GMA Training Helps Cities Sustain Their Success

Staff Report

Monday, August 31st, 2020

GMA’s professional development classes not only help cities become more successful; they equip government leaders with tools to help sustain their successes year after year.

Elected and appointed officials and city staff study key elements of forward-looking capital budgeting, infrastructure management and downtown planning programs in the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute. Classes, delivered through GMA’s partnership with the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, provide municipal leaders with the skills to tackle today’s issues while preparing for future needs.

The Capital Improvement Planning class takes a deep dive into long-term financial planning methods to help municipal officials look beyond year-to-year budget demands, according to instructor Beth Horacek, an Institute of Government faculty member with 15 years of local government financial management experience.

“A capital improvement program helps a city plan for the future,” Horacek said. “It operates like a savings account, where you’re set- ting aside some of your revenue each year for infrastructure and asset replacement.”

Asset management techniques can help cities develop a systematic maintenance and replacement program to inform their capital improvement plan—techniques that are presented in Public Works Services, another class. Instructor Walt McBride, who worked with local governments throughout Georgia before joining the Institute of Government faculty, points out that public services like fire protection and street maintenance are an often-overlooked element of community growth.

The Eagle Theatre’s art deco marquee makes an eye-catching center- piece on Sugar Hill’s E Center, designed to enhance the city’s downtown and attract visitors.

“Public works play a huge role in emergency management and economic development,” said McBride, who also coordinates the training program for the Georgia Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA). McBride and the UGA College of Engineering worked with APWA-supported master’s student Caroline Dickey to develop an asset management guide that McBride uses in the Public Works Services class.

The guide is designed to help cities recognize the people needed to champion asset management as well as make decisions about infrastructure maintenance and replacement, according to Dickey. “It’s a step-by-step guide that walks you through how to develop an asset management team for your city,” she said.

Besides effective financial and infrastructure management, cities need to attract residents and visitors through systematic planning that capitalizes on community assets and amenities, one of the core ideas presented in the Trends in Urban Design class. Every city has some unique aspect that can serve as the foundation of a community-informed vision and plan to attract people and prosper economically, according to class instructor and Institute of Government faculty member Danny Bivins.

“Everybody’s got something. You just have to figure out what that something is and build on it,” said Bivins, who has worked with Georgia communities on downtown development, planning and design for more than 15 years.

Georgia cities large and small are engaging residents and implementing downtown designs to capitalize on their unique differences, from redeveloping an historic hotel in McRae-Helena to implementing a riverfront revitalization program in Bainbridge and establishing a vibrant downtown core in Sugar Hill.