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Straightforward Maintenance and Repair Strategy A Clear Winner

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Chelsea, Mass (USA).  Five separate postings in the Barchan Foundation project database illustrate how an uncomplicated repair and maintenance strategy has produced significant administrative savings for the City of Chelsea (MA, USA), while improving service levels and lowering life cycle cost for the City's water/sewer/drain and street networks, parks, and city vehicles.

Search for "Chelsea" at the Projects page on to learn more about Chelsea's procurement and project delivery strategy for: water/sewer/drain O&M, street sweeping O&M, pavement marking O&M, public vehicles O&M, and grass cutting O&M.

Chelsea's Pure O&M Strategy for Eliminating Deferred Maintenance

For a decade -- Chelsea has conducted a number of separate open competitions for short term (one year, with optional 2nd year and/or 3rd year) operations and maintenance contracts. Invitations for Bidders have been published and bids have been received under the applicable Massachusetts public bidding statute. Each procurement focused on the elimination of backlogs in maintenance and non-capital repairs. In some situations, contract competitions include specific options for simple capital repairs. In many local jurisdictions, there is a long list of such items that remained unperformed -- often referred to as "deferred maintenance." Each of the Chelsea contracts requires performance and payment bonds in the full amount of the contract, and firm fixed unit prices in most cases for use in measurement against properly performed work.  The scope of these contracts is significant.

Water/Sewer/Drain network O&M:

50 miles of water distribution mains, 520 hydrants, 1200 valves; 40 miles of wastewater/sewer mains; 10 miles of drainage piping system, 1300 catch basins; one storm water pump station. Annual contract value approximately $1.25 million.

Street Sweeping O&M:

44 miles of street sweeping, twice per month, for 10 months of the year. Annual contract value approximately $150 thousand.

Pavement Marking O&M:

All Pavement Markings, such as crosswalks, center lines, lane lines, arrows, RR crossings, safety zones, curbing, sidewalk, roadway warning markings, and parking areas. Annual contract value approximately $20 thousand.

Public Vehicle O&M:

Fleet management, preventive maintenance, and repair of City owned vehicles and equipment. All labor, parts and equipment required to maintain and repair 49 automobiles, 33 light trucks, 8 medium trucks, 5 pieces of special equipment, 15 trailers, 1 front end loader, 3 Mad Vacs, and 37 small hand operated power devices. Annual contract value approximately $250 thousand.

Grass Cutting O&M:

Weekly (in season -- 27 weeks per year) mowing and trimming of all City parks, memorials, and green space, including three (3) large parks, seven (7) smaller parks and playgrounds, specified open space, and three (3) municipal buildings. Annual contract value approximately $25 thousand.

Procurement Techniques and Strategy

Contract scope is defined with particularity in advance, along with the specific contracts that the City requires the winning bidder to sign promptly upon selection. The program is managed by the City's Department of Public Works, which maintains a professional administrative staff.  Non-contracted work is still performed by a core group of skilled construction industry craftsmen, operators, and laborers directly employed by the City.  Under the terms of each of the contracts, the City reserves the right to self-perform portions of the contracted work and to perform capital repairs throughout the City.


A variety of different contractors have won these contracts over the past decade, most of whom are local to the City of Chelsea.

Ongoing Benefits

Throughout the period, the City has been able to establish professional working relationships with its O&M contractors - relationships that produce better information about the current condition of the assets that are being maintained by outside contractors. This information, in turn, assists the City's DPW in making increasingly better life-cycle decisions about infrastructure networks within the City.

One of the significant (and unintended) benefits of the street sweeping program has been early compliance with increasingly tough state regulations relating to drainage systems. Twice monthly sweepings has dramatically reduced the amount of contaminants introduced into the City's drainage system, reducing the cost of and need for expanded facilities to treat surface runoff.

On the cost side, the results have produced solid savings to the City, costs that are competitively verified through local competition on a frequent basis.  2010 annual costs are summarized below:

  • Water/Sewer/Drain network O&M: Annual contract value approximately $1.25 million.
  • Street Sweeping O&M: Annual contract value approximately $150 thousand.
  • Pavement Marking O&M: Annual contract value approximately $20 thousand.
  • Public Vehicle O&M: Annual contract value approximately $250 thousand.
  • Grass Cutting O&M: Annual contract value approximately $25 thousand.


Chelsea's "Pure O&M" strategy has taken a significant load off a talented DPW staff and labor force, leaving more time and energy for a longer term focus on more complex projects, capital repairs, and infrastructure improvements.  While there is plenty of work to be done in Chelsea on its infrastructure networks -- the Pure O&M strategy has eliminated the maintenance backlog in key sectors, involved local contractors and local employees, visibly improved the public perception of the cleanliness and condition of infrastructure, and allowed DPW staff and labor to focus on more complex long term projects.

Thanks to Chelsea DPW for assistance in describing this very effective program.

Barchan Foundation, Inc.

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