Money Can’t Fix Everything: Facility Management Funding at the Flagstaff Area National Monuments
This presentation is part of the A Century of Design in the Parks: Preserving the Built Environment in National and State Parks, June 21-23, 2016, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Caleb Waters: When I saw the call for proposals for this conference, I wondered, “What can I, at my core and boiled down maintenance worker, contribute to this conversation?” I knew there would be a trace amount of technical talk about preservation and historical landmarks, much of what we’ve heard already this morning. What I was looking to impart, is what someone who I really see myself as, where the hammer meets the nail, as I was leaving an historic building last week . I’d like to speak to what we experience and work with all the time out in the field. That comes with a big background understanding of budget, how we go after the things that we want to be funded, as well as, how we actually implement them into field. I’ve also got a couple success stories and one story that maybe somebody will do some be … right now.
Also, is also spent tongue in cheek, but I can’t fix everything, but it is certainly a big help to have as much as we can handle.
So for, like I said, for the non-Parks Services personnel, I hope to, kind of, dispel some of the mystery with why do we work on what we work on. I mean, some of the big, iconic buildings are known, and we’re going to focus a lot of work on Independence Hall, on Appomattox Courthouse, on all the buildings involved, but then there’s a lot of parks … There’s 409, or maybe more right now, I don’t know National Park Service units. And there’s thousands and thousands of historic structures. Not just buildings, but trails and roads as well, that need a tremendous amount of work.
So, getting into that a little bit, I can’t talk at all about [inaudible] without mentioning the Deferred Maintenance Backlog. This is a screenshot of the Parks Service public web site detailing, kind of, our Deferred Maintenance Backlog right now. It’s pretty unique that last year, for the first time, we announced our total Deferred Maintenance Backlog. As of October first of this year, it’s almost twelve billion dollars.
Now, looking at that figure, half of it, roughly six billion of it, is tied up in what we call Transportation Assets. These are paved roads, parking areas, bridges, and tunnels, such as going to some roads mentioned earlier. Road, which was mentioned earlier. A big project there. Lots of issues with roads. And they’re expensive to maintain, not just with parks, but across the country.
Specifically the Flagstaff area National Monuments, we have thirty-one million dollars in Deferred Maintenance Backlog. Some prominent sites, specific Park Service assets have large Deferred Maintenance Backlogs include the Arlington Memorial Bridge at $250 million, and the Trans-Canyon Pipeline of the Grand Canyon, which provides water to most of the developed areas of the Grand Canyon at $175 million.
Like I said, all this information is public, and it’s really interesting to go to the website and look at what the parks near you Deferred Maintenance Backlog. And it’s broken down into specific asset types, so you can see exactly how much Deferred Maintenance Backlog is the trails, say, at the Grand Canyon.
The last item, here, shown for highest priority non-transportation facilities, shows $2.3 billion. A lot of our newest funding strategies are aimed at that highest priority non-transportation assets and trying to eat away at that number. So, this is, without trying to get too much into the acronym soup, is what we refer to as the Optimizer Band. Optimizer Band, one and two locations, assets. The Optimized band is calculated by looking at the historic amount of work we do on every particular asset within the Park Service. And those that we’ve made a large commitment to maintain at the best condition are going to be in the highest Optimizer Band.
Funding, so, I only going to try to speak generally about funding, even though, I’m going to speak a lot about it. I could talk about any of these slides, probably for upwards of an hour. But just, in general, this is a screenshot of the table of contents for the FR 16 National Park Service Budget Certification. This is formulated with the Parks Service, goes to the Department of the Interior, then to the President’s office, then to Congress. And around in a big circle. Sometimes it gets funded. Sometimes it does not.
So, the request this last year, for the National Parks Service, was a little over $3 billion. That’s to fund all of our programs, including all the facilities programs, resource programs. Everything that is funded for the National Parks Service through Congress is accounted for in that $3 billion. So, So I figured for the Flagstaff Monuments is about $3.6 million. So, we’re on the small scale of what some of the parks are funded at. In particular, the Facilities Management program at the Flagstaff Monument is funded at about $1.6 million. Just do to the nature of all of the operational work we have to do, facilities typically have one of the largest slices of the pie when it comes to the overall budget of Parks Service, and individual parks.
