Municipalities, Contractors Agree Public Communication Is Key to Project Success

Informing residents and visitors of route changes, water stoppages and more goes a long way toward celebrating a successful job

A city engineer, heavy equipment, foremen, operators. They’re all important factors on any job that a water or sewer utility might undertake in a community, but the most important tool out there is something much simpler.

“The part that I think is critical for the success of any project is customer service,” says Shaun McKaigue, president and CEO of FER-PAL Infrastructure. “Very much I believe in no-dig we spend a lot of time, talking about mechanical properties and nerding out on engineering stuff, but what isn’t stressed a lot — or as much as it should be perhaps — is the huge advantage we can bring to the community with good customer service.”

FER-PAL worked with the village of Lombard, Illinois, on the relining of its water main using CIPP. The route of the work would take contractors under one of the busiest roadways in Illinois. The route would also impact hundreds of businesses — many of them small.

“For a lot of people who are decision makers at the village and city level, many might decide a job’s success on how many phone calls did they receive,” McKaigue says. “If they didn’t receive very many, it was a successful job.”

No-Dig Show 2019

While at the 2019 NASTT No-Dig Show in Chicago, McKaigue highlighted the job to a room full of municipal officials and contractors. He also went through the many things the contractor and the village both did to ease any concerns from businesses along the route.

“Here are some of the tools that were in play,” McKaigue says. “An active website that was directed to those customers. Lombard also had someone with boots on the ground, on the site. That person was instrumental in making sure those businesses were informed of what was going on, and it made a big difference.”

Keeping lines of communication was a common theme throughout the show.

“It’s one of the most critical things you can do if you are a municipality or a utility planning a project,” says Brian Martinez with the wastewater collections department in Pacifica, California. “You need to start with informing the public, whether it be homeowners or businesses, of what is going to be taking place and why it’s an important project.”

The San Pedro Point Neighborhood Sewer Rehabilitation Project in Pacifica replaced 16,000 feet of sewer main using pipe bursting as part of the city’s multi-year capital improvement plan to successfully comply with a cease and desist order from the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“We were having to go through residential neighborhoods and backyards to replace this sewer main,” says Jeffrey Tarantino, of Freyer & Laureta, the engineering firm working on the project with the city. “Communication was a must.”

Many municipalities and engineers shared the same tips when it came to communication: having dedicated websites, having a city official on the job site talking to the neighborhood, and planning city meetings for residents to ask questions and get information.

“If you keep that customer involved and informed, basically it creates a much better experience for everyone,” says McKaigue.


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