Fist Bumps, Not Handshakes

Fist Bumps, Not Handshakes

I know you were all looking forward to another newsletter with an update on a project that you have already read about three times or maybe you were looking forward to reading about the infamous leaking locks on the Panama Canal (D.L. Howell Blog, J. Brewer, August 2015), or how about another newsletter about drones! For this week’s newsletter, I am going to go with something a little different and hopefully useful to all of our fellow professionals working in an office environment. 

It’s that time of year again when there is that one person in the office that we will call ‘Patient Zero’ or ‘RBV.’ He comes into the office and is obviously sick, well, obvious to everyone but himself. To him, it’s ‘just allergies’ or a ‘tickle in my throat,’ but to the rest of us, it’s a contagious common cold. 

I am not a doctor, but with a little research or Googling, I offer you the following tips to help prevent you from getting sick or spreading your ‘allergies’ to the rest of us: 

Person cleaning hand with anti-bacterial hand disinfectant sanitizer dispenser in public mall in Japan

  • Don’t try and be a hero and come to work when you ‘feel like you got hit by a truck.’ Do us all a favor and stay home, rest, and recover. 
  • If you still want to be a hero and try to impress with your dedication to the job. Go into your office and put yourself into isolation. And don’t come out at lunchtime and ask if anyone wants to go to lunch. 
  • Hand Sanitizer and lots of it! Here at D.L. Howell, we have hand sanitizer in every room you go in. Some of us use more than others, and some like to bathe in it. 
  • Fist bumps instead of handshakes (or hugs).  
  • Cover your mouth with your inner arm, not your hands. This will ensure sanitary fist bumps. 
  • Wipe down your work area. It’s incredible what you wipe off your mouse, keyboard, and phone. 

Hopefully, we can all follow these steps and keep everyone healthy and working hard through the cold and flu season. And don’t worry next week we will provide you with an ‘engineering’ newsletter that you have all come to enjoy! 

DLH Carves Out Team to Handle Growing Demand for Homeowners Association Consultation

DLH Carves Out Team to Handle Growing Demand for Homeowners Association Consultation

With the demand for complex consulting related to Homeowners Associations on the rise, DLH has made efforts to ensure that a small team of HOA savvy engineers within their already experienced technical staff are available to address the most complicated of Homeowners Association concerns.  

Homeowners Associations, commonly referred to as HOAs, first came on the scene in the mid 1800’s but didn’t gain popularity until the 1960’s when the post-World War II housing boom resulted in the construction of major subdivisions outside city limits. While HOAs were initially used to limit the type of person who could buy in a particular development, in 1963 the number of legitimate HOA’s spiked when the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) offered home mortgage insurance only to homes within subdivisions that had a viable HOA. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 eliminated HOA based racial discrimination and in the 1970’s the Homeowners Association became more about the maintenance of common spaces within residential subdivisions and land developments. It didn’t take long for local municipalities to realize they could more easily make their budgetary “Ends Meet” by eliminating the need to assign taxpayer dollars to amenity maintenance services now provided by the HOA. 

Enter the Clean Water Act of 1977. With the ratification of the Clean Water Act, all new residential developments were required to provide adequate stormwater runoff control by reducing the post development runoff rate to the pre-development runoff rate. And so the detention basin was born! As we know, basins tend to take up a fair amount of real estate and that (coupled with the fact that those same basins serve multiple dwellings) led municipalities to require that the maintenance associated with the detention basins and other non-dedicated “common” site amenities be controlled by a single entity as opposed to a private lot owner. 

Why is any of this important you ask? It is important because during the construction phase of a residential development, the developer sets up the HOA and acts as the majority member, i.e. he owns the most number of lots and controls the most number of votes. Once enough homeowners exist to elect an HOA Board of Directors, the power transitions from the developer to the homeowners. There are laws that govern how and when this occurs which are beyond the scope of this newsletter. The main point here is that HOAs need to understand that at the time of “transition” from a developer controlled HOA to homeowner controlled HOA, there are several areas of responsibility that get lost in the shuffle. Those responsibilities, if not clearly defined and addressed, can result in massive negative financial impacts to the HOA.

Stormwater facility operations and maintenance after initial transition and the evaluation of functioning NPDES sanctioned stormwater facilities at final transition are two of the main pitfalls missed by HOA once transition occurs. In short, the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions governing how an HOA operates should clearly define who is responsible for the post construction stormwater management operations and maintenance of all stormwater facilities and when in the transition process that entity becomes responsible. Things start to fall apart when neither the developer nor the HOA take responsibility for maintenance of these facilities because each thought it was the other’s responsibility. This is a common occurrence when the HOA takes majority control of the HOA Board. The disregard for required maintenance of stormwater facilities in the latter stages of construction leads to the second pitfall which is ensuring all of the stormwater facilities actually operate as the approved development plans intend PRIOR to final transition (all things developer get handed over to HOA), release of municipal escrow funds and….most importantly, Termination of the developer’s NPDES Permit. In the end, if the termination of the NPDES Permit occurs prior to all stormwater systems functioning as designed, the HOA can find themselves on the hook for the cost to make repairs. That can mean big $$$ in construction costs or fines for not terminating the NPDES Permit in a timely fashion. 

