May Newsline: FCC Submits Broadband Changes, Aurora Plans Sewer Improvements, Sustainability New Goal For Public Works

FCC submits broadband changes to Congress
Aurora planning 20-year sewer improvement
Sustainability: a new vision for public works
Google FTTH initiative hopes to shape U.S. broadband policy
Michigan communities still without cable competition
More stimulus-funded work to come in 2010
Revised standard on rollover protection needed
Two arrested in heavy equipment rental scam
Shell Pipeline Company receives CGA award
Alaska gas pipeline could cost billions
I&I spurs wastewater expansion
Alaska construction jobs on rise, other states bleak

FCC submits broadband changes to Congress
The Federal Communications Commission submitted its National Broadband plan to Congress in March. The plan calls for at least 100 million U.S. homes to have access to affordable broadband at 100-megabits-per-second (mbps) download speeds over the next decade. The FCC also wants at least 4 mbps in actual download speeds to be universally available, and 500-megahertz worth of free broadcast spectrum to be used for mobile broadband.

Last fall, Congress directed the FCC to develop a plan to make affordable broadband nationwide and at faster speeds, and make it available to the one-third of the country still without broadband access today.

As part of paying to reach such goals, the FCC suggests redirecting the “Universal Service Fund” fees that phone users currently pay to subsidize telecom service in high-cost rural areas.

The broadband plan proposes making those fees — $4.6 billion a year — part of a $15 billion annual “Connect America Fund” promoting expanded broadband.

Aurora planning 20-year sewer improvement
Over the next 20 years, Aurora, IL, plans to spend an estimated $151 million to continue improvement of its combined sewer systems.

Aurora’s sewer system dates back to the late 1800s, and at the time, it was common practice to install one large pipe for sewage and rainwater. But during heavy rain (or snowmelt), those pipes can fill up, backing up into basements, and into the Fox River and Indian Creek.

The city has spent more than $200 million to address these issues, mainly by de-combining the sewers. The work involves removing the single pipe and replacing it with two, one for sewage and one for stormwater. The city council approved the first de-combination plan in 1994.

Since then, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working with Aurora (and about 770 other communities across the nation) to bring them in line with federal clean water laws.

The Illinois EPA required the city to submit a long-term control plan for its sewer system by April 1, according to Public Works Director Ken Schroth. The plan involves continuing to build larger sewer pipes, creating more wet weather storage, and building additional treatment facilities. The proposal aims at eliminating and treating about 94 percent of the combined sewer overflow in any given year.

Sustainability: a new vision for public works
To support a new sustainability vision in public works management, the American Public Works Association (APWA) has recently created the new APWA Center for Sustainability. The Center was designed to enable APWA to become the driving force for sustainability in public works, and to support the development of the next generation of public works leaders with strong sustainability credentials and commitment. In the 21st century, the public works professional must think beyond the current generation, work closely with a more engaged and better informed public, and take an integrated systems approach to addressing livability and community issues.

Sustainability is a cross-cutting concept that touches all aspects of public works and infrastructure. “The coming decades will require new skills and tools to solve complex problems,” said APWA Director of Sustainability Julia Anastasio. “Sustainability in public works means that new solutions can be developed in environmentally and socially responsible ways, while delivering services and infrastructure citizens expect with the best economic choice in the long term.”

APWA is also currently creating professional development and educational activities that focus on the Center’s public works sustainability principles so that public works professionals have the tools and resources they need to advance sustainable change in their communities. A full realm of sustainability ideas and innovations will be explored more fully at the APWA Sustainability in Public Works Conference in Minneapolis, MN from June 8-10. “The conference is designed to explore and promote the evolving role of public works professionals in the creation and management of sustainable communities,” Anastasio said.

Google FTTH initiative hopes to shape U.S. broadband policy
Google’s announcement that it is launching a fiber to the home (FTTH) trial should not be viewed as a move by the Internet giant to become a major transport player in the U.S. ultra-high-speed broadband market – at least not for the foreseeable future.

According to Rupert Wood, principal analyst at consultancy and research firm Analysys Mason, the move shows that Google is determined to influence U.S. telecoms’ policy by showing how user and service provider behavior could change under radically different conditions from those that currently prevail in the United States, and at the same time to understand how it can monetize those changes.

“Google has dabbled in access before. Its municipal Wi-Fi in Mountain View, CA, has been a flop, and its joint bid with EarthLink to provide a city-wide wireless access network in San Francisco didn’t work out. The location of these FTTH networks (serving between 50,000 and 500,000 households, according to Google) has not yet been decided. We expect Google will want to experiment with a variety of predominantly urban areas,” explains Wood.

