WarrenJuly 20, 2012
SEMCOG talks collaboration in Warren
By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer
WARREN — Discussions about managing assets, identifying best practices and getting the most out of infrastructure investments were expected to take center stage at a collaboration summit in Warren this week.
The July 24 session for communities in Macomb and St. Clair counties, planned to he held in Warren and hosted by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, was scheduled as part of an ongoing series of programs held across the region.
Last year, SEMCOG piloted a series of similar summits to determine the level of interest in the topic of collaboration and to explore ways for service providers to communicate.
SEMCOG Manager of Environmental Programs Chuck Hersey said the summits, still works in progress, are used as networking opportunities between entities — utility companies and units of government, for example — and leaders tasked with managing assets in a world where resources are increasingly limited.
“This is a learning exercise. As people see this, they get ideas,” Hersey said. “Sometimes, they like them; sometimes, they don’t. It’s a look at what others are doing.”
In Warren, officials with Warren Mayor Jim Fouts’ administration will address their asset management plans as they pertain to the city’s recently approved residential streets millage.
“People have been complaining about the condition of our local roads forever,” said Jim Hartley, CityStat coordinator and an administrative supervisor in Warren’s Department of Public Service. “We were able to use technology to map all 415 miles of roads we have in the city, use a laptop data collector and rate the streets by condition.
“I’m involved because the mayor has made data-driven analysis a primary factor in decision making,” Hartley said.
Beyond managing its own assets, Hartley said the city is obviously interested in finding strategies for working hand in hand with other communities and entities, including utility providers, on various improvement projects.
He agreed with SEMCOG’s outlook that the best way to do that is to get a discussion going.
Where that discussion eventually leads, Hersey said, remained to be seen.
But he said the sakes are high. As revenues plummet, more communities are struggling to balance their books.
Add to that infrastructure challenges brought about by a shift in philosophy that champions conservation over consumption.
As it relates to gasoline, it means less in tax dollars to fix roads in Michigan.
With water, it means lower sales and decreased revenue to meet fixed operational costs.
“We’re headed for a train wreck,” Hersey said. “And part of the reason for that is, we’re basically trying to fund our infrastructure based on consumptive models. Society now values conservation.
“Eventually we’ve got to get to facing that issue, but we’re thinking rather than jumping to it at first, we need to work more on the efficiency side.”
SEMCOG’s Macomb-St. Clair Infrastructure Collaboration Summit was scheduled to be held at Warren’s City Hall from 8 a.m. to noon July 24, after the Warren Weekly went to press.
The full agenda was set to include presentations by Consumers Energy, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the city of Warren.
Topics were scheduled to include infrastructure addressed in each presenter’s asset management program, how the programs were funded and what challenges they faced.
Time was also scheduled for open discussions about asset management and collaboration, and a breakout session for networking and project sharing opportunities.
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