Like I said, this Green Book, the Budget Justification is kindly referred to as the Green Book. And it’s available online, and anyone can look at it and see particular funding for any Parks Service site. It also lists, in detail, some of the fund sources, and what projects we funded year-to-year.
SO, with that, I’m going to chat a little bit about fund sources. I’m going to hit on a couple of the major ones that particularly deal with facility management. The first one being the Cyclic Maintenance Program. The amount of this fund source varies year-to-year from the Washington level to the regional level, to the park level. Some regions us a data-driven tool to decide how much each park should be allocated. This doesn’t mean the money is automatically given to the park. The parks still have to compete for this funding in order to receive it. And there’s a set criterion, set at the Washington level that can be refined a little more, down to the regional level for what projects do and do not get funded.
Typically, Cyclic Maintenance work is something that happens on a two to twenty-year schedule. And examples of Cyclic Maintenance are re-roofing, painting, re-striping a road, cracked ceilings, replacement of pumps, non-annual trail work. So for FLAG monuments, in this year, FY16, we got a little more money than anticipated due to the additional continual funds. We got about $660,000. And that work covers a whole spectrum of the road, building, trails, utilities, pipe work. I said projects were awarded based on needs, so the need has to be present and you have to go seek these funds. You’re not just granted these funds.
This image of this building here is the Ranger cabin of Walnut Canyon, which predates the establishment of the monument in 1915. And the interesting thing about the Cyclic Maintenance Fund pool is, that in many ways there are three different groups in each park that compete for it. The Interpretation Group work on their interpretive media, The Cultural Resource Group works on various aspects of preservation, and Facilities Group that a lot of times overlaps with Cultural Resources. This was an example of one of those projects that overlapped, re-roofing this building. The project was identified by the Cultural Resource group and eventually implemented by the Facilities Management staff.
Repair/Rehabilitation, as the name implies, is for major repair and rehabilitation projects. Oh, also as Cyclic, I want to mention that it’s a great source for historic preservation type work. A wide swath of projects can be funded through Cyclic. Repair/Rehab is similar. This is a good fund source to identify for historic preservation and large preservation-type work. Unlike Cyclic, this is not a type of work that should be done on a recurring basis. This would be one time lumps of money that get a building in good condition. And then you use projects through the Cyclic Maintenance Program to keep that building in good condition, rather than waiting every fifty, sixty years to do a huge project on a building to get it back into good shape.
So, at Flagstaff Monuments this past year we had $584,000 of Repair/Rehabilitation-type work. Funding, and how these projects are awarded is based on something called the Capital Investment Strategy, which is another fund strategy we use to try to target our most important assets: those Optimizer Band one and two locations. I’ll chat a little bit more about that in a moment.
This image you see here is a waterline replacement project at Walnut Canyon. The previous work done on this project was a Mission 66 program.
Another fun source that is outside of our typical funding, that we take in, is the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, also known as FEE money. So, this money is driven by visitors in the park. The money that people pay at the fee booth to get into the park goes back into the park, mostly. So, the amount that each park is funded is driven by visitation, and the Flagstaff Monuments Parks was approximately $1 million this past year. The interesting thing about this fund source is we’ve received new guidance that directs the vast majority of this money to go toward deferred maintenance. A lot of times, this money, and also, this money has to have a direct tie to the visitor experience. When I first started working the Facility Management Division, we were funding projects like this to replace [inaudible] cabins that support the trail crews in an indirect support for the visitor experience. That’s not a way … There must be a very direct tie to the visitor experience with this money.
This image you see is of new trail construction, a successful trail we built out at Sunset Crater Volcano. A bridge we put in place. While this is a great project, it enhances the visitor experience, it does nothing to drive down our Deferred Maintenance Backlog. And, in some ways, may create more deferred maintenance in the future. So, these projects are getting more and more difficult to fund.
