Located approximately 35 miles north of downtown Atlanta, the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center (WRC) is Gwinnett County’s largest and most advanced wastewater treatment facility. Designed to meet the wastewater treatment and sanitary needs of the county, the award-winning WRC serves as a worldwide model for wastewater treatment. Because the plant returns water to Lake Lanier—a major recreational and water supply source for Metro Atlanta—it meets and even exceeds some of the most stringent effluent quality limits in the nation.
The facility also represents a milestone in my professional life. Although I’m a civil engineer, I originally began working at the WRC as a contractor on an on-call program created by Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources (GCDWR) to address emergency and urgent maintenance needs at their facilities. I eventually “switched hats,” transitioning from a contractor to a consultant role as a member of Gresham Smith’s on-call team.
My previous role as a contractor has given me a unique perspective on the program, which makes use of established contracting methods to function within the County’s procurement guidelines. In this post, I take a closer look at this innovative on-call delivery model.
The Anatomy of the Program
The on-call program at F. Wayne Hill WRC allows Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources to form delivery teams that include engineers, contractors, manufacturers and subject matter experts with skills and experience relevant to solving an immediate problem, and to quickly restore equipment back to reliable operation.
When the program initially kicked off, it was on a much smaller scale than what it has become today. Back then, I was one of four contractors with a crew of six field employees and two office personnel. The contractor is now running a team of six office staff with a crew of around 20 in the field. The consultant component has also grown significantly since Gresham Smith began working at the plant in 2016, with our on-call (OC) team increasing from two full-time employees to four FTEs, with additional support as required.
But how does the on-call program work? Glad you asked! As issues arise—either due to failures, modifications needed to address process needs, permit issues or capacity through the facility—GCDWR determines if their personnel can handle the work. Once they decide they need the help of the on-call (OC) team, they reach out to us to develop a scope of work that identifies the problem as well as the proposed solution. We then work hand in hand with the contractor to resolve the issue as quickly as possible while still providing the optimum product.
Each facility at the WRC has a consultant/contractor team that is consistent in order to build relationships and garner knowledge of that facility. The OC teams work in an integrated manner with County operations and maintenance (O&M) staff to help them build the maintenance, repair and rehab skills required to maximize equipment life using historical data from the Computerized Maintenance Management System also known as CMMS.
With approval from the GCDWR project manager, I coordinate the resources needed from sole-source vendors (with approval from the GCDWR project manager), annual contractors and other consultants as needed to effectively define the problem, come up with short- and long-term solutions, and develop a scope of work for the contractor.
Our team assists the contractor in implementing the solution in the field, coordinating startup services to restore the equipment to its design condition, and transferring the equipment back to plant operations. The overarching goal of the program is to get a facility operational first, followed by reliable and sustainable. This process sometimes requires multiple phases, and at other times our solution can serve all three of those goals.
The Power of Collaboration
Ultimately, the on-call program at F. Wayne Hill WRC enables a high degree of collaboration among stakeholders while maintaining quality with minimal impact on the facility. It also expedites the completion of work, facilitating fast solutions to issues as they arise. Even smaller-scale projects and emergency items don’t have to wait six months to a year to make it through the procurement process as we can handle them day to day as they arise.
Some might call this on-call program a little out-of-the-box as compared to your more traditional design-bid-build or even design-build projects that owners are used to executing. Personally, I see this as the delivery method of the future. And I believe others will, too, once they realize the overall value of this innovative approach, which has minimized procurement burden, improved equipment availability, enhanced operations effectiveness and significantly reduced the mean-time to repair.