LJA Engineering | Insights Winter 2017 | Land Development

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WINTER | 2017


we build civilization


2017 IS STRONG LJA is a unique place. We are home to 670 people in 25 offices - and growing - providing nearly 270 different services and solutions for every client across the globe. We have a strong presence in the southern United States, but did you also know we have designed infrastructure with construction costs of over $1 Billion in the Middle East? Yes, LJA is global.

We take our talent and resources wherever and whenever they are needed. 2016 saw a lot of firsts. We won the Trifecta Award for the first time from Zweig Group which is given to firms that rank as a Hot Firm, a Best Firm to Work For, and receive Marketing Excellence awards. Achieving these accolades allowed us to springboard off an extremely successful 2016, and position us for the years ahead. We are growing our service offerings and geographic reach even farther, welcoming new staff, observing the kickoff of major projects, and celebrating our 45th anniversary. “Grow or die� is our motto, and 2017 is stronger than ever.

Clearly, there has never been a better time to be at LJA Engineering. Our 45th anniversary celebrates you, the employees and clients of LJA. Without you, we would not be who we are or where we are. Thank you for your support and years of trust. We look forward to the next milestone, building civilization, and creating better lives for staff, clients, and communities.

Calvin Ladner, PE President and CEO LJA Engineering

“The main ingredient of our success that has fueled our growth stems from the great employees and clients of LJA. Thank you!� - Calvin Ladner, PE, President and CEO

LAND DEVELOPMENT | Letter from the Executive Vice President

THE FUTURE OF DEVELOPMENT It has been quite a year. Just when you think it’s going one

Personally and professionally,

way, an unexpected guest named Harvey drops in.

we understand wholeheartedly the importance of this

Hurricane Harvey was a record setting storm that

responsibility and are honored

exceeded previous rainfall totals and extents, producing

to be able to safeguard what

unprecedented flooding across Southeast Texas. Our own

matters most.

Dr. John Grounds, vice president at LJA Engineering, has prepared a white paper, Hurricane Harvey: Analysis and

Houston is a strong,

Comparisons, summarizing rainfall totals, their extreme

vibrant city with an

nature, and comparisons to previous flood disasters. We

even stronger resilience

hope you find it both informative and interesting.

and heart. We will recover better than before.

LJA recently asked David Jarvis, senior vice president of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, for his key insights into the industry impacts we can expect from Hurricane Harvey. Among the most significant included increased labor costs, 5+ years of rebuilding, and growth in new construction volume in the next two years. Using other hurricanes as case studies for these “history lessons,” Jarvis foretold an uptick in land development and construction along the Texas Gulf Coast. His other predictions for 2018 lead us to believe that the immediate future looks good. Developers have a right to be optimistic. Houston’s residential sector is still picking up, and the economy is looking strong based on employment (40,900 new jobs fueled by population growth) and new home sales (30,700 predicted for 2018, an expected 8% increase year over year).

Hurricane Harvey reinforced what we have known in our firm all along, how truly critical our designs are in the communities we serve. We are entrusted to protect the lives and personal property of the public.


Jim Moehlman, PE Director of Land Development Join Us! LJA offers our clients two opportunities to hear valuable insight into the local, national, and global economies from local experts. Our LJA Economic Forecasts in the spring and fall are signature events that are eagerly anticipated year after year. Reaching crowd capacity, LJA hosts several elected officials, major land developers and builders, financial advisors, and local legal counsel whose practices are affected by the state of the economy. Would you like an invitation to LJA’s upcoming spring forecast? Contact Karina Moreno, External Communications Manager, at kmoreno@lja.com for details. See you in 2018!

CONTENTS | Headliners



05 Water, Water Everywhere

20 Brazoria County Drainage District

Dr. John Grounds discusses TFMA Day at the Capitol.

07 Improving Clear Lake City

The Reserve at Clear Lake City kickstarts development in the area.

09 Aliana Development Grows

LJA makes it easier for the District to review, process, and approve all design plans.

SURVEYING 21 Surveying Technology

Integrating new surveying tools at every opportunity.

One of Fort Bend’s most prestigious master planned communities is on the rise.



24 Grand Parkway Comes Around

Charleston Charm Comes to Texas

Explore a new development with landscaping that transports you to the low country of North Carolina.