There’s … I’m just going to go, briefly over a handful of other fund sources. There’s many, many, many that I will not mention. And each fund source can use thirty minutes of chit-chat, but …
Another major fund source is Line Item Construction Program, which funds projects over $1 million, typically. And this is where you go to look if you need a new visitor center. If that’s possible. A good example of Historic Preservation project through Line Item Construction is the work that happened up at Kennecott Mines at Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska. Other funds sources include Flex Base Accessibility/Sustainability. The Parks Facility Management Division would really like to focus on accessibility and sustainability. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get these projects funded, so a new fund source was created. Rather small, but these projects target specific accessible and sustainable programs. One of the issues, here, for example, one of our monuments were installing a portable tank system with some of this money, and that will make more maintenance in the future, and thereby have a good chance of increasing our deferred maintenance in the future, even though we’re trying to do the right, green, sustainable thing.
The Helium Act fund source is one that’s coming up, and like many of our fund sources, we’re talking about trying to focus our money and leverage partnerships. So, to have access to this Helium Act money, we must have fifty percent partner donation to even go after one of these projects. And then there’s Environmental Management program funding which deals with various EPA environmental compliance issues such as replacing these fuel tanks, here.
To briefly cover the Capital Investment Strategy, it was born from the 2011 Call To Action, which was National Park Service’s plan for the second century of engagement and stewardship of the National Parks. One of those action items was called Invest Wisely, which directed the Parks Facility Management Division to develop a strategy to make sure our most important assets, more iconic assets are being funded.
These four bullets represent the four elements that direct that score for the Capital Investment Strategy. With the first one, Financial Sustainability is given a fifty percent weight on scoring these projects. And then the Resource Protection and Visitor Use is given varying weights depending on how our asset management database is built to create these projects.
So, to real briefly cover the FLAG strategies, every year we sit down and we’ll get a spreadsheet just like this, that goes over our entire list or our asset portfolio at Flagstaff Monuments. We have 268 assets at Flagstaff Monuments, and we’re fortunate because we are rather small and rather front-country. Previous parks I worked at, such as a big, big, national park had almost 800 assets and spread out over hundreds of thousands of acres. So, it was a much more difficult process. FLAG Monuments we can physically visit and see most of our 268 assets each year, see what kind of strategy we need to develop for taking care of them.
When we meet to develop our funding strategy, we look at our assets by … Tiered by the most important assets first, and see what condition they’re in. We look at the deferred maintenance for each particular building, or trail, or road. We look at that, armed with knowing what projects we have already in queue. We want to have funding the next several years. We look at, if there’s no projects settled for the next couple years, what can we do, and how can we fit it into our already packed project program and try to get it funded. We also look at: a) if there’s zero deferred maintenance, we need to take a closer look at it because that’s likely not the case.
And so much of the strategy I go over is certainly not a one size fits all approach, as I was mentioning with Big Bend being so vast and FLAG Monuments as being relatively small. So, now I’ll go over a series of Historical Preservation-centric projects that we’ve completed since I’ve been at Flagstaff Monuments the past four or five years.
The first one was the rehabilitation of the Walnut Canyon Island Trail. And I out this picture in here in the top left particularly the gentleman from the CCC era rolling a rock at a rock bar with a cigarette in his mouth, because that’s still very similar to the way we do a lot of trail work. Men and women with rock bars and cigarettes. And then the other images of the Island Trail proper. So, this project was funded … In the summer of 2012 we were notified that we would be funded for this project. It had been created four years prior, and in that time between when it was created and when it was funded, we had a somewhat tacit approval we’d say “You know what? This will be funded. This will be funded.” But that’s not always the case. A lot of times that tacit approval goes away. And so your project schedule changes or disappears in some instances.
This project was $530,000. And it was an easily funded project because this trail is our highest Optimizer Band, one of our most important assets. It’s on of the primary way for visitors to interact with resources at Walnut Canyon. The trail was originally a footpath when the park was created, established in 1915. And it was formalized a little it in 1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps before they disbanded. And it didn’t see much work until the Mission 66 program when a significant amount of work was done, overlaying asphalt on this trail is about three-quarters of a mile long. And between Mission 66 Program and 2013, almost no work occurred on this trail, save for every five years, they overlayed the asphalt another three inches.
