The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Step 1: Define the Project

Reference Number: MTAS-761
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: March 22, 2017
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Defining the project may be one of the hardest tasks decision makers will face. But, the success of your project often hinges on how well you define it in the beginning. It may be easy to recognize the problem (for example, a need for centralized sewage treatment), but it is much harder to scope out a solution and the professional services your city needs.

If design professionals clearly understand the project, they can tailor their statements of qualifications to the project requirements. This gives the owner a more uniform basis for evaluating responses.  Involve city staff, such as the public works director, the utility manger, or chief operator, to help define the project.  Ask what, when, where, how, how much (will it cost), why and who.

  • What problem(s) are we trying to solve? What is the scope of the problem? Does it affect a large segment of the city’s citizens? Will it impact future growth? Does it involve correctional facilities? (If so, a construction manager/agent can be used but subject to specific statutory requirements.)
  • When do we need a solution? Is this an emergency? Is there an immediate environmental or health hazard? Are compliance issues involved? Do we need a short-term or long-term solution? What is the time frame for this project?
  • Where is the problem? Define it geographically and in terms of impacted population. Does the project affect areas outside the corporate boundary?
  • How will we meet the need? Do we need to procure outside professional services? Can city staff handle this? Are there other resources that could help (for instance, a nearby city, the county, MTAS or other technical assistance providers)?
  • How much will it cost and how much can we afford to spend? The answers to these questions may help determine if a phased project is the way to go. It may help your city avoid being saddled with a heavy debt burden later. Is funding available? From which sources? What are the criteria and time frames for securing funding?
  • Why are we doing this? Keep asking that question throughout the selection process and beyond.
  • Who will be involved? You probably will need specialized expertise. What qualifications and skills are needed? Will state or federal regulatory agencies be involved? Funding agencies? Any other entities such as citizen groups or environmental groups? Who on the city’s staff will manage this project?