HCIFS Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Our site team celebrated their work on the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.


Parten Ranch Takes Off


The Right Tool for the Job

Central Texas Land Development has a unique project greenbelts for all lots.

LJA provided planning and design for four of the direct connectors.

LJA EVERYDAY 25 New Services and Offices

Meet Precision Aerial! And join us in Conroe and College Station!

The LJA Discovery process saves you time, money, and effort.


LAND DEVELOPMENT | Water Resources

DRAINAGE & FLOOD CONTROL PROGRESS by John Grounds, III, PhD, PE, CFM, D.WRE, Director of Water Resources As a response to the Memorial

As the past president of the Texas

We will continue to raise awareness

Day Flood of 2015 that devastated

Floodplain Management Association

about flooding and also hope positive

Wimberley, and the Memorial and Tax

(TFMA), I participated in the TFMA

change at the state level will occur.

Day Floods of 2016, Governor Abbott

Day at the Capitol.

had requested $12.5 Million* for the Texas Water Development Board for: • • •

• 05

Intelligent/networked gages Flood data at TexasFlood.org Weather stations and soil moisture monitoring (TexMesonet.org) Grants for early flood warning systems and local flood mitigation planning High-resolution land-surface data sensors (LiDAR) for improved flood plain and flood level prediction State flood plan

In response to Hurricane Harvey, LJA We personally sat down with several

prepared a white paper, “Hurricane

state senators, representatives, and

Harvey: Analysis and Comparisons,”

their staffs to promote the governor’s

that summarizes the rainfall totals,

plan and to educate the legislators on

determined their recurrence intervals,

floodplain management.

and compared them to other historic

We found it equally important to stress the roles that education, science, and engineering play in reducing the loss of life and property damage resulting from floods. In light of Hurricane Harvey, these efforts are more important than ever.

flood events. LJA has met with our communities to provide an overview of the flood and how their drainage infrastructure met and exceeded their design to keep them safe from flooding. We are directly involved with regulatory authorities to provide input on how development rules may change in the near future.

*Since Hurricane Harvey, $61 Billion in federal funds has been requested to rebuild and improve the Texas coastline.

Meet our

Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler mounted on a portable trimaran! The instrument can be deployed quickly at bridge crossings during storm events to measure discharge for model calibration and flow rates in water supply canals to determine system losses, calculate velocities at bridge piers for scour analyses, define channel geometry, and gather bathymetric data for channel hydraulics and detention pond volumes.

We’re on call when you need us!



IF THE RESERVE AT CLEAR LAKE CITY COULD TALK by Taylor Baumgartner, PE, Senior Project Manager Clear Lake City is located near the Bay

sell the remaining land to a premier

Lake City. As the land contained more

Area and is home to families working in

residential home builder. Trendmaker

than 25 pipelines, many challenges

both coastal and downtown Houston

Homes began working with LJA in

were encountered on the site. One

jobs. Development in this community

2012 to lay the groundwork for the

major solution during the planning

has been moderate since the 1990s. In

new master planned community,

stages included designing zero load

2007, Fidelis Realty Partners purchased

which would later be known as The

slabs to create underground concrete

450 acres of land on Clear Lake City

Reserve at Clear Lake City.

bridges to protect Exxon, Chevron,

Boulevard located east of the Gulf

and Shell pipelines and allow for

Freeway and south of Sam Houston

The Reserve was designed for

Parkway, with plans to reinvigorate the

varying lot sizes intended to

economy and attract new residents.

attract a multitude of buyers;

Home construction is underway on

however, it was in desperate need

Phases One and Two. Sales have

The tract, previously owned by Kinder

of a major thoroughfare to control and

been good in the area with 213 sold

Morgan, was prime acreage for

streamline increased traffic created by

to date. In response to the success

commercial and retail development

the new commercial and residential

of the first phases of The Reserve,

and associated infrastructure such

development. El Dorado Boulevard

Trendmaker kicked off Phase Three.

as schools, parks, and homes, but

became that new roadway.

Fidelis Realty has surrounded its

possessed significant hurdles posed

roadway and utility crossings.

anchor store, HEB, with several retail

from existing pipeline corridors.

