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Tackling Kansas City's Capital Improvements Backlog, Building Public Confidence

By Kansas City (MO) Mayor Kay Barnes
April 25, 2005


One year ago, the city of Kansas City implemented one of the most cutting edge public/private partnership capital improvement programs in the United States to revitalize the city's lagging infrastructure improvement processes.

Created and implemented by the city manager Wayne A. Cauthen, the Capital Improvements Management Office (CIMO) is a unique program designed to accelerate the delivery of capital improvement projects throughout the city and improve the city's business processes and practices. This public/private management team brings together MWH Americas, a global engineering and consulting firm out of Broomfield (CO), and Burns & McDonnell, a nationally recognized engineering firm based out of Kansas City, with city employees.

Today, that team is changing the face of our municipal government by building community confidence in government effectiveness and increasing an entire city's economic viability.

From CIMO's original scope that included 151 backlogged projects valued at $240 million, the city has increased CIMO's scope to include the delivery of $300 million in additional capital improvement projects, major bond projects including the expansion of the Liberty Memorial Museum, the new 18,000 seat NBA and NHL-certified Sprint Center, as well as the management of environmental, demolition, and infrastructure improvement efforts for the "KC Live!" entertainment district, a seven-block downtown redevelopment project in the heart of Kansas City.

While a significant indicator of success is the number of projects now moving forward, the primary focus of CIMO is to adopt a process with industry best practices that allows the city to implement programs that improve the project delivery capacity for the present and the future.

The public/private teaming arrangement that exists within CIMO encourages knowledge transfer between consultants and city employees. This 90-plus-member group includes department directors from the city's Aviation, Public Works, Water Services and Public Safety sectors, such as the Kansas City Police and Fire Departments. They are working side-by'side with private'sector managers. City project managers share knowledge about municipal dynamics while private sector managers share successful project delivery tools and techniques. Combining the two enables the city to develop a customized business plan that has worked extraordinarily well in this municipal environment.

In addition to program and construction management services, the CIMO team is improving the efficiency and capacity of the city processes to complete projects on time and on budget. In the last year, the city has passed ordinances enabling the use of design-build on select city projects that CIMO manages, master service agreements/task orders for architectural/engineering design services less than $100,000 and small construction contracts less than $300,000. These three process improvements enable the city to get more projects on the street faster and more efficiently.

The CIMO staff has had a significant impact on the progress of the city's redevelopment efforts and the confidence of the citizens in their city government. Soon after CIMO began operation, the team initiated a comprehensive branding campaign. For all major City projects, the team put together a signage program and developed logos and marketing material to gain community support.

In addition, CIMO developed a web presence on the city's website that contains project status information, bidding opportunities, news releases and public meeting events. Community forums are frequently held throughout Kansas City's six council districts. CIMO's communications group handles ground breakings, dedication ceremonies and press conferences in order to shed light on pertinent projects. The success of this effort is best evidenced by the voter-approved $300 million bond issuance that was passed in April 2004.

A critical part of the overall CIMO plan is self'sufficiency. As originally planned, the consultants will eventually transition out and transfer all responsibilities to city staff that work within CIMO. The organizational structure has been developed to support substantial growth while maintaining efficient project delivery.

We believe that CIMO and the associated capital improvement program is a catalyst for future successes in economic development, downtown revitalization, and local job growth. In addition to fast-tracking existing projects, CIMO is developing a comprehensive management system to assist in the planning and development of all future capital improvement projects. It is expected that the plan will help lead to lower project costs and expedited projects that will allow for greater investment in our civic infrastructure.