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Author      Title/Abstract      

The Role of Community Interaction in Sewer System Improvement Planning
Author: Chase Laurie Mehl, Cynthia Wurm, Roger K. Jacobsen
Date: 10/99
Presented at WEFTEC 99 in New Orleans, LA.

The City of Columbus, Ohio has undertaken an aggressive Inflow and Infiltration (I/I) Remediation Program to eliminate designed sanitary sewer overflows, reduce water-in-basement occurrences and mitigate flooding problem areas. One of the first capital improvement projects undertaken is located in the Clintonville neighborhood, an older, predominately residential neighborhood consisting of many socioeconomic levels. Many in the neighborhood believe that the City’s accelerated suburban growth and associated need for new sewer facilities is overshadowing the needs of the established and aging urban neighborhood infrastructures. Public education, assistance and coordination were very important elements in the success of the visible field investigation and condition assessment work performed as part of this project. This phase of the project included manhole inspections, smoke testing, dye testing, flow monitoring, internal television inspection and flooding area inspections. The project area contained approximately 550,000 lineal feet of sanitary sewer. Although the specific public relations needs of the community were unknown when the scope of services was developed for this project, it became clear at the onset that special consideration would be needed for this community. Key elements of this program have been incorporated into all other similar City I/I projects. This paper describes the public education and assistance program developed for this project, the challenges that arose as a result of in-depth public knowledge of the project, and how lessons learned from this experience have been incorporated into the City’s approach on future projects. The objectives of the program were to inform the community of project activities and ongoing results, solicit input regarding problem areas, assist residents and business owners, and to build consensus for required improvements. Communication with the public was promoted throughout the project. The project team utilized a dedicated Community Relations Coordinator to administer the public education and assistance program. The primary responsibilities of the coordinator were to disseminate accurate and timely information; coordinate assistance to the public during the fieldwork; promote community participation in the project decision-making process; and to address resident and local public officials questions and concerns. Additional benefits from this program are increased public understanding, enhanced image, active community involvement and project buy-in when identified improvements move into construction.

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