A collector road was also created

outlets such as PetSmart, Smoothie

As time passed, Fidelis chose to

to connect El Dorado Boulevard to

King, MOD Pizza, and Ritter’s Custard

retain the commercial acreage

Space Center Boulevard to provide

and Burgers. LJA continues to work

for retail, restaurant, and grocery

an additional route for residents

with the developer on this high profile

development, including an HEB, and

accessing the north side of Clear



“Seeing change in an area that hasn’t seen much development in 30 years was truly rewarding.” - Taylor Baumgartner, PE


08 17



ALIANA DEVELOPMENT ON THE RISE by Jason Kelly, PE, Vice President Aliana is a 2,043-acre master planned

their vision to life... from utility and

features present opportunities for

community located in Fort Bend

roadway master planning, to traffic

relaxation, while providing critical

County, one of the fastest growing

impact analyses, and design and

drainage/detention basins that

counties in Texas. The upscale

construction administration for the

assist with flood control. LJA worked

community features abundant parks

major thoroughfares and collector

hand-in-hand with the environmental

and green space, amenity lakes for

roads winding throughout the

consultant to incorporate aquatic

drainage and recreation, hike and


wetland shelves into the lake to

bike trails, and two recreation centers.

meet permitting requirements. These

A master drainage plan was prepared by LJA, which created a system of interconnected amenity/detention lakes to mitigate the increased level of development in the watershed, thereby reducing the potential for flooding in the community.

wetland shelves improve the quality

with city, county, and TxDOT

One of the many features within

has reduced the community’s reliance

representatives throughout the

Aliana is the amenity lakes, which

on potable water and has maintained

design and construction processes.

serve as a central recreational hub

consistent water levels in the lakes,

We worked with the developer, Aliana

within the community. These dual-

ultimately preserving the aquatic

Development Company, to bring

purpose lakes with unique water


Engaged in 2010 by Aliana Development Company (ADC), LJA has been instrumental in laying the foundations for critical infrastructure. We have imparted key consultation to ADC from the beginning, including ongoing coordination

of stormwater discharged into the amenity lakes. LJA also devised a water re-use plan utilizing treated effluent from the community’s wastewater treatment plant to maintain water levels in the lake system. The use of treated effluent


LAND DEVELOPMENT | Landscape Architecture

BRINGING CHARLESTON CHARM TO STILLWATER DEVELOPMENT by Charlie Patout, PLA, Manager of Landscape Architecture Services “Capture the spirit and atmosphere unique to South Carolina’s low country feel.”

the Texas landscape. Old world brick

the many unique developments in the

and detailed ironwork were especially

area ultimately served as the primary

important elements, and several days

inspiration and allowed us to create

were spent exploring the streets,

a similar harmonious vision. Design

This was the objective our landscape

gardens, courtyards, and landscape

must be functional and purposeful

architects and planners were

of South Carolina and Georgia with

while at the same time coalescing

challenged with when asked to help

Tom Cox, president and founder of

with the surrounding environment.

make Gracepoint Homes’ vision a

Gracepoint Homes. Stillwater was to

reality for the Stillwater development

be an immersion into the culture of

To further refine the core identity, LJA

in Conroe, Texas. LJA was eager

the region, its famed architecture, and

worked closely with Gracepoint’s

to take on the design challenge of

its lush gardens.

design team consisting of architects,

incorporating the character of South

civil engineers, and marketing

Carolina’s coastal regions while at

An excursion was made to the town

representatives through a charrette

the same time infusing the age old

of Bluffton, South Carolina to help

process where ideas were explored

reminiscent charm of Charleston into

solidify the low country vision, and

and refined that would ultimately


express the desired theme for the

amenities, and extensive landscaping

brick walls accented with large brick


throughout the community.

columns and three large arches

A holistic approach was adopted by the entire design team to help ensure a feasible and cost effective program that met the project objective and at the same time delivered the desired look and feel.

