Author: Kevin Morey, county engineer, Cork County Council I have recently been appointed as Cork county engineer, having acted in the role since the retirement of my predecessor, David Keane, in April 2017. I am conscious that this is a unique and prestigious position and am delighted to have the opportunity to shape the role within the context of a rapidly changing world of local government. [caption id="attachment_45528" align="alignright" width="300"] Cork County Council offices[/caption] I firmly believe that local authorities provide an exceptionally varied and rewarding career path for engineers - with Cork County Council offering a scale and variety of activity which is unmatched. The council is the second-largest local authority in Ireland after Dublin City Council and is, in many senses, a region in itself. Cork has a very varied character, ranging from the broader metropolitan area around Cork city and the industrial hubs around the greater harbour, to the network of busy county towns and scenic rural countryside and coastline.

Challenges in fostering sustainable growth

Each of these brings its own challenges in fostering sustainable growth. The recent publication of the National Development Plan and National Planning Framework provides a strong set of principles as a baseline for strategic planning in local authorities. The government’s commitment to investment in support of these plans offers a tremendous opportunity now for us to plan and provide the infrastructure to grow our communities and economies for future generations. Cork County Council recognises that engineering and technical staff play a crucial role in planning and delivering on the county’s future. We have a cohort of more than 200 engineers and a vibrant Continuing Professional Development (CPD) community. As chair of the CPD committee, I have the pleasure of working with an inspirational group of people who are committed to nurturing our technical talent and building the skillsets of our engineering staff. Cork County Council has recently received a three-year re-accreditation as a CPD Employer from Engineers Ireland. We see this as an important validation of our commitment to fostering career development and building our organisation’s technical capacity. [caption id="attachment_45532" align="alignright" width="300"] L-R: Michael Ryan, senior engineer; Finola O’Riordan; Kate Lehane; Tim Lucey, chief executive;  Kevin Morey, county engineer; Noreen O’Neill; and Michal Dymet.[/caption]

Exploring how CPD and PMDS can be interlinked in a local government setting

We are working with the membership organisation to explore how CPD and Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) can be interlinked in a local government setting and develop a skills matrix which will help us to identify strengths and build the skillsets we will need to deliver on the council’s objectives. Given the wide range of functions within this local authority, our engineering and technical roles are particularly varied. A skills matrix, identifying necessary and desirable skills and qualifications for particular roles, will help both management and staff to maximise the potential of our in-house capabilities. Many of our engineers work in the management of core service delivery in areas such as roads, water services and housing. They have built up an exceptional set of skills for planning of maintenance programmes and working collaboratively with municipal districts to meet the needs of local communities. As well as this, they have the proven ability to react to what are perhaps increasingly challenging weather events. In the past 12 months, Cork county was severely impacted by Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Emma. During these events, our operations engineers came to the fore, having an in-depth knowledge of key priorities together with the skills to develop work-arounds in order to maintain critical access and services.

Transformed amount of real-time information available to the public

In recent years, we have developed communication channels through social media which have transformed the amount of real-time information available to the public in times of crisis. Our engineering staff provide these inputs, making this a highly effective way to increase awareness and ensure public safety. We also have experienced capital delivery teams in areas such as roads, water, coastal and flood projects and housing. As we enter a new phase of investment, I will have a particular focus on building and maintaining a ‘centre of excellence’ approach in project delivery. Our projects are ultimately funded by public money and, in a competitive environment, there are real challenges in terms of delivering value for money. We are very much committed to continuous improvement. Our flood projects section has been developing a ‘lessons learned’ methodology for reviewing issues which have arisen on current and recent projects and sharing outcomes with other stakeholders in capital delivery. [caption id="attachment_45533" align="alignright" width="300"] Weir[/caption] This will be a continuous process but it has already led to the identification of some key principles to provide better protection to the public purse when operating under the public works contract framework of documents.

Award-winning plans for traffic management

Within the planning department, our traffic and transportation section has built up an expert team, which has steered significant road infrastructure projects through challenging approvals processes. They have also developed award-winning plans for traffic management and public realm projects in our county towns. In addition to these core activities, engineers have been able to diversify within Cork County Council to roles in planning, environment and economic development and are well represented at senior management grades. Our engineers have adapted to working in multidisciplinary teams, collaborating on a regular basis with other professionals in planning, architecture and environment. To this end, we are expanding our CPD committee with a view to including representatives from the other professional groups. We are also developing new ways of working to align our strategic goals with those of other organisations who are critical partners in building for the future. Agencies such as Transport Infrastructure Ireland, National Transport Authority, Irish Water, the Office of Public Works and Failte Ireland are now close partners for us, as are the development agencies IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. The key departments of Housing; Planninng & Local Government; Marine; and Transport & Tourism continue to play a significant stewardship and funding role across our activities. Our senior engineers must be effective influencers in these partnerships.

Reform of delivery of public water services

We continue to be involved in the reform of the delivery of public water services. While this has been a very demanding change management process, our engineering managers have adapted to extensive process changes and reporting systems while ensuring a continued high level of service to the public. Since 2014, we have built strong working relationships with our colleagues in Irish Water, which has proved to be highly beneficial in responding effectively to some challenging conditions for the service. Cork County Council has a proud history of engineering achievement. We have recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original completion of the County Hall, which showed extraordinary vision for its time. Its redevelopment and extension in 2006 reimagined the building for the modern era while preserving its iconic status. In 1969, we built the country’s first and only cable car across Dursey Sound, one of the standout features on the Beara peninsula. The City and Harbour Water Supply Scheme, completed in 1979, was a hugely ambitious project for its time and remains the third largest in the country. In recent years, we have carried out award-winning projects such as the Mizen bridge and the restoration and development of Spike Island.

Some of the largest and most challenging engineering projects in the country

In the next five to 10 years, Cork County Council will be involved in some of the largest and most challenging engineering projects in the country, across a range of disciplines such as: 1.) Roads projects: Dunkettle Interchange, new M28 motorway to Ringaskiddy and N22 Macroom bypass; 2.) Major flood relief projects: Clonakilty, Midleton and Bantry; 3.) Bypasses and town enhancement projects: Carrigaline and Bandon; 4.) Significant heritage building refurbishments such as Mallow Castle, continued development of Spike Island and Camden Fort Meagher; 5.) Further development of the greater harbour area, facilitating the relocation of the Port of Cork to Ringaskiddy and the rehabilitation and development of Haulbowline Island; 6.) The planned replacement of Dursey Island Cable Car. In light of the scale and range of engineering activities across Cork county, chief executive Tim Lucey has maintained the role of county engineer in order to provide a co-ordinated engineering input to strategic planning and project delivery and to lead interaction with other delivery agencies. This is a challenging role, not least because my predecessors have been engineers of great drive and vision. There is strong ambition within the council to deliver significant high-quality infrastructure and facilities for our citizens and to champion continuous improvement in project delivery. I look forward to working in partnership with our elected members and my colleagues in the council’s senior management team at a time of great change and even greater opportunity. [embed][/embed]