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P3 Spotlight: Centennial’s CH2M-run public works department.

The last few decades have witnessed a trend in governance – both here in Denver South and in the U.S. at large: public-private partnerships (P3).

Public-private partnerships (P3s) are being made all over the country, allowing cities and towns to better serve their citizens, stay on budget, and spur innovation. In these partnerships, a public sector partners will contract a private enterprise to do work on its behalf. Any risks, are shared by both parties, as is the reward.

One revolutionary example of a successful and well-received P3 is right here in Centennial, CO.

A fresh way forward.

Centennial is a young city. It was incorporated less than 20 years ago in 2001. At its founding, city leaders knew they wanted to build something different, something leaner and more agile. They wanted a small government and they wanted to innovate.

In 2008, Centennial hired global engineering giant (and local Fortune-500 company) CH2M. In this partnership, CH2M would serve as Centennial’s entire public works department. It was one of the first agreements of its kind in the country.

An expert partner.

Public works keep the city running smoothly. CH2M, working as an arm of the city, takes care of Centennial’s transportation, permit processing, inspections, some admin, road maintenance, and snow plow duties.

A flexible agreement.

There are several benefits to this type of arrangement. Unlike traditional models, Centennial can constantly reevaluate their budget and make adjustments as circumstances change. Take snow plowing, for example. If there is less need for plows, CH2M needs fewer funds, which can then be allocated elsewhere.

Also, Centennial is able to leverage the tech, experience, and research of CH2M’s global network. Using sophisticated algorithms and consumer-grade GPS units, CH2M streamlined Centennial’s snow plow routes, reducing the time needed to plow by 40%. For commuters braving the streets in winter, that’s huge.

A built-in review.

These partnerships work under a contract, so there’s always opportunity to reevaluate, reconsider, and redesign. As the city’s needs change and grow, so too can the relationship. In 2012, Centennial renewed their contract with CH2M through June 2018.

A vote of approval.

So far, Centennial’s citizens have shown considerable support and enthusiasm for the work CH2M does on their behalf. In a survey, 79% of respondents rated the quality of life in Centennial as good or excellent. Those are inspiring numbers supporting this new, efficient way to do public service.

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