spanning the lakes on either side. Stillwater is nestled within the pristine

The gated entry is dominated by a

Piney Woods of W.G. Jones State

large tiered cast iron fountain and

Forest. The Piney Woods, along with


large open prairies defined by three rail fencing, begins to evoke the low

The core amenity area featuring the

country feel. To reinforce the look,

“Back Porch” pavilion was recently

the primary entry sign was crafted to

completed. The community gathering

LJA was tasked with visioning,

mimic marsh grasses and is subtly

space boasts wide open views of

conceptual and design development,

accented with lighting to illuminate

the surrounding lakes and features

and a phased implementation

its layers while showcasing the

a multitude of amenities including

including multiple hardscape and

silhouette of the community name

a large outdoor pavilion, restroom,

landscape construction sets. The

“Stillwater.” Native grasses, along with

courtyards with fire pits, an event

major elements included primary and

specimen magnolias and live oaks,

patio and lawn, large overlook trellis,

secondary entries, neighborhood

solidify the low country feel.

and a fishing dock.

monuments, a feature bridge, gated entry, tiered roundabout fountain,

The centerpiece of the community

a large park with a pavilion and

is a bridge featuring 150-foot long 12

“This project impacts so many in the community. Every detail was found equally important as the other.� - Gregory Patch, PE, VP


LAND DEVELOPMENT | Site Development

HARRIS COUNTY INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC SCIENCES by Gregory Patch, PE, Vice President With over 60 years of dedication to

civil engineering design services

Green design features such as

the Houston community, the Harris

included grading, drainage, traffic,

natural light, windows overlooking

County Institute of Forensic Sciences

utility extensions, and construction

green spaces, ventilation and cooling

(IFS) finally got the upgrade it

administration. Careful consideration

systems, indoor air quality, water

desperately needed. IFS serves

was given to the use of the property

conservation, and minimal outdoor

a vital role in the daily operations

and localized flood protection. The

irrigation positions the new building

of a busy city like Houston. Its

building elevation was raised to

as a candidate for LEED Silver

services can be divided into two

ensure safe refuge during extreme


major roles: medical examiner and


crime laboratory. As Harris County continues to grow, the need for state-of-the-art labs also increases. LJA was hired to provide site work on the new 3.2-acre complex. Our

Phase 1 included a nine-story, 210,000 SF tower to house large scale laboratories, morgues, and training spaces and to provide room for administration.

Extra care was taken in the planning stages to minimize the stress that families might experience when visiting the building by flooding spaces with natural light and outdoor views.

IFS Ribbon Cutting Ceremony (from left to right): Jeff Bricker and Rob Owens of Page Architects, and Gregory Patch of LJA Engineering


“Some see dirt and trees, we see communities and life.” - John Clark, PE, Sr. VP 0315 04


PARTEN RANCH by John Clark, PE, Senior Vice President Located southwest of Austin, the 532

with the Travis County Public Utility

lovers, mulch trails allow residents to

acres comprising Parten Ranch lie in

Agency and in facilitating out of

enjoy the green belt. In addition, there

the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ)

district service from the adjacent

will be a swimming pool and other

of Dripping Springs, known as the

municipal utility district (MUD) by

amenities for residents. This project

“Gateway to the Hill Country.” Nearly

expanding their wastewater treatment

will be developed in seven to eight

all of Parten Ranch’s 575 lots back

plant and disposal fields.

phases, offering a mix of lot sizes.

up to 300 acres of green belt. The

LJA’s Central Texas Land division is

community, by design, will have low

We helped create Springhollow MUD

providing these services along with

impervious cover, further reinforcing a

to provide funding assistance and

the assistance of our Central Texas

sustainable lifestyle, and successfully

operational services to the developer.

Public Infrastructure division, which

melding nature with responsible

LJA also engineered a regional

designed TxDOT’s left and right turn


detention pond for the development to improvements to FM 1826. mitigate stormwater run-off impacts.

Establishing the infrastructure for this exciting new community revolved

The community boasts three miles of

around water supply and wastewater

sidewalks that follow the backbone

issues. We assisted our client in

collector roadway, meandering

acquiring a water service agreement

through mature trees. For nature

LJA’s services include working hand-in-hand with our client and the City of Dripping Springs to craft a development agreement that gives life to Parten Ranch.




Have you ever... ...entered a new market area and wished there was a system to get you up to speed quickly? ...wanted to investigate a specific property using data, analysis, and exhibits enabling you to review the property in depth before visiting the site? ...had a specific type of property in mind, but could not easily and economically evaluate potential locations? ...spent a great deal of time and money looking at a tract of land only to discover problems too expensive or time consuming to overcome?

