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The Public Works Engineering staff thought I was a genius.

In the 1990s, spreadsheets functioned separately and individually. On my home Macintosh I’d discovered Excel “spreadsheet linking.” At this new Public Works job I figured out how to do linking on the office’s user-unfriendly Quattro Pro spreadsheet application.

I set up a CIP document made up of 53 independent spreadsheets – one for each project – all linked together. My spreadsheets pushed the system’s memory limits, and there were agonizing moments when an hour of spreadsheet work suddenly vaporized! Nonetheless, my “genius” status grew.

It was 1990s cutting-edge technology . . . and it worked!

Then came those cool worksheet tabs on Excel notebooks.

At the time, our small city, like others across the country, faced many failing infrastructure concerns. Storm drainage problems and insufficient retention basins contributed to seasonal flooding in many neighborhoods and the downtown.

Numerous streets were severely dilapidated due to ongoing Street Fund shortages. The city’s 20 parks had major turf replacement needs, outdated playground equipment, and unreliable irrigation systems.

There were constant water line breakages and aging sewer lift stations in need of rehab and replacement. Water and wastewater had to traverse the city’s unique topography and idyllic hills. This required a synchronized network of complex and costly groundwater wells, pumping stations, reservoir sites, and sewer lift stations across 23 pressure zones.

Meanwhile, the community was anxious to renovate its downtown while also envisioning a community center, new library, community theater playhouse, soccer complex, aquatics center, and a couple of recreation centers. We built seven major facilities over a period of five years.

There were some lean years when the CIP Team producing the CIP document was just me. I worked many long hours in every aspect of the CIP planning process, experiencing the complexities of maintaining, rehabilitating, and constructing a city’s infrastructure.

As part of a dedicated staff team, I was fortunate to participate in the phase-by-phase transformation of our small city as it grew into a dynamic, financially-solid entity. Today that city and its residents are realizing their community-grown dreams.

I feel a real kinship with others like me in communities across the country who get the golden opportunity to participate in the challenges of capital projects planning.

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