In two key respects, Google will be offering something new with these trials.

  • 1Gbit/s symmetrical access is a step change from what telcos and cable companies currently offer. It is 20 times faster than Verizon’s FiOS service, for example.
  • It will provide a fully open access model to service providers, the opposite of the model used by U.S. cable and major telcos.

Michigan communities still without cable competition
Michigan’s experiment with deregulation of cable services has failed, according to the Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (MI-NATOA), whose member communities previously oversaw local franchise agreements with cable providers.

Cable and phone companies promised that the elimination of cable regulation would increase cable competition and create thousands of jobs in Michigan. Many observers hoped that more competition would reduce prices and improve customer service.

“Communities watched in 2006 as AT&T made promises to the Michigan legislature about lower prices and more competition,” recalls Caren Collins, president of MI-NATOA.

“Three years later, there is little more than disappointment. Cable prices continue to outpace inflation, and service remains poor. Eighty-four percent of communities who recently responded to a Michigan Public Service Commission survey said that they had seen no increase in competition at all, and 3 percent of the responding communities actually reported a decrease in competition. The experiment with cable deregulation is failing by every measure, because widespread, robust competition has not developed and municipalities are powerless.”

More stimulus-funded work to come in 2010
Stimulus funded infrastructure projects are saving and creating more direct construction jobs than initially estimated, according to a new analysis of federal data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. The analysis also found that more contractors are likely to perform stimulus-funded work this year as work starts on many of the non-transportation projects funded in the initial package.

“The stimulus is one of the very few bright spots the construction industry experienced last year and is one of the few hopes keeping it going in 2010,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The stimulus is saving construction jobs, driving demand for new equipment and delivering better and more efficient infrastructure for our economy.”

Simonson noted that new federal reports show the $20.6 billion dollars worth of stimulus highway projects initiated over the past twelve months have saved or created nearly 280,000 direct construction jobs. That amounts to 15,000 jobs per billion dollars invested, well above pre-stimulus estimates that every billion invested in infrastructure projects would create 9,700 direct construction jobs.

The economist added that heavy and civil engineering construction employment was stable in January even as total construction employment declined by 75,000.
Meanwhile, highway and road construction was one of the only areas to see an increase in spending last year even as total construction spending fell by $100 billion. The two figures are a clear sign the stimulus is having a significant, and stabilizing, impact on the industry, Simonson noted.

Revised standard on rollover protection needed
In December, an Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should revise its standard on rollover protection to allow for new technology and equipment to be covered by the standard.

Specifically, the work group will call for revision of 29 C.F.R. 1926.602 to cover skid steer loaders, compact excavators and the Challenger. The rollover protection standard, as written, applies to earthmoving equipment, including scrapers, loaders, tracked or wheeled tractors, bulldozers, off-highway trucks, graders agricultural and industrial tractors, and similar equipments.

Between 1992 and 2007, there were 50 construction tractor deaths and 48 of these were overturns where in at least five cases the driver was not wearing a seat belt.

Two arrested in heavy equipment rental scam
Authorities have arrested two men wanted in a heavy equipment rental scam.
Adam Arena, of St. Petersburg, FL, and Daniel Hensley, of Bradenton, FL, are suspected of scamming businesses by renting heavy equipment, such as backhoes, and then pawning the equipment. The pair would often rent equipment in one county and then pawn it in another.

Arena, who is currently in jail in Hillsborough County, has pawned many pieces of construction equipment throughout Florida, according to authorities.
Arena was arrested in Manatee County in June 2009 on charges of grand theft and stolen property for renting a backhoe from Bradenton Rent-All and then taking the machine, valued at $15,000, and pawning it for $4,000 at Pawn Pros II in Ruskin.

Arena has pleaded guilty to four counts of dealing in stolen property and four counts of providing false information on a pawn broker form stemming from 2009 incidents. His sentencing was scheduled for March 12 in Hillsborough, according to court records. He was arrested Feb. 17 by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on two new counts of dealing in stolen property and two counts of providing false information on a pawn broker form.

According to detectives, Arena was out of jail between Sept. 28, 2009, and Feb. 3. They believe he may have committed other crimes with Hensley.

Hensley was convicted of a charge of dealing in stolen property in Manatee in July, according to court records. He was sentenced to 100 days in jail. He is charged with grand theft.

Manatee detectives are asking any rental store employees who think they may have been targeted by the duo to call (941)747-3011, ext. 2506.

Shell Pipeline Company receives CGA award
The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the nation’s leading organization focused on protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, awarded Shell Pipeline Company LP the prestigious President’s Award during their annual meeting. The first annual President’s Award is presented to an individual, company or association who has demonstrated leadership and innovation in underground damage prevention.

