Wooten Receives 2019 ACEC/NC Engineering Excellence Award

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RALEIGH, N.C. (11/9/2018) – The Wooten Company has received a 2019 Engineering Excellence Award for demonstrating the highest degree of achievement, value and ingenuity in design of the Pennington Athletic Complex’ Sixth Baseball Field.

This award was presented to The Wooten Company because of their ability to collaborate with the City of Lumberton, the Dixie Youth World Series Baseball Commission, and Terrahawk to design, permit, and construct a sixth baseball field at the Pennington Athletic Complex under a very strict deadline. Faced with a requirement to have a sixth field to be eligible to host the Dixie Youth World Series, The Wooten Company developed a custom approach with concurrent processes of planning, designing, permitting, bidding, and constructing the field happening at the same time throughout the course of the project.

Further complicating matters, the project site had poor soil conditions and the project would enter construction during the hottest and wettest part of the year. Hurricane Matthew actually hit the City of Lumberton just as the City was awarded the bid for the tournament, causing the project to be delayed by almost a year during recovery. Pushing through the challenges, our collective team was able to complete the project two weeks ahead of schedule. The positive economic impact that the Dixie Youth World Series brought to Lumberton, the excitement of all the participants, and the lasting positive impacts of having a championship ready baseball complex made this project one we are truly proud to have been a part of.

“The Wooten Company is very excited to receive this prestigious award from ACEC/NC,” said President, Bucky Moore. “Our team worked diligently to make sure that the baseball field was ready in time for the World Series. We are obviously delighted to be recognized for our efforts by ACEC/NC.

When Rates Lag Everyone Loses - Should Utility Rates be Election Fodder?

During election season it’s not uncommon to hear politicians stump for lowering utility rates or advocating against increases. For some voters, increases in utility fees are synonymous with property tax increases. But there is a difference. In proper use, utility fees should solely support a solvent enterprise fund devoted to routine operation, maintenance, debt service and capital outlay of that utility.

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So what happens when utility fees are kept artificially low preventing sufficient revenue generation? Operations are minimized, maintenance goes unperformed, loans are undertaken to make emergency repairs, and replacement of equipment is delayed. It becomes a downward spiral that becomes increasingly difficult to emerge from and, unfortunately, it’s the utility customers who bear the brunt of poor utility service. If this sounds familiar, all is not lost. The following are some ways that utilities can begin to regain control of these often daunting situations.

  1. Reduce Expenses – Investigate whether some relatively simple adjustments can be made to reduce administrative expenses, such as printing and postage through the implementation of online services. Ensure that vehicle and shop supplies are being logged by employees so they can be tracked and assigned to customer work orders. Can purchase of treatment chemicals be reduced by ordering higher volumes and splitting quantities with neighboring utilities? Can transfers to other funds that should be self-supporting be reduced or eliminated? In our experience, an in depth look at internal operations can reveal some low hanging fruit.

  2. Look for Other Revenue Sources – Rather than raising rates, look for alternative means to supplement revenues. For instance, ‘System Development Fees’ paid by new customers can offset the costs of providing necessary utility expansions. ‘Tap Fees’ at a minimum should be set high enough to recover the costs of labor and materials incurred by the utility provider. ‘Surcharges’ for treating high strength waste streams can offset the additional costs incurred for transforming the waste to domestic levels. Supplemental fees should be appropriately set to recover those activities.

  3. Prepare an Asset Management Plan – It is difficult to manage the unknown. Utility providers should locate their assets, inventory their features, assess their condition, and prioritize their repair, rehabilitation or replacement. Incorporating this vital information into a Capital Improvements Plan can help strategize and accurately budget annual expenditures to continue providing top notch service to customers.

