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"We Have Met The Enemy
And He Is Us"
Walt Kelly, 1970

This month's article describes the frustrating situation A/E professionals encounter all too often.  There is no easy solution when your imperative to maintain the health, safety and welfare conflicts with an entrenched bureaucracy. 

Guest author Michael S. Ellegood, PE has held positions ranging from Project Engineer through Senior Executive in major consulting engineering firms.  He joined the public sector as an agency head ultimately retiring as County Engineer, Public Works Director, and Transportation Director of Maricopa County.  Currently Michael serves as  Senior Consulting Engineer with E + E LLC.  He introduces us to the ongoing challenges of "passing the buck" and bureaucratic stonewalling while the future of our children is compromised.  We can do better!

Here is one current example; in a very rural part of Arizona, there is a small, (80 student) K-8 elementary school that serves an economically disadvantaged community.  The original masonry school building was built in 1919 with two masonry additions added in the 1970's.  Unfortunately, the original building and the additions are located in an area subject to flash flooding during torrential storm events.  In the past decade three such storm events have occurred and have left significant damage to the facility.  Overland sheet flow enters the building under the doors and damages wall board, electrical, floor coverings and initiates mold.  
In Arizona, the state-run "School Facilities Board" (SFB) funds and manages all school construction including repair and new construction.  And after every flooding episode, SFB has been there for this rural school and has invested nearly a million dollars in emergency repairs over the past decade and has authorized another million in a major drainage project to intercept and route storm water around the school building.  Unfortunately, this major project has its own challenges, after an interceptor channel, the water is directed into a large sedimentation basin and then into a 500-foot-long box culvert to the right of way line.  The storm water then passes under a County highway and discharges onto BNSF railroad property. 
The SFB is prohibited by law from spending money on off-site facilities, the County will not fund the culvert under the highway, (even though the highway embankment and inadequate roadway drainage clearly aggravates the condition) and BNSF simply refuses to even consider allowing a drainage easement onto the already flood prone property.  So project stalled, the hazardous condition exists and no one is willing to assist in the resolution.......after all, it's not their problem, they simply don't care about the kids nor the recurring taxpayer expenditures to clean up and repair after an episode. 
There is, however, an alternative solution:  Simply construct a new school building elsewhere on the property but up out of the flood hazard zone.  The school gets a new facility, the construction and intensive maintenance of a major flood control facility is avoided and the coordination with intransigent other agencies is avoided. 

But SFB claims that as long as a facility exists, they will repair but not replace. 

Bureaucratic gridlock -- "We have met the enemy and he is us." 

"The Credential" recognizes the history, pride and dedication of the Kirkland, AZ community.  Please take a moment and watch this short video and consider what you as an A/E professional could do. 

Kirkland School near Prescott marks 100 years.
This video first appeared on October 31, 2019 at:

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