The Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BELS) hosted a PUBLIC HEARING on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss a proposed rule change regarding Qualification-Based Selection (QBS). THIS RULE COULD RESULT IN COMPETITIVE BIDDING, AND A REPEAL OF QUALIFICATIONS BASED SELECTION IN ALABAMA.
The following is the comment filed by MAPPS: MAPPS, (www.mapps.org) a national association of private sector firms engaged in surveying, mapping and geospatial activities, opposes the changes proposed in Alabama in 330-X-14-.05, Practice.
MAPPS is a strong proponent of the qualifications based selection (QBS) process. We believe QBS helps protect the public health, welfare and safety.
Traditionally, business and procurement procedures properly have emphasized awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, or using price as a dominant factor. For many goods which one purchases -- paper, office equipment, desks, even construction services this process serves the government, citizens and the taxpayer well. Specifications can be written, products can be inspected and tested and safeguards can be built in to assure saving money.
Sometimes, however, it is mistakenly assumed professional surveying and mapping services fall into this category.
Unfortunately, the assumption ignores the increase in costs to administer the preparation of detailed scopes of work and bid specifications, evaluation of numerous bids, and to remedy serious consequences of unprofessional surveying and mapping. Quality, therefore, should always be the primary focus in the competition for surveying and mapping procurements. Only after high quality performance is ensured should the focus turn to the contract price.
All Fifty states, including Alabama, impose strict educational and registration or licensing requirements for surveying professionals, and many including mapping in such licensing laws. The high standards established by organizations like MAPPS for their members exemplify the professional nature of their work.
State licensing standards and government procurement regulations for professional services should be designed to protect the public health and safety during and after contract performance. Thus, several state licensing boards, including Alabama, prohibit licensed professionals under their jurisdiction from engaging in competitive bidding to secure work. (See attached)
If inaccurate, a map could cloud land titles or jeopardize subsequent construction designs, planning activities or program management that must rely on accurate mapping data. Just as a poorly designed dam can burst, subjecting the a client to huge claims, so too can a poorly planned or executed map unleash a flood of problems, creating an impediment to the expeditious completion of a project, causing substantial loss of time and money, and jeopardizing the public safety. Like a well-made dam, a high quality map will stand the test of time and will ensure that the activity can proceed with its design, construction or resource planning project based on complete and precise groundwork.
In addition to the direct cost of the contract, the client must be concerned about such consequent indirect costs as physical destruction of property or clouded claims that could result from poor quality workmanship.
The use of negotiated procedures directs the focus of procurement activity where it should be, on the quality of the mapping services specifically suited to a given contract. All competitors must submit their qualifications to the procuring agency; the agency assesses the relative expertise of the competing firms; and the one most qualified firm is selected for the particular procurement. Such procedures produce a more cost effective survey than can be achieved under price bidding or best value procedures.
For smaller projects, particularly those between a land owner and surveyor, a simplified mini-QBS process should be utilized rather than price competition. As an alternative to a full QBS selection, a small project process could include the client selecting a professional for surveying or mapping based on reputation, reference or similar qualifications criteria. Pricing should only be solicited from one professional. If a fair and reasonable price cannot be agreed upon, the client should move on to another firm. Cutting corners through price competition is "penny wise and pound foolish" and should not be authorized or condoned by BELS.
Several reasons for this are as follows:
1. Negotiated procedures afford built-in protection, since either the selection process eliminates unqualified firms, or the negotiations reveal a firm's comparative lack of expertise. In either case, the problem is discovered before the contract is awarded, not after the job is done. Under price bidding procedures, however, the low bidder wins, regardless of the marginal capabilities it may have demonstrated previously.
2. The extreme difficulty of defining adequately, in advance of negotiations, the quantity and quality of the mapping and photogrammetric services to be secured is likely to lead to misunderstandings as to the scope of the services to be rendered and the expectations of the client concerning the services and the desired project. The negotiating process allows the client to work as a team with qualified professionals to refine the client's contract requirements and develop more tailored, economical mapping. Thus, in the pre-contract stage, the client benefits from the professional's years of experience and demonstrated competence.
3. Negotiated procedures ultimately result in more efficient, economical procurements for the competing professional firms as well as the client, because of the very nature of surveying and mapping. Since only the top ranked firms need to prepare boundary analyses and detailed estimates on the work, other competitors are free to pursue other contract opportunities without wasting money on a contract they will not win.
4. The client benefits from the professional photogrammetrist’s fiduciary obligation to their client. Emphasis on the quality of the work establishes a relationship of cooperation and trust, whereas price competition pits honest professionals against competitors who are willing to cut corners or deliver substandard services to bid low. When the low bid is the primary selection criterion, the interests of unscrupulous or inexperienced contractors are advanced over the interests of the public. The low bid map often is inaccurate or incomplete because the client will pay far more, or contract with another to complete the project begun by the low bidder who went bankrupt trying to meet an unreasonably low contract price. Rather than an adversary relationship, which is promoted in competitive bidding procedures, the mapping professional should negotiate their work, and work as a team.
