What if?

It’s a question that’s often posed but rarely answered. For Spotsylvania County Utilities Department, however, the answer to a Friday afternoon “what if” conversation resulted in an innovative process for handling the department’s private development construction projects, inspections, and approvals.

Located just an hour south of Washington, DC, Spotsylvania County has experienced a tremendous amount of growth over the past decade. But the Spotsylvania County Utilities Department was having trouble tracking the high volume of utility assets being constructed to serve new developments. 

The county decided to work with Timmons Group to create a new process for tracking and approving private development construction projects. The solution uses ArcGIS and Cityworks AMS and PLL to graphically illustrate and document the utility inspection and acceptance process from the date of site plan approval through the project warranty period.

Timmons Group worked with county staff to develop workflows to track new assets at every stage of their development—including application intake, review and pre-construction meetings, site visits, inspections and tests, acceptance, and warranty.

Construction Management Work Orders in PLL

Construction Management Work Orders

The completion of the construction authorization task in the PLL workflow automatically creates construction management work orders in Cityworks AMS containing child inspections—including those for vacuum manhole test, low-pressure air test, and hydrostatic pressure test.

child inspectiChild inspections for vacuum manhole test, low-pressure air test, and hydrostatic pressure test

Water bacteria management work orders can also be created and stored in Cityworks AMS to track results and assets tested. Status changes can notify the testing lab when tests are ready, and laboratory results can be stored for future reference.

Each work order contains the date and time of inspection and allows users to attach pictures and notes from the site visit.

GIS Updates

Once a plan is approved, the proposed assets move through a workflow to update the utility’s GIS. This allows the county to start the asset life cycle early.

Once a plan is approved, the proposed assets move through a workflow to update the utility’s GIS.

“What’s great about this is we can trace an asset all the way from that initial pre-construction meeting all the way through the inspection lifecycle,” said Erik Ray, director of technical services at Spotsylvania County. “And then when the as-builts are submitted, we make those modifications in our GIS, which just builds confidence in our asset repository. This never existed before, so now we are catching things that were wrong from the beginning. We have this formal process where things are not getting lost through the cracks.”

Warranty data, condition score, and condition date are all programmatically captured at first acceptance.

“Warranty data was something we had never tracked before,” added Bradley Sacra, manager of utilities development services. “Assets that are currently under warranty are shaded a different color, which, in the case of an emergency, easily informs our field service crews of the warranty status. It’s been great to know immediately that we can recoup some of our expenditures used to fix those assets.  If it’s not an emergency, we can engage with the contractor or the developer to fix those without having to utilize the Utility Department’s resources.”

In addition, the GIS can be updated with final as-built plans or field-noted items such as make, model, or other important aspects of a given asset. This helps ensure data quality and build overall confidence in the GIS data being presented to the end users. 

“The reason we’re putting make and model in there is to help our utilities field services group,” said Steve Gunnett, construction inspector with Spotsylvania County. “If there’s a call that a hydrant was damaged or out of service for some reason, our field services staff are able to look it up and know exactly what parts that they need to take to make repair. That saves them from dispatching someone to figure out what’s going on and then having to come back to the utility shop to get parts.”

Each private development project is identified through the use of polygons in an embedded Cityworks inbox tab. This information is shared with customer service staff so they can consult the map to see if a development has reached first acceptance and is ready for water meter installation and account setup. This process has drastically reduced the amount of emails, phone calls, and conversations about when a development is ready for a given meter to be set, which in turn has reduced the amount of time it takes to set up a customer as a consumer and ratepayer. 

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The county also wanted to improve engagement with the development community to increase transparency and ease of use. The Timmons Group PLL Portal is being implemented to expose information to the developers so that they could receive feedback in real time and make requests and schedules digitally.

In addition, the county is actively receiving developer and contractor feedback through its involvement in local building associations.

Real-Time Analysis

Timmons Group also integrated Esri’s Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS to the overall solution. This configurable web app provides location-aware data visualization and analytics to give utilities staff a real-time overview of projects in development. Each inspector can easily view his or her own workload as well as where in the workflow each project stands.

real-time analysis

For Spotsylvania County Utilities Department, exploring “What if?” has led to innovative solutions and streamlined processes.

“I always say if you ask the question, Cityworks can be configured to pretty much answer anything, but the question has to be asked first,” said Ray.

As Spotsylvania County continues to grow and develop, demand for new utility services will only increase. By utilizing the workflows in Cityworks PLL to generate work orders and inspections in Cityworks, county staff, with help from Timmons Group, have created an efficient and thoughtful process to ensure that these assets are properly tracked and managed throughout their entire life cycle.

By Greg Stephenson, Timmons Group Senior Marketing Coordinator


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