So this began, we immediately … When we were awarded funding immediately began a compliance project, both the need by an NEPA [inaudible] side … We had Mexican Spotted Owls at this site that were breeding, so that triggered Section 7 Endangered Species Act in compliance with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Along with compliance with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, the State Historic Preservation Officer. And during the compliance period, where you make sure this is done we did ardent research what we were going to replace this asphalt with. Asphalt is one of the absolute worst materials for anything. And so we decided against using asphalt again. We came up with a product made by Stabilizer Solutions in Phoenix, called StaLok]. It’s decomposed granite, mixed with soy bean oil, and polymer. And that’s what we decided to go back and install on the trail.
As soon as compliance was completed in February 2013, we immediately began demolition of the trail. We flew out, via helicopter 220,000 pounds of asphalt, and flew in [inaudible] limestone from a nearby quarry to rebuild the walls of this trail. And so you can see in the lower images on the left was before rehab and then it looks a little picturesque with shadows and everything, but it was in terrible, terrible condition. And then on the right is the post rehabilitation with the new StaLok trail.
Here’s some more images of the Island Trail. The work we did … Our masons set themselves a benchmark. They wanted the walls the built to last 500 years, and it’s too bad we won’t be around to know if that actually happens. But you can see the condition in the right, here is what the trail looked like before the Civilian Conservation Corps got started on the left is what the trail looks like now post-rehabilitation. So, that’s one of the success stories, along with Sunset Crater Visitor Center. This is a … In the image on the left, there, you can see Q111 sidings and data cables hopefully dangling from the back of the wall. All those blue lamps are in really bad condition. In 2011 we were notified that this project would be funded for $40,000 through the Repair-Rehabilitation Program.
This, of course, our primary visitor center at Sunset Crater Volcano, so it scored very high on our Optimizer Band due to operational needs, staffing, having offices there, heavy visitor impact, visitors showing up and using that facility all the time.
We were awarded the funding and started working with our regional historical architect, making sure the treatments we did were appropriate for this building, because it’s unique. It’s a Cecil Doty building. As well as it … This entire [inaudible], initially this area was established outside of the park. This is all on Forest Service land. There’s actually a poster that would post a session about this so I’ll just skim over that.
So over the years, the Q111 siding had been dilapidated and painted red. The cedar shingled siding and roofing had been painted red, also. So all of those were removed and replaced with fire-rated cedar panels, with cedar siding … Cedar shingles. Apologies. And the roof had been replaced with metal at some point, or some elements of it, and the windows were replaced with copper. So here’s sort of a before picture of the red visitor’s center. And, of note, here, that entrance sign there, says “Sunset Crater Visitor’s Center.” The name of the park, when it was established, was Sunset Crater National Monument. 1991 the name of the park changed to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, because everyone got it confused with Meteor Crater. The name change didn’t work.
So, here’s the building post-rehabilitation, with the new cedar-panel shack siding as well as copper roof and cedar shingles. There’s story number two. And this work was done by contract as the Island Trail work was done one hundred percent by National Parks Service personnel and Conservation Corps.
And the last, where I get to have success is rehabilitating Wupatki Residence One. This was the first National Parks Service constructed structure at Wupatki National Monument in the early 1940’s. It is part of the Wupatki National Monument Visitor Center Complex Historic District, and it’s eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places. One of the problems with funding this project is that this is not a visitor use building, one. And it’s not an operationally needed building, two. So, therefor it’s historic components definitely give it a higher weight on our Optimizer Band list, but not having any operational needs on this building, or having any visitor use of this building, hurts our Optimizer Band. This is a lower Optimizer Band. In fact, prior to the conception of the Capital Investment Strategy, this project was funded, or slated, had tacit approval for this project to happen in 2016, after the Capital Investment Strategy was pushed out to 2022.
Caleb Waters obtained an undergraduate degree in history from Lawrence Sullivan Ross University and a graduate degree in English literature from Northern Arizona University. He works for the National Park Service outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. At the Flagstaff Area National Monuments, Caleb supervises a maintenance and construction staff of 10 permanent employees plus 15 seasonal employees working in preservation through various trades and manages a budget of $1.6 million.