March 16, 2015 (Council Chambers, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613)
I&I (the pain, the solution), healthy rec snacks, trails and better transportation.
-Committee of the Whole (6:15pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-
In Committee, we (1) cover a proposed policy on Inflow and Infiltration ("I&I"); and (2) review 'Bills and Payroll'. I offer a few words on I&I below.
The EPA has taken to more strict interpretation and enforcement of regulations relating to sanitary sewer overflows ("SSO"). In Cedar Falls, the rare SSO occurs during high rainfall events. Inflow is a result of intentional connections (yet illegal) such as sumps or footing drains. Infiltration occurs due to deficient infrastructure such as seepage through cracked sewer lines. An SSO occurs when the sanity sewer system is overwhelmed at the treatment plant or other system bottleneck. At times, flow is discharged into the river (highly diluted) or worse, sanitary back-ups occur in private homes and businesses.
The city is on notice from the EPA, and in response, we are taking proactive steps to avoid direct EPA management and the rigidity of their mandated approach. By taking 'voluntary' action, the city demonstrates its commitment to SSO reduction, thereby avoiding much more precarious oversight by the EPA.
On infiltration, the city is doing its part making multi-million dollar investments in new lift stations (2 lift stations), force mains and slip lining (28 of 190 miles of sewer pipe have been reinforced). Yet it is still not enough by EPA measures.
Inflows, though illegal since 1969, are having a disproportionate effect on SSOs and require direct attention. By the city's estimate, there are likely over 7,000 sump pumps, many of which are known to be illegally connected to the sanitary sewer system. Since 1969, over 3900 homes were constructed, of which roughly 10% are estimated to sumps. The logic goes like this... we will focus on these connections and measure the policy impact on the sanitary system. If there is measurable improvement and brings our sanitary system into SSO compliance, no other remediation will be necessary, including other intrusive and costly mitigation approaches such as footing drain removal.
Here's the program...
- The city will notify all owners of properties constructed after 1969 directing them to undertake a private inspection or have a city inspector within 30 days.
- If an illegal connection exists, the property owner will have 90 days from the time of notice to resolve the illegal connection.
- If the homeowner does not repair, a $100/month surcharge will be applied to the property.
The city must attack I&I. This approach is the lowest cost, least intrusive and most equitable of all 'inflow' mitigation options. By selecting only homes after 1969, we limit the number of home intrusions to a small population in the city. It is non-discriminatory in that no home beyond 1969 is exempt. In addition, it attacks the greatest source of suspected inflow, which will hopefully satisfy the SSO mandates avoiding more intrusive and costly mitigation. Most importantly, it is a 'limited scope inspection'. Inspectors, under no circumstance, are to inspect, note or perform any other task or review - this is not a whole house inspection. Furthermore, this will only be done with an owner or owner-representative present to maintain the integrity of the process.
At the council meeting I will request additional details including estimated homeowner cost impacts. I would also be open to means-tested assistance in qualified circumstances.
-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-
Special Order of Business
E.3 & 4) This is the public hearing and resolution for the 2015 Pavement Management Program. This year, we will spend approximately $2.7MM for approximately 1 mile of street reconstruction.
G.1.c) This item is the formal Plans, Specification and Contract for the Hudson Road trail connection between 1st Street and 12th Street. This will finish an important off-road trail loop for pedestrians and bicyclists. If the 'cow' paths are any indication, this is long overdue!
G.2.f) We re-adopt "Healthy Vending Options" for Blue Zone compliance. In 2014, the city established a new policy offering healthier options at the Recreation Center (hopefully this isn't a novel thought!!). There was skepticism that the city would lose revenue without having a large mix of unhealthy options. It turns out, sales had a slight year-over-year increase after the adoption of the policy. It is nice that evidence combats conventional wisdom. Choice is a good thing, I hope we consider ice cold beer next year, a fitting post-workout treat.
G.2.o) This item is the Low-Head Dam Public Hazard Agreement between the City and the DNR. This is a planning and design grant to mitigate the hazard on the dam. With this grant as a starting point, we have the opportunity to re-imagine how we interact with the river including potential whitewater and riverbank improvements from the Beach House to Gateway Park. Recognizing the opportunity, many citizens have begun to organize private support for enhancement beyond dam mitigation alone. More information about the Prairie Rapids Project can be found at: www.prairierapidsproject.org/.
- Nick's Briefs -
The Bus and Beyond - In 2013 Cedar Falls lost a federal subsidy for Route 9. The loss resulted in service cut back causing hardship and inconvenience for regular bus users. At the time, the city could have funded the difference with a tax increase to the tune of $180,000/year to restore status quo operations. Rather than preserving the status quo, I implore area policy makers (MET, UNI, City, CF Schools, INRCOG) to develop a new transportation policy that addresses the unique attributes and needs of our city. Cedar Falls should aspire to be a model city for transportation strategy for mid-sized cities.
I first wrote about our Transportation Dilemma in my July 14, 2014 post. Since then, I have been gathering information and understanding and hope we can make progress in the coming year to improve our transportation strategies for all users. As a city we spend nearly $4 million per year on road infrastructure, we support MET bus with about $400,000 per year, we invest roughly $100,000 per year on sidewalks or trails... all on a normalized basis.
I am a critic of our current bus system. It caters primarily to economically disadvantaged users, just as the federal subsidies are intended. It is neither convenient nor comfortable. In the future, the critical measure of our bus system will be ‘choice’ ridership. Choice riders are those that choose to ride because it is more cost effective, convenient or comfortable. If we've mastered choice ridership, transit services will be poised to blossom with broad-based revenue support.
The public transit system is an extension of our overall transportation strategy - it should work seamlessly with our complete streets framework, blue zone and community building goals. A transportation strategy that incorporates all forms – pedestrian, bicyclist, bus, and autos has the potential to shift our planning paradigm from being auto-centric to people-centric. All choices should be given consideration in policy in planning at the beginning, not as a side-trail afterthought.
I implore policy makers and elected officials to re-evaluate our goals and objectives to design a system that provides more utility, convenience and value than the system of the present. That means better route planning, asset management, technology integration, and inter-modal considerations. The conversation begins with a full assessment of transit services today with an eye to the future. There is much to consider, some of my takeaways...
- Convenience and comfort – easy, pleasurable and choice alternative
- Affordability – revenue supported, means-tested adjustment
- Sustainability – improved wellness, reduced environmental impact, self-supporting
- Ridership (choice) growth
- On-time arrival
- Travel time (point to point)
- Cost per passenger, revenue per passenger
Tools & Strategies
- Route review, demand modeling and analysis, hub-spoke, inter-modal planning – to capture need and choice ridership
- Marketing – extol the benefits of the system
- Reward systems / disincentives – to offset cost externalities (i.e. parking lot avoidance), social awards, employer wellness incentives
- Enabling technologies - geo-location, fare capture
- Extraneous cost capture (convenience-priced parking)
- Rapid response transit
- Seamless connections to car-share, bike share, and ped accommodation
I hope that MET, INRCOG, UNI, interested citizens and the City can come together to vision the transportation system of the future. To determine how we can better deploy our resources to meet the transportation needs and wants of our community.