The EPA estimates that the US will spend $655 billion to meet our water needs in the next 20 years. More than ever, gaining public buy-in for infrastructure projects is a major concern of water-utility managers. Municipal water needs are always growing, but the public remains skeptical about necessary increases in water rates. How can your water utility secure your community’s support to properly fund upcoming infrastructure projects?
To convince the public to support funding your infrastructure projects, we suggest you begin by investigating your community’s priorities. For example, a customer survey might reveal your community’s concerns and allow you to communicate those views to elected decision makers.
In a recent survey conducted in the City of Columbus, WI, we found that roughly 80% of the community wanted road improvements and were willing to pay higher taxes to fund those improvements. The survey made “selling” these projects much easier, and it also paved the way for buy-in of other less visible projects.
Public attention on visible infrastructure like roads can encourage community support for improving buried and invisible infrastructure. Replacing water and sewer mains during street reconstruction produces tangible benefits for the public and cost savings for you to communicate to residents.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Communicating the benefits of upgraded infrastructure early, often, and consistently will lead to an increase in support from the members of your community. At R/M, we conduct town hall meetings with our clients to help educate the public about upcoming projects. We recommend that our clients schedule a minimum of three meetings beginning more than a year before the start of construction. Through these meetings, the community learns the value of your construction projects and the potential cost of inaction.
We also encourage your department to discuss your potential projects early on with key stakeholders, like large businesses in your community. Share the project’s importance and help stakeholders learn the ways in which they will be impacted by construction.
Finally, we encourage your team to communicate with your municipality’s elected officials and arm them with the necessary information to answer potential questions from their constituents.
If you’d like more information on how your municipality can secure the support of your community for new and improved infrastructure projects, please contact an expert at R/M today.
About the Author
Edward F. Maxwell
Edward joined Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. (R/M) in 2017 as a financial analyst. Before joining R/M, he worked in private-sector finance, analyzing capital investments, forecasting expenses and revenue, and crafting department budgets. At R/M, he creates financial solutions for all clients, from municipalities to corporate businesses.