  4. Conduct a Rate Study – A thorough Rate Study can reveal if revenue is being captured in the most efficient way. Rates should be tailored to fit the types of customers being served. Otherwise, misaligned rates generate very little revenue and can result in unintentional loss of customers. We can take some notes from the retail and consumer markets who have mastered the understanding of their customers’ value and willingness-to-pay in exchange for a desired service. ‘Stitch Fix’ is an online apparel provider that offers sliding fee structures based on the frequency of orders and quality of the clothing. Now imagine a ‘Stitch Fix’ for utilities – a customized rate outfit based on the consumption patterns of its customers! Lastly, if a utility provider is unsure of how its rates compare to its neighbors, the UNC School of Government offers a comprehensive Rate Dashboard for this very use.

  5. Explore Regionalization – Economies of scope and scale are tenants of Econ 101, and in some situations, can be very applicable to utility providers just as they are to providers of other goods and services. Simply put, higher numbers of customers sharing the same fixed costs results in a lower rate per customer. When utility rates become unbearable for a small service area, utility providers are wise to consider working closely with neighboring utilities to consolidate management, operations and maintenance.

This election season voters had plenty of decisions to make at the polls. Utility rates often become fodder for election season as well, but perhaps it’s not the rate itself that should be focus of the fodder. Utility providers might instead assess the level of service and quality their customers expect, anticipate what it costs to sustain this, and consider whether or not they are charging accordingly.

What would you do if there came a day without water?

Most Americans take water for granted. They turn on the tap, and clean water flows out. They take a shower or flush the toilet, and dirty water goes away. We hardly think twice about the infrastructure that brings water to our homes, and safely returns water to the environment – but we should. The reality is, a surprising amount of water infrastructure in the Carolinas is aging and even failing. While most of us cannot imagine a day without water, there are many communities that have lived, and are living, without water because they don’t have safe and reliable infrastructure. As citizens go to the polls next month to vote in the midterm elections, the next wave of lawmakers in both state legislature and Washington need to make water a priority so no American has to imagine a day or life without water.

Today, October, 10, we are proud to team with thevalueofwater.org to raise awareness of this risk.

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A Day Without Water = Crisis

What does a day without water really mean? It means no water to shower or flush the toilet, no water to drink or cook with, and no water to do laundry or dishes. A single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion in economic activity at risk and would make it impossible for doctors, firefighters, and farmers to serve our communities. Our water infrastructure supports every facet of our daily lives – both personal and in business, but our water infrastructure is facing incredible challenges. Demographic and climate pressures, such as increased natural disasters, drought, flooding, and wildfire, threaten our infrastructure and increase the possibility of a day without water. These challenges look different to different communities and will require local solutions, but it’s clear that reinvestment in our water systems must be a national priority.

Reinvestment in Water Infrastructure = Opportunity

The good news is that closing our nation’s water infrastructure gap would generate over $220 billion in total annual economic activity, create and sustain over a million jobs, and guarantee our public health and environmental safety. National polling shows 88% of Americans support increasing federal investment to rebuild water infrastructure, and 75% of Americans want Congress to invest in our nation’s water infrastructure before our systems fail.

So how do we make the most of this opportunity?   No other issue facing our public officials has such a broad consensus, and 2018's elections are some of the easiest ways to vote for leaders who share our values. Make sure you are registered and then take the time to go and make sure your voice is heard. Then, while we’re waiting for changes to be made on a broader scale we can all find ways to give back locally. For example, find a time to volunteer for a river cleanup or fundraiser with Sound Rivers, a nonprofit that guards the health of the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River Basins. However you choose to speak up and get involved, investing in our water means no American will have to imagine a day without water.

Saying Goodbye To Summer And Our Intern!

As summer comes to an end, we sat down with our intern, Hannah Allen, to pick her brain about her time here at The Wooten Company. We are so excited that she will be continuing to work with us as she heads back to NC State this fall and we can't wait to see how she uses the experience she has gained here to help communities in the future! 

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What’s the biggest thing you’re going to take away from your internship?

The knowledge and experience I have gained from my internship are priceless! I have loved seeing what I’ve learned in school come to life in real-world applications at The Wooten Company. In the same way, I am excited to use the knowledge I’ve gained this summer to better understand my coursework and professors in my classes this year!

What was something that surprised you during your internship?

