These programs are called leasing programs, but in effect, they are lending programs set in place for government operations use. With the advent of computer and GPS technology, many options now exist for the driver of one truck to communicate with another truck on special pick-up needs and in-field billing for special services. Trucks can be easily monitored for location at all times and improve response to emergencies and storm damage. Semi-automated and fully automated equipment can greatly reduce injury to employees and increase the speed of service. BEI is experienced in the development of 5-Year Business Plans, budgets, management of operations, fleet services, and public relations for Solid Waste Services that are so important in the maintenance of a quality community.
Business Plans and Capital Improvement Plans – Government operations are unique and offer many advantages for service delivery over private companies contracted to provide public services. However, the government operations should be managed like a private business in many respects. One such aspect is the process of developing and using 5-year business plans. These short-term business-planning tools should be implemented after the larger view of Strategic Planning is accomplished.
All plans will have an element of larger purchases that are planned over time including land, buildings, street and drainage repairs, and larger equipment items. These purchase plans are called “Capital Improvement Plans” (CIP). Government Capital Improvements Plans are especially important in government operations since cooperative funding from other agencies needs to be timed to the availability of funding from the local government agency. Otherwise, significant loss of grants may result. Funding in local governments also needs to anticipate the revenues from the various sources since some projects may draw from more than one funding source. Capital Improvement Plans should always be associated with a Strategic Plan, Master Plan, or a 5-year Business Plan. CIP plans are typically for five (5) years but can also be projected out to 20 years with stable funding sources. This is important to consider since some long term funding can be used as a revenue stream to pay off loans for purchases needed before full funding is available. A CIP is important since a good CIP can be used as a communication tool from City Management to the elected Board. Such plans should not be just a table of numbers, but also should be accompanied by a report detailing what will be done with the funds and why the funding should be done in a particular year. A good plan should address the previous direction from the Board as to priorities and be presented in such a way as to be easily understood and also be available for public information.
Strategic Planning Services – Strategic Planning has been used by private industry for many years. The process typically starts with a Mission Statement and list of Core Values of the organization. Then with a vision of 10 to 20 years into the future, the business would decide where they wanted to be at the end of that planning horizon. Then, a group of goals and objectives were developed to insure that the business would accomplish the vision. These goals and objectives are given times to accomplish and budgets are set to insure proper funding of the goals and objectives. A key part of this process is the development of the vision. In the corporate world, this may be a little easier to develop than in government, since the purpose in the company is generally more narrowly focused. In government, there are many services that compete for funding from limited sources. Dealing with public funds is often viewed somewhat differently than dealing with stockholder funds. However, cities have found that the Strategic Planning process can lead to getting things done that were not possible before. This is because the process itself forces input from the stakeholders including the elected officials, key staff, and citizens. When all ideas are on the table, it is easier to prioritize and differentiate between needs and wants. Sharing of ideas during the process can lead to consensus building. A Strategic Plan is a living document and not one to be completed and placed on the shelf. It is in constant adjustment on an annual basis with accountability assigned for accomplishing set goals and objectives. With a view to the future, projects and programs can flow through the political change process with minimal disruption. Public funds can then be spent wisely and public services provided in a very efficient manner. BEI is prepared to assist you in developing a Strategic Plan for your community.
Value Engineering Services – Good engineering design practice requires that any design calculation or application of technology to solve a problem should be checked by another engineer or group of engineers. Quality Control is practiced by most industries including computer program development, hospital quality control processes, and other similar processes too numerous to mention. In the engineering business, designs can become standardized within companies. This is common practice for many reasons. One is the economy of the design process and another is the desire to duplicate a process that has worked well in the past. The problem of quality control within a single engineering design firm is that new technology or better ways of doing things often suffer from the practice of always doing things the same way. It is therefore to the owner’s great advantage to insist on the review of an engineer’s design work by a second or third engineering company. This process of reviewing work of one engineer by another company is the process of “Value Engineering”. This process typically takes place between the 40% and 60% design stage. Drawings and technical specifications are adequately drawn at that stage to allow the understanding of intent by another engineer with similar qualifications. This process can bring better ideas to the table in time to prevent the need to totally redesign the process. The original design engineer always has the option to ignore any suggestions by the outside engineer; however, most engineers are very willing to accept good ideas to make a better product for the owner. This process is normally not an expensive process and may only add about 1% or less to the overall project cost. It is the opinion of BEI that this process always leads to the advantage of the owner that greatly exceeds the fees paid. In some cases, very critical errors can be found eliminating the potential for litigation and reduce the capital and annual operating expense of the project. BEI can assist you and your engineer in this process to insure a quality project.
Financing Plans and Economic Analysis of Alternative Plans - Almost every plan developed by an engineer and owner will require funding to construct or otherwise implement the project. In some cases, funding is available as cash from the owner. Even with the availability of cash, it may be prudent to invest that cash in other things and borrow for the subject project based on current interest rates and lending programs that are available. Government agencies have several options in addition to those finance options available to industry. These include government leasing programs, Florida League of Cities Bond Program, special rates from banks depending on the guarantee of revenue to repay the loan, matching grant programs, low interest loan programs from the State Revolving Loan Programs, and internal loans from within the City budget. Outstanding loans may have already had existing revenue steams dedicated for that loan repayment, and thus reducing the ability to use the same revenue stream to guarantee another loan. Many cities have not utilized revenue streams made available to them by State law including the ability to charge a utility tax on power and other utility customers within their city limits. Some state and federal programs have loan programs that are available at very low interest rates depending on the type of project involved. All such funding options need to be investigated when funding if a rather large capital improvement is required. BEI has experience and has assisted cities in the acquisition of all of the various funding options mentioned above. It is very important to have an engineer on your team that has experience in dealing with government finance.
