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Q&A with Andrew Holland: How Engineers Add Value for Municipalities
Publication Date
August 17th 2020, 9:00 am

Andrew Holland is a project manager who works out of Urban’s office in Erie, Pennsylvania. His two decades of civil engineering experience informs his expertise in municipal engineering. In his role as township engineer for Fairview Township in Erie County, he works on projects like roadway designs; drainage improvements; stormwater management designs and plan reviews; erosion and sedimentation control plans; environmental permitting packages; and stream bank stabilization. We talked to Andrew about how civil engineers can add value for municipalities:


Q: What role do engineers play in assisting municipalities?


A: Engineers are crucial to many of the public projects local residents use every day. They assist municipalities by providing design and permitting services for public works projects such as culvert replacements and road improvements. Engineers have specialized knowledge that gives municipalities insight on best practices for things like managing stormwater runoff and designing roads and storm sewer systems. And all work and improvements require funding, so one of the most important ways engineers can assist municipalities is by helping local officers identify and apply for grant funds.


Additionally, we review stormwater management plans and calculations for new land development projects in municipalities for consistency with local ordinances. After design reviews and approvals, engineers can be crucial in coordinating with developers, contractors, and construction inspectors of public facilities - like road subgrade preparation, paving, and storm sewers - in local neighborhood developments. Engineers help municipalities make sure the work is done properly.


Q: What do municipalities look for when selecting an engineering consultant?


A: While strong technical experience is important to what municipalities look for in selecting an engineering consultant, having the ability to work with the community, developers, contractors, and other public agencies is necessary. This requires strong relationship building and negotiation experience. This can often take time to develop. In our position with Fairview Township, Urban has gained local institutional knowledge over years of working together, and that allows us to work efficiently on the township’s behalf. An engineer that can make these connections quickly is of great benefit to a municipality.


Q: What is the biggest concern that municipalities have regarding their engineering projects? How have you addressed some of those concerns?


A: Municipalities are responsible for making sure taxpayers get their money’s worth, so they want projects that benefit the community, perform effectively, and are cost efficient. When approaching our work with municipalities, we try to understand a municipality’s vision for a project and implement their goals in the design. Sometimes, that can be as simple as storm drain replacements or something more involved, like pedestrian safety and sidewalks connecting neighborhoods to schools. In my work, I try to keep the local supervisors consistently updated and involved in the decision-making process.


Q: How can engineers help a municipality through the grant funding process?


A: Engineers provide municipalities with technical input throughout the grant funding process, but they are also integral in coordinating with funding agencies; preparing applications, cost estimates, and concept plans; as well as helping construct a narrative that addresses the project needs and goals. Over the past two years, I have assisted in securing over $500,000 in funding for sidewalk and pedestrian improvements, stormwater management, and a park improvement project in Fairview. The stormwater project is currently being constructed and the sidewalk and park projects are in the design phase, with construction scheduled for summer 2021. Money can be tight for municipalities, so grant funding is key to getting the needed project work done for constituents.


Q: How do consulting engineers help municipalities through inter-agency coordination?


A: Consulting engineers can help answer municipal concerns and questions by connecting with their networks and providing guidance from previous work with other agencies. On a recent grant application, I worked with a local county planning department who identified potential funding through the Pennsylvania DEP for a project. I worked to set up a meeting with the county, the Pennsylvania DEP, the local municipality, and Urban to identify project goals and strengths, and discuss project improvements and increase the chance of success for funding. Being familiar with people in other agencies makes it easier to bring everyone to the table.


Q: What can consulting engineers do to bring extra value to municipal projects and the public?


A: Consulting engineers bring diverse experiences to assist municipalities. As a civil engineer, my background is mainly in road design, drainage, and stormwater management, but if I need to bring in a structural, geotechnical, or traffic engineer, or an environmental scientist, all I have to do is knock on the door of a coworker in Urban’s Erie office and find an expert in those areas to help address a municipal concern or help design part of a project.


Q: Can you give an example of a successful project that improved a municipality?


A: One of the first municipal projects I worked on at Urban was a roadway full-depth reclamation and paving project on a former state road that was turned over to the municipality. The road provides access to a local park on the shores of Lake Erie, so it’s a popular location for people to enjoy the outdoors. It was important to maintain a safe path for visitors to travel on. We designed drainage improvements; road profiles, alignments, and cross section; and worked with the contractor to design the final reclaimed pavement section. The project was completed nearly eight-years ago and the road has held up very well. And now more than ever, it is important to be able to enjoy outdoor space!


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Vice President, Office Manager - Erie, PA 814.453.5702