Meeting the Capital Requirements
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Meeting the Capital Requirements

Emily J. Karry, P.E. Capital Improvement Program Manager, Lake County Public Works

Emily J. Karry, P.E. Capital Improvement Program Manager, Lake County Public Works

The Lake County Department of Public Works maintains and operates three wastewater treatment plans, 107 lift stations, 24 wells, 18 water storage facilities and more than 760 miles of water and wastewater pipe. To put that simply, it’s a lot of infrastructure! With that in mind, our goal is to protect, maintain, and plan for future infrastructure to ensure Lake County, IL residents and businesses have the water and sewer service they need24/7.

We achieve this goal through our Capital Improvement Program (CIP). A CIP is considered an industry best practice and is a critical plan to guide investments in infrastructure for governmental agencies. The Lake County Department of Public Works, located in northeastern Illinois,recently begun to reset and refocus its CIP through an effort guided by a Department “Action Team”, which consists of a cross-section of managers and employees from various internal departments and backgrounds.

The Department’s CIP identifies funding to plan, design and construct projects that are necessary to preserve, modernize and expand the water and wastewater systems under the jurisdiction of Lake County government. The CIP is funded through a combination of user fees, connection fees and reserve funds and is shaped by four overarching priorities that include the need to meet regulatory requirements, maximize the life of existing assets,recapitalize existing capacity and to meet tomorrow’s capacity demands.

“CIP projects are consideredand prioritized through the lens of preservation, modernization, and expansion”

CIP projects are considered and prioritized through the lens of preservation, modernization, and expansion, with preservation having the highest priority, modernization having a medium priority and expansion having the lowest priority ranking. Projects are grouped into five investment categories that have an annual investment target set by the Department: water production and storage, water distribution, wastewater collection, wastewater reclamation facilities and other support facilities and equipment. The Department adjusts annual investment targets as necessary if needs determine a different amount or include larger projects that are critical at certain times.

Considering the overarching priorities described above, as well as project types and investment categories, the CIP is developed through a thoughtful and systematic process. In the early phases of planning, potential projects are identified for future inclusion into the 5-year capital program based on the strategic goals and priorities of the Lake County Board and the Public Works Department. Staff also uses information from the Public Works internal departments as well as information from asset tracking, life-cycle analysis, functional studies, and assessments on the condition of water and sewer infrastructure, initial high-level cost estimates, and schedules to help build the CIP. This is an important part of the process as it identifies which projects should be developed and prioritized.One such project that recently came through this process is the continued implementation of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system network.

In 2009, the Department developed a Master Plan for improvements and upgrades to its SCADA system network. The SCADA system allows for wireless communication among sites and records collected data regarding the operation of various Lake County Public Works water and wastewater systems. For example, it allows our teams to monitor water levels and make adjustments to our water and sewer systems from their computer at the office or at home instead of having to drive to each facility.In the summer of 2020, design of the third and final phase of the SCADA Master Plan commenced.

Once prioritized by the Department, the various phases of capital improvement projects are included in the Department’s overall budget each year for approval by the Lake County Board.

Following budget approval, projects are initiated and begin the project development process which consists of three major phases:

In the planning phase, the scope of the project is fully developed, survey work and environmental investigation is underway, coordination with affected agencies and the public begins where appropriate, the need for any property acquisition is reviewed, design alternatives are developed and refined, concept work is completed, the final project alternative is selected, initial cost estimates are updated and a project schedule is developed.

In the design phase, the final design of the project is underway, construction plans, specifications and contract documents are prepared, easements and agreements are secured where necessary, appropriate permits are obtained, and project cost estimates and schedules are refined.

In the construction phase, projects are advertised for bid, built and inspected for compliance with the contract and standards while under construction. Once capital projects are constructed, they become an asset that Public Works operates and maintains.

The CIP provides the roadmap for how Lake County Public Works invests to preserve, protect, and build its water and wastewater infrastructure.

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