Public-Private Partnerships Are the Key to Emergency Response

An emergency relining project in Albuquerque, New Mexico, highlights the importance of teaming up with local contractors

Public-Private Partnerships Are the Key to Emergency Response

David Laughlin, principal engineer with the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, looks over a job site near Albuquerque. (Photo by Roberto Rosales)

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David Laughlin, principal engineer of Albuquerque-Bernalillo County (New Mexico) Water Authority, knows the ins and outs of public-private partnerships. After all, he used to be a local engineering consultant.

Recently, an emergency relining project of a 60-inch interceptor line in an old part of Albuquerque brought out the best in the relationships he’s cultivated with local contractors.

“One of the really encouraging things about this project, why it was so successful, is because there was a lot of cooperation between water authority personnel including myself and our inspectors as well as with the engineer and contractor on the project,” he says. “It was a real collaborative process. We all were able to come together and sit at a table and hash things out.”

The authority has two local emergency teams on call — AUI Inc. and TLC Plumbing and Utility. In an emergency — and the dramatic failure of the Barelas-Marquez segment of the Valley interceptor pipeline definitely qualified as an emergency — one or the other of the contractors is called.

The nature of the work doesn’t allow time for a normal bidding process. The two contractors are on call in six-month rotations, and when the interceptor line failed in August 2016, AUI was called. “We use the called contractor for any initial work to stabilize a situation and may end up giving the contractor an entire project.”

AUI ultimately was awarded the job. Laughlin is very satisfied with the results. “Our contractors are local and have a lot of experience doing this kind of work. On this project, AUI came up with some pretty slick techniques for dealing with groundwater. Contractors always amaze me. They come up with unique ways of doing something to save time and money. All credit for success of the project goes to the contractors.”

Laughlin says both companies are capable. Had TLC’s number come up on the interceptor relining job, he would have expected the same good results. “Three months before this interceptor break occurred, about a half mile up on the same pipe, just a little farther upstream, we had TLC work on a segment. They did a bang-up job.”


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