Last week I took some time off and went camping. Truth be told it was a cabin in the woods, no electricity or indoor plumbing, but a hard roof, so if it rained it wasn't that big a deal. I was in the "wilds" of Maine with just my dog. No cell phone coverage (yeah), no one to interact with. So what did I do? I read. 5 days = 5 books.
One of those 5 was On The Grid, by Scott Huler. Mr. Huler lives in North Carolina, and after experiencing some household issues, wonders about the infrastructure that surrounds him. He is curious about where the water that comes out of his faucet originate.
Basically the book is public works for a laymen. It describes water, sanitary and storm water sewer systems survey work, road building and other aspects of the built world that most people take for granted. At just over 200 pages, it is a quick read and is very informative and enjoyable.
This book was perfect for me to read last week, because at work, I am in the early to middle stages of putting together the City's Capital Improvements Program (CIP). This program is a fundamental step in reviewing the City's infrastructure needs as well as effectuating the City's Master Plan - specifically the Community Facilities and Utilities section.
The process for the CIP involves reviewing projects currently in the plan/program, looking at capacity for new projects, looking at funding availability and the relationship those programs have to the Master Plan. Infrastructure is an interesting concept. We know it is the structure below the surface, and we know that we use it everyday. As Mr. Huler describes in his book, we all turn on the water faucet and we all walk the sidewalks or ride a bike or drive on streets everyday, but no one knows how they appear.
One interesting idea from the book that relates to the CIP is the idea that cities don't actually build roads, they rebuild them. If you think about it, very few roads in Dover were "built" by the City of Dover - Venture Drive is one I can think of. The majority were built by private landowners who wished to make their land available to others, and needed to create a way to access that land. In many cases the road is then "turned over" to the City and becomes a public road. The City then repairs and maintains the roadway. This is the largest component of the CIP, road reconstruction; Dover has over 130 miles of roadway to maintain.
Other areas we see in the CIP are related to utilities, culture and recreation, public safety, education and transportation elements. These areas are important and round out the capital needs the community has.
Beginning in October, the Planning Board and City Council will discuss the CIP. Departments will make presentation and explain their needs, and I hope to develop a easy to follow guide for residents to follow along with and be part of the process. Watch this blog, our twitter, face book and the City's web site for more information, times and dates for meetings. You need to be involved with this important, if overlooked area of government.