A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 9

Day 9

Welcome to Day 9 – a day filled mostly with emails and meetings which is ok because it helped me take care of a lot of correspondence and make a pretty big dent in my emails.

Parking Lot Meeting

This morning a few of us met with the consultant who is designing the lighting for the new parking lot we are planning for our downtown. The project engineer on staff has finished most of the other design elements, and others have worked on contacting adjacent owners and working out preliminary, verbal agreements. And as I mentioned yesterday, our city attorney now has the legal documents to begin working on finalizing these agreements. So the main task remaining is the lighting design, well that and getting our special use. So we first met at our office to discuss the design, then we went out to the site to look at conditions there. While there, we saw one of the adjacent property owners and were able to update them on where we are at in the process. They also helped answer some questions we had about some storm basins near their property that looked abandoned.

Smart Metering

Most of the afternoon was spent meeting with a smart meter provider. We have been researching the implementation of a smart grid system in our city for some time. Right now we mostly have the older model of dial reads mounted on homes. Our meter readers walk the routes inputting these reads into handhelds then download the reads to a computer. Billing then picks up these reads with their software to generate the bills. The dial reads have become obsolete so we need to replace them with something so it only makes sense to upgrade to smart meters. I implemented an automatic meter read system in the last city where I worked, and it proved to be very beneficial. And now the technology has advanced to the point that I think a smart meter system here will offer us significant benefits. 

Because the two cities lying adjacent to us are also looking at implementing these types of systems, we have been pooling our efforts and meeting as a group with vendors. So far we have explored about five different providers of these systems. I've been disappointed with most of them though because I eventually expected these vendors to realize their systems can offer much more than just raw data. But so far only one vendor has realized this and offers services addressing the operational side and not just the billing. The one we looked at today seemed to be one of those taking the traditional data-collector-only approach.

Railroad Work

I also had a person from the railroad stop by to discuss some repair work they want to schedule for some time in September. They needed to discuss the work with us and have me sign a statement indicating I was aware they would be pursuing a permit from IDOT for the work. They will be closing a state route to do this, so we reviewed their detour and offered some suggestions.




A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 8

Day 8

Geneva Road Construction Aug 2011

The great construction mystery: Why aren't the standard frames made to fit the standard inlets?


Well, the inlet frames I picked out were placed on the structures today! I went out to work with the crew while they were placing them to make sure they fit and they were set at the right elevation. (If you've been reading my blog, you'll remember I had to buy special grates to fit the inlets because the old ones were too big.) While we worked, we discussed how the frames and grates that are in the IDOT standards do not fit the inlet structures that are in the standard. Which really doesn't make sense. But the worst part of it is this causes a gap where dirt and road base are washed out from under the road into the inlet. This ends up leaving a big hole near the inlet or manhole.  (You can see an example of this in the photo below.) And these failures can end up being the biggest maintenance problem I see cities dealing with. Where I worked before the 

Chicago 2011 Photos near Lincoln Park Area

contractors were good about working with me to avoid problems by pouring a lot of concrete around the inlet frame to seal it. But up here where I work now, they don't seem as interested in cooperating, and I'm not on the job as much to make sure they are doing it. So one of our water guys told me he found an inlet frame he thinks fits better so I am going to check out what he has picked out, and if it works, we will spec that for the job next year.


Parking Lot Project

We are still working on our new parking lot design. Today I finished up the ownership information and emailed it to the city attorney. The project engineer and I also discussed our approach to applying for a special use permit. In this city, we are not exempt from our own regulations so our department must apply to the community development department asking for the planning commission and city council to approve a special use for the lot. 

APWA Education Committee

I also participated in a phone conference with the APWA education committee for the Chicago Chapter. They are planning some pretty cool sessions. My role in the conversation was only to discuss the possibility of giving a presentation on communication and social media. 

Certificates of Completion for Development

Another task for which my office is responsible is preparing certificates of completion for new developments. So today I prepared and submitted to the city council for consideration a certificate of completion for one of the new developments in our city. The process works like this: when everything is finished, our inspector does a final walk through, and if everything is ok and completed, he gives us the go ahead to submit this certificate to the city council for approval. However, approval of this certificate does not mean approval of the improvements. That's another certificate we submit for approval after a specific time period has passed. 

New Developments

We also have been reviewing a new development that had been given approval to begin construction of a portion of the proposed development. And today we dedicated some time to processing and helping move forward another phase of this development.  Normally a developer would submit plans and documents and only begin construction once all approvals and payments are in place. But because some developers are more anxious than others to start doing something, it seems that occasionally we get a few that push to have us proceed in this phased approval approach. The problem is it sets up a very challenging and difficult process for us. It ends up taking a lot more staff time to respond and monitor each phase, and it creates confusion between departments as everyone struggles to keep track of what has been approved, started, paid for, etc. Anyway we want to do as much as we can to work with people investing in our community so we try to accommodate developers to help them meet their schedules. So we worked this morning to get them through the next step in the process.

Railroads and Bike Trails

We have been working on a plan to extend a bike trail along an old abandoned railroad bed. But the challenge has been we only own a portion of the property needed for the trail; the railroad still retains ownership of most of the remainder. A while back we met with a representative from the railroad who said he would work with us to investigate the possibilty of transferring ownership of their portion. But he needed a map and some other documents. So today I worked a little on getting the map prepared.