LJA has maintained a major presence in land development for over 45 years, demonstrated by the firm’s experience on numerous projects ranging in size from smaller commercial sites to premier master planned communities. We have an excellent reputation for providing value-added service in land acquisition and property evaluations for developers, economic development councils, and municipal and state agencies. Our specialists utilize powerful GIS applications perfectly suited for property evaluations.

At LJA, DiscoveryTM not only saves time, money, and effort, it provides initial information to help in your decision-making process. Our DiscoveryTM process utilizes a proprietary GIS-based data system that quickly provides an impressive amount of information in an easy to understand visual format. This, along with the knowledge of our professional staff, can assist in locating the property that fits your needs, whether it is a property LJA has previously investigated, or one you bring to us. 17


LUKE is your community assistant LUKE assists management companies, cities, or HOAs in handling requests and choosing the correct staff to help; all while communicating directly with the public, residents, or tenants.


 iPhone



A modern approach to 311


There’s a problem:

The public:


Water leaks

Opens the app

Knows where to go & what to expect

Potholes & streetlights

Describes the problem

Creates a work order


Takes a photo

Resolves the issue

Safety items, etc.

Sends it to operations

Generates a report



KEEPING PACE WITH PEARLAND by George Culver, Director of GIS Per their mission statement, the

to review, process, and approve all

current status, calendar dates, and

Brazoria County Drainage District

design plans, and oversee inspections

locations, as well as other pertinent

No. 4 was created to “detain, control,

during construction in the District’s

information and characteristics.

preserve, and distribute the storm and

80-square mile jurisdiction. LJA

flood waters within its jurisdiction.” As

customized a comprehensive GIS

Information collected for each project

development increases in Pearland,

application for the District that

allows staff to search and filter the

it is essential that the District keeps

goes far beyond simple mapping

database, both in the office and the

pace with reviewing, accepting, and

capabilities, and includes organizing

field. The LJA-designed application

inspecting storm-related infrastructure

and streamlining the existing

doesn’t stop there - it also includes

to allow development to progress and

work flow. The GIS web-based

valuable tools that allow project

to keep the public safe from storm

application creates a path for each

inspectors to relay their findings in

and flood waters.

set of plans, providing a space for

the field to the appropriate District

authorized District staff to approve,

engineers and managers.

With this ongoing development

communicate, and participate in

spurring new infrastructure, LJA

current and past projects, and to

was engaged to build an application

track relevant dialog. The projects are

that makes it easier for the District

documented with relevant contacts,

LJA has a full-service GIS team ready to help when and where you need us.


Innovation through advanced technology 21


BIG PROJECTS, HIGH EXPECTATIONS by Jeremy D. Russell, RPLS, Vice President Our Survey team recently traveled to

Orthomosaic Photogrammetry, we

central Texas to perform a topographic

provided our clients with accurate

survey on a 240-acre facility. Through

representations of the surface area.

utilization of advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), we were able

3D Laser Ground Surface Scanning

to collect data on the expansive project

was also performed at locations

within days.

identified by the client. These areas were processed and delivered in both

We began the project by establishing

3D Point Cloud and LFM formats for

control and setting ground control

the design team. This project was

points for the aerial flight. Our field

performed in the field, and all of the

crews then collected approximately

data was delivered within a quick

30-percent coverage to ground truth

14-day turnaround.

all flight data. Once these two data sets were processed and combined,

Our expertise in these technologies

Digital Surface Models and Digital

gave the client overlapping data that

Terrain Models were created for

can be used in a variety of softwares

delivery to the design team. By using

for project design and planning. 22


YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO TECHNICAL by Heather Sides, RPLS, West Houston Survey Manager Our clients expect accuracy and

comprehensive certification

precision, and so do we. Quality work

sponsored by the National Society

starts at the staff level. We believe

of Professional Surveyors. It tests

in educating and certifying our

technical capabilities and general

survey technicians, increasing their

knowledge of workplace safety

knowledge base. Our clients can be

and procedures through four levels

confident in the services we provide

with an “office” or “field” track

by our Registered Professional Land

for technicians. We’re proud to

Surveyors and Certified Survey

announce that LJA hosted the April

Technicians (CST).

CST exam.