DLH routinely works with Developers and Homeowners Associations to make sure each knows their role and responsibilities during all stages of this very complicated process. Look to DLH to help you with the following:

  • Civil Engineering Consultation Services for Developers and HOAs to clearly define roles and responsibilities
  • Work with Developers to guide them on site improvements may or may not be required to get a site to “Transition Ready”
  • Perform inspection of stormwater facilities, Best Management Practices and site infrastructure to ensure the HOA is inheriting a sound development site that meets all regulatory agency requirements
  • Act as a liaison between the HOA and the regulatory agencies including the Municipality – we speak their language! 
  • Develop post transition regulations on how HOAs and associated Architectural Review Boards govern the installation of impervious surface and stormwater facilities that may fall outside Municipal review authority
  • Attend HOA Board meetings to help educate residents on why certain expenditures or capital improvements are necessary
  • Provide professional engineering services to address site improvements deficiencies that arise after transition has occurred 

New Jersey Civil Engineering and Land Surveying

New Jersey Civil Engineering and Land Surveying

Civil Engineering and Land Surveying in New JerseyWe are excited to announce that D.L.Howell and Associates and Howell Kline Surveying has expanded into New Jersey!

We are providing the following Civil Engineering and Land Surveying services:

Civil Engineering

Subdivision and Land Development Design & Approval
Erosion and Sedimentation Control Design
FEMA Map Studies and Revisions
Floodplain Analysis
Building Permit Plans
Pool Permit Plans

Land Surveying

Boundary & Lot Surveys
Topographic Surveys
ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys
Title Research
FEMA Floodplain Elevation Certifications
Construction Stake-Out
Legal Descriptions

Please contact us at (609) 301-5481

Project Graveyard

Project Graveyard

What happens when a civil engineering project is started but never completed? It enters a purgatory, neither alive nor dead. A monument to the mistakes of yore. A relic of what could have been, but never was.

OK, enough with the dramatic introduction. I’m talking about infrastructure that began construction but just was never completed. Maybe due to insufficient project funds, politics, public opposition, or one of many various unforeseen circumstances. Some of these projects you can still find remnants of even to this day if you know where to look.

One such example is the Schuylkill Parkway located in Bridgeport, PA. Originally designed in the 1960s to be a freeway bypass of PA 23 between US422 and US 202. The goal was to alleviate the anticipated congestion in Bridgeport by creating a direct route to 422 rather than traveling south on 202, past the recently opened King of Prussia Mall, and eventually merging onto 422. In 1972, the interchange at PA 23 and US 202 was built, along with a short freeway stub and traffic signals. Construction came to a grinding halt when PennDOT ran out of funds (surprise surprise). This “Road to Nowhere” now sits unused except for the occasional commercial driver’s license tests’ and emergency vehicle training exercises, firmly entombed in the project graveyard.

Coincidentally, this next project was also another proposed freeway bypass of PA23. This one, however, is located in Lancaster County. Designed in the 1960s, plans were made to build a freeway for PA 23 between US 30 (East Walnut Street in Lancaster City) and PA 772. Construction began in the 1970s. Several bridges were built, the preliminary road grading was completed, and an interchange located at PA 772 was well on its way towards completion. But when PennDOT canceled all expressway projects not part of the Interstate System in the 1970s, this project became an infamous casualty. Subsequently, the road alignment was planted over and leased to adjacent farms and the would-be road became known locally as “The Goat Path.” Every decade or so a proposal emerges to rejuvenate this project but as of 2019, nothing has gained any real traction. It remains in the project graveyard.

So if you don’t want your project to become part of the project graveyard, give D.L. Howell a call. Every state interstate system project we have ever designed has been fully completed….which is none.

 

Photo By Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States – Pennsylvania State Route 23, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38145635
Longwood Preserve Construction in Full Swing

Longwood Preserve Construction in Full Swing

Large projects can take quite a long time to build. Some of our smaller projects may only last a few months or even a year, while other larger projects could last multiple years. Many things happen on the jobsite during that time, such as earthmoving, stormwater management, and road and foundation construction.

Keeping track of all of the jobsite changes over time can be difficult. The limiting factors are what you’re able to see from the ground and the time that a construction site manager may have to take photos of the jobsite for record-keeping. Jobsite construction processes and documentation is now becoming a lot easier with the use of D.L. Howell drone services to document your project.

In the example project below, D.L. Howell & Associates has been keeping records of the construction progress by flying the jobsite on a monthly basis. The jobsite images are always captured at the same altitude using the same flight plan every time. This provides the construction company with a standardized set of images of the construction site on specific dates.

Construction companies utilize these images to check their project jobsite to make sure the job is moving along at the scheduled pace. These images also provide information about assets in the field as well as construction material location.

During the construction process, volumes of topsoil stockpiles can be calculated for a better understanding of the amount of dirt that has been moved or still needs to be moved. Also, the images can provide information about on-site stormwater facilities, assisting contractors and designers in making sure that volumes are correct and stormwater facilities are designed correctly.

Below you’ll find a quick one minute video of all of the images that were captured over the last two years showing the image and date of the program’s flight. This will give you an idea of how the jobsite progresses over a two-year period.

Below the video are the actual images of the jobsite for you to click on in view.

If you feel that D.L. Howell & Associates can assist you with your construction project utilizing our professional drone services, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your project needs.

 

 

 

2019 Sporting Clays Invitational

2019 Sporting Clays Invitational

Last Friday, members of the D.L. Howell and HowellKline teams participated in the 2019 Annual Sporting Clays Invitational. The event, held at Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays, benefited the Scout programs of the Chester County Council, Boy Scouts of America. The Scouts BSA vision is “to prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.” The council serves almost 6,000 youth each year with the help of many adult leaders. To date, the Sporting Clays event has generated over $214,000 for Scouting programs in Chester County Council.

D.L. Howell and HowellKline would like to thank the Chester County Council, BSA for hosting this event.  It was a great day out for a great cause!

To learn more about the Chester County Council BSA, visit www.cccbsa.org.