• Infrastructure Day

    This month, the Leadership Wilmington cohort had the opportunity to learn more about public infrastructure in the Wilmington region. While often taken for granted in our day to day lives, public infrastructure such as roadways and water/wastewater treatment systems (to name a few) are the very foundation supporting the social and economic well-being of our region.
    We began our day with a presentation from Mike Kozlosky, the Executive Director of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO for short). The WMPO is a federally designated organization tasked with providing regional transportation planning services. The organization is comprised of ten member jurisdictions: Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, Leland, Belville, Navassa, New Hanover County, Brunswick County, and Pender County. The WMPO Board acts as the governing body for the organization, comprised of twelve elected officials and one appointed member from the NCDOT Board of Transportation. Federal requirements of the organization include the development of the fiscally constrained, long-rang transportation plan, known as a Metropolitan Transportation plan; development (in coordination with NCDOT) of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP); and the development of a congestion management process to monitor congestion in the region. Mike also shared with the cohort the numerous NCDOT roadway projects in development in the WMPO region.
    Next the cohort heard a presentation from the Executive Director of the North Carolina Port Authority, Brian Clark. Shared with us were the performance highlights of the NC Port Authority and the recently adopted strategic plan. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Port of Wilmington has seen a 2% growth in standard container and 9% growth in refrigerated container imports and exports. The Port of Wilmington has a 19-minute turnaround time for container truck single turn operations, and 32-minute turnaround for dual turn operations. Overall, the NC Port Authority contributes to more than 87,000 jobs statewide and handles 10% of the available imports and exports of goods in North Carolina. The port authority has set its sights on increasing its share and has planned $256 million in port infrastructure improvements in the hopes of attracting additional import and export traffic. Improvements include an ongoing effort to increase the current basin depth from 42’ to 47’ to accommodate larger, and deep-draft vessels accessing the port. Another recent improvement was the introduction of the Queen City Express, a freight rail service moving 200 containers weekly between the Port Authority’s intermodal facility in Charlotte.
    After the presentation, the cohort boarded a bus for a tour of the massive 284 acre Port of Wilmington, led by Tricia Hamrick, Manager of Business Administration for the Port Authority. Leadership Wilmington toured the container yard and observed a stevedore removing and stacking containers from incoming trucks. The facility’s three new Panomax cranes were on display, as was the 720-plug reefer yard for refrigerated containers. The class also viewed several bulk and breakbulk cargo storage facilities onsite.
    Leadership Wilmington returned to the Chamber for lunch, during which we were asked to sit with a classmate with whom you had not had an in-depth conversation with. The objective was to see how many things in common could be found between one another.
    After lunch we traveled to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s James A. Loughlin (Northside) Wastewater Treatment Plant. Kenneth Waldroup, Executive Director, greeted the cohort with an introduction as to the societal importance of public access to clean drinking water and wastewater collection and treatment. He detailed the Authority’s drinking water and wastewater facilities and infrastructure that include three water systems with two water treatment plants; nine water storage tanks; more than 1,150 miles of water mains; two wastewater treatment plans; more than 150 sewer pump stations; and 1,050 miles of gravity sewer and force mains.
    After this introduction, the class received a tour of the Northside Wastewater Treatment Plant that was guided by Matt Hourihan, Assistant Treatment Director, and Tristin Rickabaugh, Operations Supervisor. The facility was opened in 1970 with an initial capacity of 8 million gallons per day (MGD). As the population increased, as well as advancements in wastewater treatment best practices, upgrades to the facility were implemented. Most recent updates were completed in 2009, doubling the facility’s capacity to 16 MGD of waste handled, and raising the treatment level from secondary to advanced through the addition of tertiary treatment to the process. The cohort walked through the site in order of the treatment process. The first stop was for the removal of solids and grit and viewing the “Grit Snail” in action removing gravel. The class viewed the primary clarifiers (step two) and aeration basins (step three), as well as the location of the tertiary filters (step five) and UV disinfection (step six). Matt and Tristin also explained to the class the function of the anaerobic digestors.
    Following the wrap up of the Northside Wastewater Treatment Facility, Leadership Wilmington traveled just across the street to the Wilmington International Airport. The cohort was greeted in the newly renovated and expanded departures lobby by Executive Director Jeffrey Bourk, and Facilities Director Granseur Dick. After a brief welcome and introductions, Granseur explained the ongoing terminal improvements in process at ILM. The expansion has been split into three phases. With the help of other ILM staff, Granseur guided the cohort behind the scenes at ILM to view and discuss the phases of the expansion.
    Beginning in the departures lobby, Granseur explained the improvements to the space which were completed in the second phase of the project. Improvements included the expansion of the departures lobby and additional ticket counters for new future airline service. This phase alone added an additional 15,000sf to ILM and was completed in the summer of 2020.
    The class was then led downstairs to view the new outbound luggage room that was added in phase one, along with new TSA screening equipment. This phase was completed in early 2019.
    After leaving the outbound luggage room, the class viewed the exterior of the concourse expansion, the third phase of the project, and got to check out the new Service Animal Relief Area (SARA), a miniature outdoor dog park of sorts for service animals traveling with owners and in need of a place to do their business. We reentered the building in the new, expanded concourse area where four additional gates, seating areas, and loading bridges were receiving their final touches. This phase alone will add around 60,000sf! The new terminal, along with an expanded TSA checkpoint, is on schedule to open in early February. Once phase three has been completed, ILM will have increased in size by approximately 75%!
    After the tour completed, the cohort returned to the Chamber for Work on Wilmington Committee report outs on progress in planning the 2022 Work on Wilmington event. The session wrapped up around 5pm and members of the class gathered afterwards at the Aloft Aview rooftop bar to debrief the events of the day.
    It was fascinating to learn about the many ongoing efforts of public organizations in our community aimed at supporting future population growth, increasing our economic contribution, and providing a healthy and safe place for the public. As leaders we should be ever cognoscente of the importance of public infrastructure and its role in nearly all our work.

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