Several of our employees have taken

Congratulations to our newest Certified Survey Technicians!

steps to further their credentials through the CST Program, a


• Michael Carpenter, CST I • Michael Doring, CST I • William Hock, CST I • Brandon Holt, CST II Office • Barry Hood, CST I • Eric Neyhart, CST III Boundary • Aaron Ostertag, CST I • Jason Sorrels, CST I • Göran Svenman, CST I


GRAND PARKWAY AT HARDY ROAD by Robert Barnett, PE, Vice President LJA provided preliminary and design phase engineering for the direct connectors from the Hardy Toll Road to the Grand Parkway/ SH 99. The Hardy Toll Road provides a third controlled access route from the north Harris County/Montgomery County area into the heart of central Houston. Allowing high speed interchange for traffic on the Grand Parkway is a key feature in linking SH 99 into Houston via the Hardy Toll Road. In order to meet the planned opening scheduled for SH 99, the interchange designs were prepared on a fast-track schedule and put out for bid within only seven months in early 2015 for $34 Million. On top of a tight schedule, we realigned the north bound direct connectors to avoid potential impacts to the newly reconstructed facilities at Harris County’s Dennis Johnston Park. Additionally, great efforts were taken to avoid creating drainage issues or environmental impacts to areas in and around the construction.

LJA managed the design team and provided planning and design for four of the direct connectors. 24

LJA EVERYDAY | New Services

HELPING YOU REACH NEW HEIGHTS by Jeremy D. Russell, RPLS, Vice President LJA is the parent company of Precision Aerial Compliance Solutions LLC, an aerial data collection and inspection service using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) dedicated to providing a safe, cost-effective, and efficient way to gather actionable data for their business. Precision Aerial has collaborated on a number of “industry firsts” providing successful proof of concept flights for industrial, commercial, and government entities. This experience has given Precision Aerial a unique perspective on the advances and uses of UAS technology in a multitude of industries. From design surveys for project site data to construction and bridges, Precision Aerial has the expertise and technology to capture the quality data you need using the latest UAS technology and instrumentation.

Licensed Pilots We hire only FAA certified pilots to fly our UASs. Granted FAA Section 333 Exemption #13787 We have Section 333 Exemption from the FAA to conduct commercial UAS flights in the USA. Credentialed through NUASCP in USA and Canada One of only 8 companies to pass the rigorous testing and vetting process sponsored by Texas A&M University, TEEX, Lone Star Center for Excellence, FAA, and NASA. We were specifically recognized for “setting a new standard in safety and professionalism.” Fully Insured We are fully insured for your sake and ours. Our staff are problem solvers in their fields. We look at challenges as an opportunity to innovate, and we have the talent to get the job done. 25

LJA EVERYDAY | New Locations

WELCOME LJA’S NEWEST OFFICES COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS College Station is continuing to experience incredible growth. Our new office locates us at the intersection of expanding residential development and the strong engineering school at Texas A&M University. With this location, LJA is positioned to make an impact and provide new opportunities for both the students and the community. We are in the center of town where we can best connect our talent and depth of resources with our clients and their needs.” – Taylor Baumgartner, PE, Senior Project Manager LJA is the 50th largest for-profit private employer in the Houston area and will locally serve our Brazos County clients from the College Station office with support from thirteen additional offices in the Greater Houston and Central Texas area. With this new location, LJA now has significant full-service

LJA is pleased to offer expanded depth and breadth of services in our twenty-fifth location.

engineering, planning, surveying, GIS, and construction management talent and resources on staff statewide to serve the technical needs of public and private entities in land development, rail services, midstream infrastructure, public infrastructure, public works, coastal engineering, and environmental. The new LJA office is located at 707 South Texas Avenue, Suite 106-E, College Station, Texas 77840.

CONROE, TEXAS We are also new to Conroe, Texas! We are excited to office in a historic building in Conroe and be part of this burgeoning community. This office, combined with LJA’s Woodlands and Spring teams, provides us with the opportunity to better serve local Montgomery County clients and projects. The new LJA office is located at 304 North Main, Suite 2, Conroe, Texas 77301. “As true partners with our clients, we want to be where they are. This new location allows us to elevate our level of service and better leverage our talent and resources.” - Jeff Cannon, Vice President of Public Works 26