I was surprised to see so much variation and diversity within in the types of projects and the employee backgrounds. From building water resources engineering to hydraulic modeling to construction oversight, I have seen so many aspects of engineering all in one company! I have loved seeing how a group of people, all with different skills, assets, and experiences, work together to create the best possible solution for a client, all on strict time and money constraints. I had never really thought about how many different people have to work together to finish a project.

Has your internship changed your view on anything?

It may seem silly, but I definitely feel more open to working with sewage treatment. It has actually been really interesting to learn about all of the different parts in wastewater treatment plants and how they all work together to properly remove contaminants and treat water. Wastewater treatment will always be a challenge faced by any community, so understanding how the industry works now is necessary to make innovations and improvements in the future.

How is it being a woman in a male-dominated field?

Being a minority in this industry was a little scary at first, but my passion for solving problems and learning has made me more confident in a male-dominated environment.  It has also been great to see other young, female engineers here at The Wooten Company pursue their dreams and achieve their goals, which inspires me to be the best I can be. Hopefully, I can also inspire younger girls who enjoy STEM fields but are worried about being the only girl in a class of boys. I think it is extremely important to address the gender gap in engineering, specifically by empowering young girls through education and giving them the confidence to do whatever they want to do.

What was the most challenging part of your internship?

In my classes, problems always have clear-cut assumptions, conditions, and solutions, but in the real world, problems aren’t nearly that easy. At first, it was difficult for me to decide how to solve open-ended problems, but my internship at The Wooten Company has taught me to be more flexible and adaptive in finding solutions.

 

Gary Hartong, PE Becomes President of ACEC-NC

The Wooten Company is pleased to announce that our Vice President, Gary Hartong, PE, is now the President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina(ACEC-NC)! ACEC is the only group in North Carolina that represents the business interests of engineering firms across the State so we couldn't be more excited to see how Gary's leadership continues to extend the influence of ACEC-NC's legislative advocacy and business services. We sat down to chat with Gary about what this honor means to him and what he hopes to accomplish during his time as President. 

What does being President of ACEC-NC mean to you?

Serving as President of this organization means that I am afforded the opportunity to surround myself with some of the most-talented engineering leadership in the State and in the consulting engineering industry. Having top-notch leadership in place at the Board and Committee levels will ensure that our industry is not only protected from all sides but is advancing forward on multiple fronts. Administrative support from our organization’s staff will also make sure our organization’s objectives are seamlessly executed. Honestly, it’s an opportunity that I never expected would be obtainable when I became involved with this organization 8 years ago through its Future Leaders Program. I will undoubtedly grow both professionally and personally. Just like L.E. Wooten, Sr. was excited to serve as the first President of ACEC-NC in 1968-69, I am also eager to serve this organization as President during our upcoming 50th anniversary.

What do you feel is the biggest advantage that ACEC-NC offers to its members?

The mission of ACEC-NC is to promote the interests of engineering companies through legislative advocacy and business services. Our Board and Committee leadership advocates on National and State issues to make our firms more efficient, more profitable and more desirable places to work. To achieve this, our committees have worked hard to develop close working relationships with our State agencies, North Carolina General Assembly and U.S. Congress to promote sound business policies. Being an active, committed ACEC-NC member adds to our collective voice.

What has ACEC-NC done that you are most proud of?

In May 2017, ACEC-NC was the first ACEC state organization to establish an independent expenditure account - namely Engineering Companies for North Carolina (ECNC). ECNC is a non-profit mechanism to allow our member firms to make financial contributions to advocate for or against State or Federal initiatives that directly influence our businesses. While ECNC funds cannot be used to contribute to an individual election campaign, funds may be used for advertising, voter outreach or educational event hosting. ECNC complements our existing State Political Action Committee.

What is the number one thing on your to-do list while serving as President?

My number one goal during my tenure is to establish relationships with the NC Department of Environmental Quality and NC State Construction Office equivalent to the close relationship that we have developed with Secretary Trogdon and the NC Department of Transportation. Of course, this will not happen overnight, but ACEC-NC desires to be regarded as both a business partner and technical resource for these state departments that many of our member firms work with on a daily basis.  

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