Despite a global pandemic, our staff has demonstrated resilience and taken pride in creating and maintaining quality of life in our communities. As we near the holiday season, we reflect on our gratitude for civil engineering as an essential service. Civil engineers help make it possible to take a hot shower, drink clean water, turn on lights, move goods, and get to work on smoother, safer roads. Reliable infrastructure like this gives us comfort during difficult times and relieves the stress of worrying about one more thing. We understand this because we live and work in your communities too.
What are we grateful for? How has it been to work in this industry during a pandemic?
Our Southern Wisconsin Area Manager Emily Basalla, PE, CFM is personally driven to help people by improving their lives around them and keeping the items in people's everyday lives in working order - from those you can see to those underground that you cannot. In Indiana, Kevin Hetrick, PE, our Central Indiana Area Manager, expresses his gratitude for being a part of this industry.
"During the pandemic, people are home more. As a municipal civil engineer, water, sewer, drainage, etc. all remain important and, in some ways, become more critical. Designing and building critical infrastructure to support everyday lives allows people to focus on other things important in life. Our job is to make sure essential services continue and are upgraded appropriately."
– Emily Basalla, PE, CFM, Southern Wisconsin Area Manager
"I am extremely grateful to be part of an industry that is essential for maintaining vital infrastructure, keeping water clean, and improving motorist safety. This has been a challenging year for everyone, everywhere, and the stability of our industry has been a definite blessing."
- Kevin Hetrick, PE, Central Indiana Area Manager
Our industry has stayed busy designing and building the infrastructure of our nation and has even contributed to handling the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. McKinsey & Company had this to say about construction, "From building hospitals in just a few days to donating lifesaving equipment, the industry has played a critical role in responding to the crisis and in the recovery." Here at Clark Dietz, we've never skipped a beat either. Our staff has remained busy and engaged in projects. One of our employees mentioned this year that we are working with a Village that is investing almost $2M in potable water, sanitary sewer, drainage, roadways, and sidewalk in one of their neighborhoods. This area did not have sidewalks and experienced localized flooding. The residents now have a more walkable neighborhood and can rest easy since they won't have to worry about rainwater going where it's not supposed to go. This design engineer, like many of our engineering staff, looks forward to seeing the project unfold and the neighborhood transform.
Our engineers understand that infrastructure cannot wait.
Paul Zouski, PE expressed his gratitude for being an electrical engineer. He said that as difficult as it is to keep moving some days, it is good that community leaders understand that the whole world cannot stop if we are going to maintain essential services. And in her work, Diane Thoune, PE helps provide more reliable drinking water and sanitary sewer systems and better, safer roads with an understanding that just like the roofs and paint on our homes, this essential infrastructure will always need improvements.
"Our client's projects and needs haven't slowed down with the rest of the economy. Infrastructure improvements won't wait until better times. I have stayed busy with construction of the projects I was designing before the pandemic started. Our clients have also continued to move ahead with design of the projects planned in their annual budgets."
- Diane Thoune, PE, Project Engineer
"In the last year, I have been part of projects that have resulted in completed new fire stations and a police station that provided those essential workers with more efficient spaces and better working environments. We have also begun construction of a new drinking water treatment facility in Wausau that will provide my community with high-quality drinking water for many years to come."
- Paul Zouski, PE, Senior Engineer
Some of our Business Development staff also provided insights with gratitude.
Tara Damin is busier now than in pre-COVID days, with more communities being eager to learn of any funding opportunities. Fortunately, Indiana is well-positioned to offer to the rural communities that she passionately advocates for. And our newest member of the BD team is Michael Livermore, who has stayed busy by providing clients with information and methods to help them sustain and extend the useful life of water mains and sewer collections systems. He is an active member of the AWWA Water Main Condition Assessment Committee to help develop specifications for the industry. With this experience, he can help provide our engineers at Clark Dietz with information on the latest trends and technologies in the industry.
"We may not be able to physically communicate, but in these times, you see another side of the person. They are just like us, stuck in limbo and limited. This has made what normally would be a tense conversation turn out to be relaxed and sometimes fun. After all, we are all in this together."
- Tara Damin, Business Development (Indiana)
"By working in the area of condition assessment, I am helping communities to extend the useful life of their water assets and meet the challenges of impacted budgets."
- Michael Livermore, Business Development (Illinois)
In the United States, we are fortunate to have clean water, proper sanitation, energy, and adequate roads for daily travel. Less developed countries do not always get the chance to realize the benefits of civil engineering. However, there is also deteriorating infrastructure in America to address. ASCE released COVID-19’s Impacts on America’s Infrastructure Status Report in the third quarter this year to address issues of underinvestment and revenue-generating infrastructure systems not being used while providing solutions for Congress to consider. At Clark Dietz, we don’t just want to design but also help find funding for projects so that they become a reality.
We’re all in this together.
A common theme throughout our firm is how we are all in this together and have adapted to keep infrastructure projects moving forward. In-person meetings have taken place in outdoor settings while public meetings are mostly virtual, and the phone has again become a more personal way to connect.
"Connecting with team members and our clients virtually has enabled me to continue designing roadway improvement projects and even help a few construction projects get started during the pandemic."
- Ryan Hughes, PE, Project Engineer
As the weather changes, we’ll have to adapt again. But we’re confident in finding a solution that will work – that’s what engineers do!
The gift of quality and reliable infrastructure is easy to overlook in our busy lives but living during a pandemic shows how crucial these things are to all of us. We pause to acknowledge our staff and community leaders that make quality of life possible no matter what challenges arise. Our hope is that communities across the globe can achieve healthy, safe places for people to live and work. With this year under our belt, we humbly bring newfound wisdom into the New Year.