February 2016, Vol. 71 No. 2

Editor's Log

Editor's Log: The Right Candidate

Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief, Underground Construction Magazineby Robert Carpenter Editor-in-Chief

Waving a wallet in front of a desperate, starving man without any intent of opening up that wallet and sharing money is a very cruel action.

But as the United States presidential primaries kick into full swing, candidates are displaying a similar tendency. Some aspiring presidential hopefuls on both sides of the political spectrum have used the increased funding carrot in describing their vision for America. But without a plan, it is strictly rhetoric and probably not sustainable.

We need a candidate with serious ideas, serious proposals and sincere intentions for attacking the underground piping infrastructure crisis in America. The days of “out of sight, out of mind” are over. Recurring health issues, mega-sinkholes, massive quantities of leaks, etc. are increasingly no longer within tolerance levels for the public and therefore politicians.

Of course, I’d still rather have a candidate, including Senate and Congressional candidates, at least raise the issue – even without a firm commitment. That means infrastructure funding is at least on the mind of candidates and hopefully, their final agenda. Better that than to not even bring up the subject and continue to ignore the crisis.

Also, I’m still waiting to hear a plug for a gigabyte standard internet services in all areas of the country. Such a concept should not only be raised by candidates, but it should be encouraged and supported by all. Time and time again, a strong local fiber network has shown its earning power for small business. Granted, small towns with fiber systems won’t typically see major business moving into town just for the area’s fiber capabilities, but you will see a start-up of many small, local business that are now made possible by fast internet.

Other benefits blossom from a gigabyte network including medical applications. The problem was made all too clear to me last fall when my wife was having in-depth scans done at a specialty clinic. Records from another type of scan were needed to benchmark against but we had not been supplied with a CD of those records. Because there was an element of urgency involved, I had to drive 25 miles across town in the infamous Houston traffic to retrieve a CD. All this is due to the fact that there was not a fiber infrastructure capable of handling the amount of data that needed to be transmitted. I had a long conversation with doctors who said they run into this issue daily – and sometimes life-threatening situations are put on hold pending delivery of records.

If the U.S. wants to stay abreast of other countries around the world in terms of fast internet, an aggressive and improved roll-out is required. We must meet the challenge of a new standard of internet commerce, encouraging and embracing both the economic realities and opportunities that a Gigabit Nation would bring forth. And that’s just in the short term. Changing times demand we remain not only current, but ahead of the game as well.

Municipal money

In this issue is our 19th annual Municipal Sewer/Water Infrastructure Survey which is always extremely interesting for those trying to determine market trends, needs and concerns. In this year’s survey, funding, while always a leading concern, emerged as the overwhelming issue posed by municipal personnel. As they begin to dig out from years of reduced budgets brought on by the Great Recession, city officials are realizing just how far behind systems have fallen. They are ready to tackle the crisis providing funds are made available.

One of the striking factors was the plight of smaller cities. Projections from those respondents show they need $53 billion to meet immediate needs. Work in small towns often goes overlooked and needs ignored – especially rehabilitation opportunities. For example, towns may have a perfect application for a cured-in-place pipe rehabilitation project, but a single 1,000 foot run, no matter how routine, just doesn’t offer enough profit margins for a contractor to load up crews, drive 100 miles or more, pay for expenses, etc. Even if higher rates are charged, these smaller cities generally can’t afford the rate. The result is that budgets are eaten up quickly with dig and replace projects that can be handled by local contractors or plumbers who are sometimes out of their element.

Of course, money needs of medium to large cities is staggering, approaching $220 billion that needs to be spent right now. Sadly, that won’t happen and those in the U.S. underground infrastructure industry continue to work from behind.

Related Articles

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}