Engineering report should give reason for concern

By John Peters

August 25, 2013

Recently a couple of the city’s residents were lightly chastised by commissioners after those residents harshly criticized a pedestrian study prepared for the city by the consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates.

The report addressed long-range infrastructure improvements aimed at making the city more pedestrian friendly, and the comments were made during a public hearing held on the study by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

Among the comments were that the study represented “sloppy work” and that some of the underlying reasoning behind potential crosswalk locations was “stupid.”

We agree that, perhaps, the general tone of some of the comments might have been unnecessarily harsh. And we side with the commissioners and the consulting firm in not getting too bent out of shape over a few typographical or grammatical errors in the report. The truth is, as much as we’d like to think professionally prepared reports should be error-free, today consultants, newspapers, even governments are asking people to do more work with less in the way of resources, meaning fewer people to edit and proof such reports.

So we do not think it’s the end of the work if an engineering report has a misplaced modifier or has a verb and subject whose tenses don’t agree.

However, we do find it troubling when an engineering firm prepares a report that is ostensibly dealing with changes to roadways and walkways, yet the report has incorrect road names in the city and even shows two major thoroughfares connecting when they do not, in real life, intersect.

We don’t consider those sorts of concerns petty, because those types of mistakes call into question any conclusion or recommendation made within the report.

We do commend the board of commissioners for extending the public hearing to Sept. 5, to allow city residents a chance to review the 66-page report, which was only available two days prior to the originally scheduled hearing date of Aug. 15. And we hope city residents will turn out to let their feelings be known, in support of or opposition to the plan.

And most of all, we hope the commissioners will take a good, hard look at the reliability of the consulting firm and the report in making their decision on whether to adopt it or not.