Larimer County Public Works Division

The Larimer County Public Works Division (LCPWD) in Fort Collins, Colo., covers a lot of ground, literally. The 2,640-square-mile county – roughly the size of Delaware – is home to six cities and towns and has a population of 293,000. With its expansive rural areas that include Rocky Mountain National Park and urban areas that include Colorado State University, the LCPWD has a lot to keep it busy.

The LCPWD consists of six departments: engineering, road and bridge, fleet service, solid waste, natural resources and a fairgrounds/events complex. In 2010, the LCPWD has a budget of $54 million. Marc Engemoen, LCPWD director, is a Colorado State University graduate and has spent 30 years in municipal and county government, all in Larimer County.

Engineering Department

This department plans, designs and manages the construction a variety of public works projects including roads and bridges, parks and stormwater improvements. The department also reviews and enforces engineering standards; provides surveying, construction, right-of-way and traffic related engineering services; manages stormwater quality; oversees floodplain administration; and improvement district administration, and coordinates right-of-way, special transport and access permits.

In 2009, the engineering department managed $13.1 million in construction projects: a number of bridge replacements, transportation improvements at intersections including a rural roundabout and road maintenance such as the annual pavement overlay project. Construction projects also included a number of projects for other departments: campground expansions, camper services buildings, a pedestrian trail underpass, a water treatment system at a road and bridge shop, and a landfill phase closure. Construction projects for other public works departments are often managed by the engineering department. “Any of the departments could choose to use an outside firm to do the job, but because we have such an exceptional and capable engineering department, other departments choose to work through them,” Engemoen says.

“The department is very cost-conscious,” Engemoen says. “We deliver on time and on budget because we have to. We have an excellent track record for meeting our schedules and staying within our budget.” Engemoen has been with the county for 13 years and says many of the engineers have been there even longer and are well qualified. “This department is full of registered professional engineers who belong to a variety of professional organizations, so they keep up to date with new standards and guidelines,” he says.

Road and Bridge

The Road and Bridge Department is responsible for the maintenance of roadway and storm drainage assets within Larimer County. Forty percent of the county’s roughly 1,000-mile road system is paved and there are approximately 200 bridges more than 20 feet long. Its mission is to continually assess the public’s current and future transportation needs and expectations while responding appropriately given fiscal realities.

To help Larimer County citizens keep informed on the state of the roadways and to be accountable to those citizens, the Road and Bridge Department uses a report card on its Web site to grade the road system based on crash rates, road conditions and traffic capacities. According to Engemoen, the roads are evaluated once a year to ensure report card information is accurate and timely.

Other Departments

The Solid Waste Department is responsible for solid and hazardous waste management and recycling. Engemoen says recent construction projects included closing a completed phase of a landfill and reestablishing a stream within its historic channel. Installation of new scales at the entrance of the landfill is on tap for early summer 2010.

The Natural Resources Department manages an extensive open space and outdoor recreation system in Larimer County. “We try to continuously improve this system,” Engemoen says. Recent projects include building a new marina, expanding camping facilities and adding utility connections to many campsites, improving the trail system, building camper services buildings with showers and reconstructing the swim beach at one of the department’s several reservoir parks. “We try to meet customers’ desires to utilize but also protect the special places that make Larimer County unique,” he adds.

The Fleet Services Department and its 19 employees perform comprehensive preventative maintenance and repairs on 799 pieces of equipment and vehicles. Fuel sales and equipment replacement are the other major elements of fleet services.

The Fairgrounds and Events Department has a multipurpose entertainment and event complex called “The Ranch” under its jurisdiction. The Ranch has 375,000 square feet of event space and is just 40 minutes north of Denver. This state-of-the-art complex accommodates a variety of events from minor league sports, trade shows, conferences and meetings to concerts and festivals. The location and amenities make it the ideal site for regional, state and national events.

Keeping the Customer Happy

Engemoen and the LCPWD plan to continue providing quality services to the county, even though it’s increasingly hard pressed for adequate maintenance dollars. “We have to be smart about our project selection and focus on those that offer multiple benefits,” he says. “In transportation, for example, we look for projects that improve safety, address maintenance needs and provide increased transportation capacity at the same time.” Engemoen points to projects like the roundabouts the LCPWD recently constructed that not only helped improve traffic flow, but also improved pavement conditions and decreased the likelihood of head-on collisions.

The LCPWD knows who its customers are – the citizens of Larimer County – and Engemoen says it’s always trying to please them. “We’re always looking to make our road systems safer and more efficient, and be accountable to the citizens of Larimer County,” says Engemoen. Because of programs like the road report card, the county is well on its way to doing so.

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