Jun 02, 2016

Reach Out

For months, heavy equipment has set up shop in my typically quiet Chicago neighborhood. A sewer replacement project is underway, which is great for the city, but has increased the noise pollution, limited street parking and led to periodic water shutoffs in the surrounding blocks. Being immersed in this industry, I can look past the inconveniences and appreciate the inevitable good this project will do, but many of my neighbors are not as understanding. 

Storm water professionals know that projects like these are vital to maintain our cities’ infrastructure as age, population growth and climate change take a toll. Ultimately, these and other storm water management projects will improve the quality of life for those who live in these communities—and have an impact on that quality of life while the projects are in progress. 

The question becomes: How do you carry out these necessary projects while building community support? 

Education and outreach should not be overlooked in any public works, green infrastructure or other storm water management program. Public meetings can serve as means to disseminate pertinent information about ongoing or planned projects, but they also can be great educational opportunities. Explain how residents’ quality of life will be impacted during the project, but don’t neglect to mention how the completed project will impact them in the long run. 

Discuss any local water quality, pollution or erosion control problems in the area and explain how the project will tackle these issues. Open the floor for community members to voice their concerns and answer their questions openly and honestly. Ultimately, transparency can be your most effective tool in earning public trust. 

When applicable, consider offering opportunities for residents to get involved during construction or help with maintenance when the project is completed. Allowing communities to take ownership of a project can help further build support (and lower maintenance costs). 

What types of public outreach does your firm or municipality employ? Let us know at [email protected]

About the author

Amy McIntosh is managing editor for SWS. McIntosh can be reached at [email protected].

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