Before financing is considered, the economic analysis of alternative designs should be considered to insure the total cost, including both the initial cost and annual maintenance cost, has been considered on various alternatives. It is often true the a project with a slightly increased capital cost will result in an overall total cost reduction when considering annual maintenance. Annual maintenance considerations include, life expectancy of the key elements of the project, power efficiency of the selected equipment options, normal expected replacement parts cost, maintenance labor cost, overall life cycle cost of sub-components, chemical consumption costs, safety cost considerations of various options, and total manpower requirements of various options. All costs should be considered on an annual cost or present worth cost basis for proper comparison of the total cost and not just the first cost of the equipment. It is also very important to consider the manufacturer service availability and warranty provisions. If your staff or company needs assistance in these evaluations, BEI is available to assist you in obtaining the needed information and performing the proper analysis.
Engineering Reports for Bond Issues - Most large bond issues require the owner to provide an engineering report through a licensed engineer to properly describe the project, project the life of the expected project (which should be more than the length of the bond issue), and report on the purpose of the project, and describe revenue streams if this will be a Revenue Bond, and discuss the overall budget for the program including this debt service as a portion of the overall budget requirements of the overall program. Different Bonds will require different types of reports and different issues to be addressed. BEI has completed several of these Engineering Reports for Bond Issues and is available to work with your agency to complete the needed report for the Bonds. These reports are normally due as part of the Bond closing process.
Public Works Academy Training – Over the history of Public Services including roads maintenance, stormwater drainage, water, wastewater, parks and grounds maintenance, and traffic control, employees were hired into the organization and training took place on the job. This training was seldom supervised or monitored in any way. In the early 1900’s, apprenticeship programs began to be formalized and certain standards had to be met by employees to maintain their employment and to gain advancement in their industrial job. Apprenticeship was slow to catch on in government operations for many reasons. Even today, government apprenticeship programs are not very common practice. Much training even today results from the old method of what you may learn on the job from your supervisor. Beginning in the 1980s, technology became a larger part of government operations and equipment became much more complicated. Budgets also became very tight due to the need to improve services within limited budgets. Training of employees always seemed to slip to the back of the budget line. With the need to work smarter with fewer employees, public works leaders in Pinellas County, Florida developed the first Public Works Academy in the world. The idea was to provide training to the employees of the 26 government agencies in Pinellas County who are providing essential public services. The goal was to provide high quality training at a very low cost. A non-profit corporation was formed to provide this training. The Board of Trustees enlisted the local public school program for assistance in providing training facilities and staff through use of training program curriculum development by the Board members and significant training provided by the key supervisors of the various government agencies. The school receives funds from the State of Florida through FTE hours documented and high placement rates of program graduates. The school system agreed and essentially allowed the government agencies to move into their facilities and run the training program. Any training that cannot be provided through the school facility is provided by the Board of Trustees under their corporation. Significant training programs have been developed in all areas of typical public works operations including a Cadet entry level training program and advanced certificate programs. All training is articulated to the St.Petersburg College for up to 26 hours of credit toward an AS Degree in Industrial Management. BEI President, Robert H. Brotherton was one of the founders of this training program and served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for 8 years. He has served as an instructor in the program. BEI is ready to assist you in developing a training program for your operations. With the new on-line programs becoming available, much of the training happening now on the campus in St. Petersburg, Florida will be available in your office anywhere in the world. Through certification by the Board of Trustees of the Academy, your employees can not only gain the training needed in their job, but also work toward the AS Degree in Industrial Management, thus becoming qualified to become a supervisor in your organization.
In-house Evaluations of Staff and Efficiency of Services Delivered – Most operations of any kind will get very complacent over time due to various reasons. This may be due to poor supervision, poor budgets, poor training, unqualified staff, and lack of motivation. Sometimes the goals of the organization are not well defined or well communicated to the staff from upper management. Problems of low efficiency and poor service delivery can therefore come from the top, bottom, or middle of any organization. Often it is a combination of problems and not one single issue. Employees can become poor performers due to lack of promotion opportunities and low general morale. Fixing poor service delivery problems seldom comes from within the organization with the problem. This may be because upper management does not have confidence in recommendations coming from lower staff and middle management and fails to act for various reasons including the workloads of upper management. Bringing in an outside experienced manager to evaluate the operations often results in a report that can be used by the organization to make major improvements and give upper management the support they need to make decisions. If your organization is suffering from poor service, poor budgets, and poor morale, perhaps BEI can assist you and all members of the organization at all levels to provide a non-biased review of the process and assist in making the changes necessary to improve service delivery. When the government agency fails to provide high quality service, private industry is quick to step in and show how they can do a better job.
Grant and Permit Services - Have you failed to get a grant that you feel qualified for simply because of the lack of understanding of how the process works or lack of ability to prepare a quality grant request? BEI is ready to help you obtain the grants that you deserve and compete with others in the grant process.
Utility, Road, and Drainage Construction Inspection Services - The quality of any construction project is directly related to the quality of the inspection of the construction. Change orders can be reduced or eliminated by resolving issues before they become problems. It is not wise to spend lots of money on good design and then under fund the inspection process. Let us know how we can help. BEI works with other engineering firms in providing you services and sharing our workload with quality people based on your specific needs.
|©2005 Brotherton Engineering,Inc. All Rights Reserved.|