“Shell Pipeline Company epitomizes the essences of the CGA President’s Award through its leadership and innovation in efforts made to protect people, property and the environment,” stated Bob Kipp, CGA President. Shell Pipeline Company President Mary Mujica, and other Shell staff were on hand at the meeting to receive the award.

“Last year was a year of significant progress for the Common Ground Alliance and Shell is honored to be recognized for its role with the 2009 President’s Award,” said Mujica. “CGA is the damage prevention voice for its members. Shell is committed to continuing to support CGA and to share best practices, promote public safety and protect the environment. This award is a testament to the hard work of Shell Pipeline employees.”

In addition to Shell being recognized with the corporate award, C. Gweneyette Broussard, senior legislative and regulatory representative for Shell, was the recipient of the CGA Ron Olitsky/Member of the Year Award. Broussard has been a CGA Member since the organization’s fruition and has worked tirelessly to drive positive change in the industry and educate the public about pipeline safety. She is actively involved in CGA’s efforts to identify best practices and she was instrumental in organizing the 811 public education campaign associated with the 811 deck-lid placement at the Homestead Race in Miami.

Alaska gas pipeline could cost billions
According to an Associated Press article, companies working with the state of Alaska to develop a major natural gas pipeline estimated that the project would cost $20 billion to $40 billion, depending on the route. The estimate comes in at least one billion dollars more than originally thought, but the project officials believe the pipeline is economically viable and could start carrying gas in about 2020. TransCanada Corp., base in Calgary, Alberta, is working with Irving, TX-based ExxonMobil Corp. to advance the project. The state of Alaska has promised to reimburse up to $500 million of eligible costs.

I&I spurs wastewater expansion
For the past decade, the city of Pipestone, MN, has spent nearly $7.5 million to repair and replace faulty underground plumbing, all in an attempt to stop the flow of excess water getting into the wastewater treatment system through inflow and infiltration (I&I).

Inflow is defined as water entering the wastewater collection system from surface sources after rainfall or snowmelt through manhole lids, cross-connections between sanitary and storm sewers, roof drains and service cleanouts. Whereas water entering the system from the ground through leaks in defective pipes, sewer line joint connections, defective manholes and sump pumps connected to the sanitary sewer is infiltration.

Pipestone’s Wastewater Treatment Facility experiences hydraulic overloading during significant precipitation/snowmelt contributed by I&I.

According to guidelines for controlling I&I, it should not exceed 200 gdp (gallons per day) per inch-diameter mile. For Minnesota, the requirement is 100 gpd per inch diameter mile.

Clearly, the city of Pipestone is in need of more pipe repair due to a severe I&I problem. The average I&I between 1995 and 2000 was 972 gpd per inch-diameter mile; for the period between 2000 and 2008, the average was 856 gpd per inch-diameter mile, with further reductions recorded for 2009.

Alaska construction jobs on rise, other states bleak
Construction employment in 49 states and the District of Columbia declined between February 2009 and February 2010 according to a new analysis of federal employment data released by the Associated General Contractors of America. As construction job losses extend into their third year, the new data highlights the need to expand the Build America Bond program, trade group officials noted.

The bonds, which were first made available as part of the stimulus, have already been used to provide over $70 billion to finance 834 different infrastructure projects.
“In terms of boosting employment, supporting the economy and repairing our aging infrastructure, infrastructure bonds are about as low hanging fruit as you get,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Expanding these programs won’t fix all our problems, but it will give workers new opportunities and our businesses a competitive edge.”

The report shows that Alaska was the only state to see an increase in construction employment (0.6 percent, 100 jobs) between February 2009 and February 2010. Nevada (27.8 percent, 26,400 jobs); D.C. (25 percent, 3,200 jobs); Missouri (21.8 percent, 27,600 jobs); Colorado (20.9 percent, 30,300 jobs); and Arizona (20.9 percent, 30,600 jobs) experienced the largest percentage declines in construction employment for the year. California (119,900 jobs, 17.7 percent) experienced the largest decline in the number of construction employment.

Meanwhile, the states adding the highest percentage of construction jobs over the past month were New Hampshire (5.5 percent, 1,200 jobs); Maine (4.5 percent, 1,000 jobs); Wisconsin (3.0 percent, 2,800 jobs); Louisiana (1.6 percent, 2,000 jobs) and Mississippi (1.3 percent, 600 jobs).
http://www.undergroundconstructionmagazine.com/may-newsline-fcc-submits-broadband-changes-aurora-plans-sewer-improvements-sustainability-new-goal-p

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