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Special Districts are Rethinking Internal Operations and Service Delivery for the Future


Welcome to The Districts newsletter, where we chronicle the people, issues and activities impacting special districts across the U.S. In this issue, we are happy to announce the release of the 2020 Special Districts Annual Report.

News Staff / February 25, 2021

Making Sense of Unprecedented Disruption

The events of 2020 unleashed unprecedented disruption for special districts – permanently altering internal operations and citizen services. Our newly released 2020 Annual Report looks at how successful districts responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the crisis is permanently reshaping workforce, service delivery and leadership strategies for the future. The report is packed with examples of how special districts continued to deliver critical services amid uncertainty:

  • The Houston Airport System accelerated deployment of biometric identity systems to provide touchless security screenings
  • The San Antonio Water System in Texas is developing new performance metrics to manage a remote workforce
  • The Wilmington Public Library District in Illinois installed smart lockers to safely deliver materials to library patrons
  • The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in Maryland instituted virtual inspections for new plumbing and gas fixtures

In all, the report includes insights, best practices and innovative ideas from 20 districts that participated in Special Districts Program events and workgroup calls throughout 2020. It shows how special districts coped with unprecedented disruption and offers a roadmap for future resiliency and success. Get your copy today.

Ready for What Comes Next?

Join a panel of special district leaders from across the nation for an interactive virtual discussion focused on what matters now. 2020 accelerated the pace of change and raised expectations, generating new issues that special district leaders must face in the years to come. In our first Special Districts Virtual Summit for 2021, we’ll breakdown key trends, technologies and tactics that special district leaders need to know as they navigate their districts through the uncertainty of what comes next. Register now to reserve your spot at this important virtual event.

CARES Act Funds Broadband Expansion

In January, Cambria County, Pa., completed a $1.1 million expansion of rural broadband service funded by the CARES Act, adding its name to a lengthy list of jurisdictions that used money from the federal coronavirus relief program to close connectivity gaps.

Cambria County worked with a local internet service provider to construct nine new broadband antenna sites in underserved areas intended to improve Internet access for farmers, first responders, students and remote workers. Cambria County President Commissioner Thomas Chernisky called the project "the first step in expanding broadband throughout Cambria County." Read more about the project.

Cambria County joins a number of jurisdictions that have used coronavirus relief funds to improve internet access for residents, students and businesses. In Idaho, for example, the state’s Department of Commerce distributed $50 million to boost broadband internet access in rural communities. Officials say the CARES Act will finance more than 100 broadband projects in the state. Delaware and Wisconsin also launched statewide broadband efforts funded by CARES Act dollars. Delaware’s initiative, announced in August, dedicates $20 million toward broadband infrastructure, a statewide survey on internet speeds and new resources for families who can’t afford equipment and services. In October, Wisconsin awarded $5.3 million to internet expansion projects in a dozen counties that were expected to bring better service to 11,500 homes and businesses in rural areas.

More Articles Worth a Read

Here are more stories from special districts around the country. Share your own news with us for inclusion in the next newsletter.

The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority in California plans to connect a local airport and rail station using a tunnel for zero-emission vehicles. The authority will work with Elon Musk’s Boring Company to create a four-mile tunnel linking Ontario International Airport with the Metrolink rail system, which serves the Los Angeles region.

Experts expect renewed interest in urban transit projects from Biden Administration. Recent appointments to the U.S. Department of Transportation may signal renewed focus on transit equity and alternative forms of mobility.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering several congestion-pricing options for clogged highways in the region. The authority intends to implement a pilot project in 2025.

GovTech Special Districts Program Report.

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