An updated master plan for your organization’s most needed infrastructure projects is the best way to position for funding in the aftermath of COVID-19. The availability of COVID-19 money from Phase 3 and the potential of Phase 4 infrastructure stimulus funding are primary drivers. New grant and low-interest loans, such as state revolving fund (SRF) programs for water and sewer projects, may become opportunistically available as some communities struggle with future uncertainties and forfeit existing awards.
An updated master plan should rely heavily on existing master plans in combination with community staff coming together to re-prioritize the most pressing facility and infrastructure needs. For many communities, the updated master plan can be completed in a couple well-facilitated sessions with key engineering, operations, maintenance, and finance staff.
Data is always important, but the generation of new data should not be a priority in the case of a COVID-19 updated master plan. One reason is that it is simply not realistic to predict modified post-COVID-19 customer behaviors with a high degree of certainty. A second reason is that probabilistic tools, such as Monte Carlo Analysis using Palisade’s @Risk, applied to existing 10- or 20-year forecasts is sufficient for a quick evaluation of variability.
Criteria used to update the capital improvement program (CIP) prioritization can also be simplified. Short-term priorities that center on grant/low-interest loan support, immediate community needs, and significantly engineered and permitted projects (“construction-ready”) should dominate updated master plan needs. That is not to say that traditional criteria such as net present value, sustainability, and economic expansion are not important; however, opportunities to be included in tight community budgets and/or for opportunistic grants will be driven by more ‘sure things’ over the next couple of years.
Any master plan must consider the economic realities of the community and its residents. It is even more important in the aftermath of COVID-19. The time for an updated master plan is now. There is no need to overthink it. Simply keep it simple – use existing data and master plans, engage a knowledge facilitator, and make sure the right internal staff are participating. Opportunity comes to those who are prepared.