A participant asked:
There are some states that are starting to offer asset management planning grants.
And for small systems, in particular, are there areas that you would recommend that they hire an engineer or some breaks group or someone to help them with developing their asset management plan?
This is an area where I think you need to be really cautious. My advice is always the plan has to be driven by the community, by the system itself.
So you don’t want to hire somebody with the notion that, I can take this burden away and give it to somebody else and they’ll come up with a great plan and all will be well because it won’t work that way. It will just be a book that sits on the shelf and you won’t implement it.
So it has to be you, as the system thinking through what you want to do, looking at the expertise you have on staff, the information you already have and then looking, where are the gaps.
So maybe you wanted to develop a map for example. And you’ve decided that you want to get a GPS location of all of your assets and you want to create a map. And maybe it’s GIS of some kind, maybe it’s not, even not quite sophisticated but you may decide, hey we don’t really have the equipment to do GPS.
We don’t have the equipment to do the maps, so we’re going to have somebody work with our operator, go out in the field, collect the GPS locations, make the map.
Or you’ll say, well we’re going to put the information into an Excel spreadsheet or an Access database or we want somebody to set up that Excel spreadsheet, give us a bit of training on how to use it, or an Access database on how to use it.
So looking for the gaps in where you’re going to struggle with your own staff while allowing you and your staff to drive the process is the best way to do it. So looking where you need some additional expertise.
Maybe another good example of where some help might be beneficial is the replacement cost. It’s often hard for a smaller utility to know the replacement cost of everything, you know pumps, tanks, pipes, whatever.
So hiring somebody who can fill in that data and say well, we think a mile of pipe in your system will cost whatever, $600,000. So they could help you with those replacement costs because that’s something that would be more difficult for your staff to know.
Or maybe they can help you think through useful life estimates of how long will this kind of thing usually lasts.
So using a consultant to fill a gap or plug a hole you have is a better way to go than to contract out the whole infrastructure asset management plan and hope that that’s going to make the change.
PHOTO CREDIT: Bodie Island Lighthouse, North Carolina by Don McCullough via Flickr Creative Commons License.