It's not good when one of the fastestgrowing counties in the country falls more than $386 million behind in roadbuilding. Osceola County, Fla., did, and it faced the unhappy prospect of returning impact fees to developers. But Kenneth E. Atkins, the new public works administrator, shook up the department and got seven projects rolling.
During the past decade, the U.S. Census Bureau consistently has ranked Osceola County, on the outskirts of Orlando, as among the 100 fastest growing counties in the U.S. It grew by 52.9% from April 2000 to July 2008. Vehicles clogged existing roadways, yet the county could not seem to get anything built until County Manager Michael Freilinger hired Atkins.
Atkins served for 18 years in the U.S. Army, including 15 with the Corps of Engineers, and has worked for several counties and municipalities. He combined that experience with private-sector consulting at GAI Consultants in Orlando, as well as being an owner. When he came to the Osceola County Public Works Dept., he got busy, paring 60 positions, creating specialty units, streamlining permitting time from two years or more to four months, speeding up design from as long as seven years to one or two, and turning to six vertical construction-management firms to quickly build roads.
"The board is very proud of Ken and the public works team," says Fred Hawkins Jr., chairman of the Osceola Board of County Commissioners. They have come through like shining stars, with Ken doing a fantastic job. It's getting us caught up on infrastructure and allowed us to put local residents to work during this economy.
Osceola County provided the constructionmanagement firms with office space, phones and computers to foster constant collaboration and communication. "We thought they could learn from each other, and we would be more successful," says Atkins. The firms began sharing ideas, and designers from different segments even helped each other meet deadlines.
�Ken Atkins� vision and willingness to introduce a new way of doing business in Osceola County demonstrates he is a true innovator in our industry,� says Scott Skidelsky, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction Co. in Orlando, one of the six CMs. �He believed that the introduction of construction management contracts using well-established vertical builders and their utilization of local subcontractors and suppliers would bring success. He was right.�
The six projects started in 2008. All are on time and on budget. More than 75% of the subcontracts, worth $82 million, have gone to local firms. �Since 1989, there has not been much highway work in the county�until they put this program together,� says Joseph Rodriguez, president of MSE Systems, Kissimmee.
�With the right team you can make anything possible,� says Atkins. �Construction management principles are right, and we know it is the best way to build a job every single time.