April 28, 2016 Vol. 15 No. 23
Project would reveal infrastructure flaws
Written by Jeanne Davant   

Toppled tree


A tree-trimming crew loads chunks of fallen trees on Friday, April 22, in the 300 block of Ruxton Avenue. The trees fell the day before; Manitou Springs police and fire departments closed off the street to all traffic except residential. No homes or vehicles were damaged when the trees fell.

Photo by Travis Lowell

Manitou has been invited to participate in a pilot project that would survey the city’s infrastructure and show how systems like water, sanitation, transportation and buildings interact during crisis events.

The results of the study would demonstrate how vulnerable the infrastructure is to events like fires and flooding and could serve as a guide for increasing its resiliency, said Mark Reiner, a civil engineer and co-founder of WISRD (Whole Infrastructure Systems for Resilient Development).

“A city is a system of systems,” Reiner told Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday. “Everything is interconnected. Essential services and social services are dependent upon the foundational infrastructure.”

The pilot project, which would be performed at no cost to the city except for staff time, would look at the condition of the city’s existing infrastructure.

The first step would be to collect information about critical infrastructure systems and determine their age vs. the number of years they were designed to last.

The project also would look at where components are located so that a failure in one component could lead to a failure in another component. For example, a water main break could cause failure of the road above it.

The effects of such co-location on a city’s resilience would be unique, objective information that isn’t available to municipalities through any other current method of resilience analysis, Reiner said.

“Cities are still using subjective methods,” he said.

The data would be archived in a software program called WISRD for Cities that would rank the vulnerability of the city’s infrastructure, provide geographic information system maps that show the locations of assets and vulnerabilities, and determine an infrastructure resiliency score.

The software would allow city leaders to view the foundational infrastructure at any time, help to prioritize investment in infrastructure improvements and repairs, and determine how new infrastructure projects would change the resiliency score.

Reiner said he also plans to test the software in Arvada to see how it works in a larger city. He said he anticipated completing the Manitou project by the end of this year.

Councilor Randy Hodges said he was concerned about the number of staff hours that might be required to provide the information Reiner would need to collect.

“How do we know that the chosen algorithms are going to work and produce anything of value?” Hodges asked.

Reiner said he had conducted a similar pilot project with Longmont and that the results were successful.

“We’re going to put in a lot of legwork to assemble data that you may or may not know you have,” he said. “Manitou Springs is small enough that we can fill in data gaps ourselves.”

“I feel like some of this is already happening,” Mayor Nicole Nicoletta said. “I would like to see how this would fit in with the insane amount of hours our staff and consultants have already put into the master plan.”

Reiner said he would work with the city’s master planning team and would incorporate results of the hazard mitigation plan, which is being developed as part of the master plan.

Councilor Bob Todd said he thought a minimal number of staff hours would be needed.

“We’ll have access to a chief engineer, and that’s huge,” Todd said.

Councilor Coreen Toll indicated she also supported participation in the project.

Council took no action on the proposal at Tuesday’s work session.


Manitou Springs School District 14 report card

Council also heard a report from School District 14 Superintendent Ed Longfield and Laurie Wood, director of secondary learning and Partners for Healthy Choices.

Enrollment in the district’s schools has grown significantly since 2011; at 1,520 students, the district is nearing full capacity, Longfield said.

About 45 percent of those students are “Choice kids,” who live outside the district. Those students bring in additional financing from the state — some $7,500 per student.

Nevertheless, the district’s overall funding has declined more than $9.2 million since the 2008-09 school year, Longfield said.

That’s because of a change in the formula the state uses to calculate school funding in the wake of the Great Recession. The change eliminated most of the 100 factors that previously were considered, and the state now uses only a base number to determine how much funding a district gets.

Manitou voters’ support of two mill levy overrides helped make up some of the lost funding.

Despite the cuts, “we have done a lot,” Longfield said.

The district is giving employees a 4 percent raise retroactive to 2015. Teacher salaries are higher than any other district in the region except for Academy School District 20 and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8.

“If you count our benefit package, we’re No. 1,” Longfield said.

The district also is a leader in innovative student programs, including the SMARTE Design program in grades 6 through 12, which focuses on engineering, robotics and design, and the 1:1 iPad program, which will be extended to all grade levels this year.

The district built the Collaboratory, a maker space at Manitou Springs Elementary School, and added ballet and dance programs, after-school music lessons and sports including soccer and golf.

It also expanded health and wellness programs and created food, clothing and sports equipment banks.

“We do like to take risks, experiment with things and get grant money to try new things,” Wood said.