5. The client must be mindful of the indirect or hidden costs, such as legal fees, court expenses and insurance claims that it can incur when boundary, trespass and other property disputes are caused by outdated or erroneous maps. By negotiating contracts with private mapping professionals, the client can save in-house costs and increase mapping outputs significantly. A client's inspection or quality control of a mapping project to monitor contract compliance is much more difficult than inspection of manufactured products or other professional services. The map's geographic scope is often immense, and the only effective way the client can check for accuracy is to retrace the entire map. Even a trained eye cannot find a map's critical flaws that could threaten the public's safety and its pocketbook in future years. Unlike materials, a map cannot be adequately sampled before and thoroughly tested after production. The client or owner is totally dependent upon the integrity of his mapping professional -- you might say he is at his mercy -- for even a bad mapping plan can look good. It often takes months or years before errors and problems are discovered.
6. Maps are tied to existing control points on the ground, the location and condition of which are uncertain until a survey is performed. Legal descriptions of boundaries may, or may not, indicate physical monuments. These physical monuments may or may not be still in existence on the ground. If they do exist, they may or may not be the original monuments, and they may or may not fit other physical evidence in the area. One cannot price the unknown.
7. Mapping is usually dependent on other exiting surveys and recorded documents. The evaluation of such surveys or documents is a matter of judgment which cannot be made until the professional has researched the project, both in the field and in the repository of deeds. He may find that as the result of his new work, the existing survey may have to be rerun to achieve the accuracy required by the client, even though the records of the existing survey indicated otherwise beforehand. He may find deeds or other documents that will affect the interpretation of the client's land description. These conditions may not be known, nor even suspected, until the survey is substantially started.
8. Mapping is weather dependent. Cloud cover, storms, excessively hot weather, floods, rain, wind and other inclement conditions can delay or prolong an aerial photography and mapping project for indefinite periods of time. Precise leveling is extremely sensitive to the vagaries of weather. Fog affects sighting lengths. Wind affects instrumentation and measurement. Cloud cover prevents collection of data on project areas. Delays cost money. The decision to stop or delay the operation should be based on a determination that the quality of the result will suffer, rather than on a profit-loss motive.
9. The accuracy of a map depends upon the manner and the conditions under which the work is performed and not just on the accuracy of closures. A map could close within specified tolerances, but the work could be unacceptable because of the methods used.
By requesting bids, a client assumes the responsibility for defining the scope of the services required and, thus, does not take any advantage of the knowledge and background of qualified professional engaged in providing such services. All too few administrators and even engineers are knowledgeable in mapping, and their inadequacy in this regard is apparent in their requests for bids. The knowledgeable person is aware of the indeterminate nature of mapping. The reputable professional, if he is to bid, must either attempt to anticipate the many possible problems, determine which problems he feels will occur, and bid accordingly, or bid so high that he can include every possible condition (in which case he undoubtedly will not be the successful bidder). If an honest attempt is made and unforeseen conditions occur, the mapper faces the decision to adhere to the specifications, thereby producing an inferior product (which he cannot ethically do) or perform the work to the best of his ability, thereby operating at a loss. Either way, the client/taxpayer is the ultimate loser.
Numerous cases can be cited to prove that the lowest bid does not necessarily result in the lowest overall cost. The old cry, "Bid as low as you dare, but make your money on the extras," is inevitable and the resulting relationship between the client and his surveyor assumes an arms length status which is not only not conducive to the completion of professional assignments, but in fact, effectively eliminates any exercise of professional judgment on the part of the mapper.
A broad coalition of design-related organizations supports qualifications-based selection procedures for surveying and mapping services. The Federal competence and qualifications-based selection law was codified in 1972 to protect the interest of taxpayers. It is Federal law because over the life of a project, the engineering and related design services account for less than one-half of one percent of total costs. Yet, these important services play a major role in determining the other 99.5 percent of the project's "life cycle costs", such as construction, operation, and maintenance. The same is true of the associated mapping or geographic information systems (GIS) project.
This process has been so successful at the Federal level that it is recommended by the American Bar Association in its model procurement code for State and local government. The ABA model code specifically includes surveying and mapping. Most States have enacted their own competence and qualifications-based selection laws for architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping services. Others use it as a standard procedure. No state has a specific law requiring bidding of these services.
For these reasons, MAPPS urges BELS not to diminish its support for or enforcement of a qualifications based selection process. QBS is in the public interest and should be maintained. If there is any alteration to the Alabama regulations, it should be to adopt a simplified QBS process for small surveying projects. Bidding should be discouraged to protect the public.
MAPPS enjoys a strong partnership with the USGS, as well as other Federal agencies, in the promotion of 3DEP.
We’ve been a leader in building public support, as well as advocating for funding in Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and in the Federal agencies, as well as with state, regional and local government partners.
MAPPS will continue to work at the national level to campaign in Congress for 3DEP appropriations for Federal agencies.
To complement that effort, the MAPPS Board of Directors has endorsed another approach to 3DEP support. A model bill for introduction in state legislatures has been developed by MAPPS staff and endorsed by the MAPPS Board. The idea for this bill came from the officers of CO-MAPPS, our state chapter in Colorado, but can be implemented by MAPPS members in all 50 states.
The model bill, if introduced and enacted in any state legislature, will complement our national effort by providing a bottom-up, grass roots, state-level support for 3DEP.
The leadership of USGS is aware of the model bill. While the agency cannot endorse legislation, the staff is supportive and appreciative of this effort.
This bill does not authorize or appropriate state funds. It does, however, express support for 3DEP and provides for coordinated efforts within a state on statewide LiDAR. This will not only provide greater efficiency (map it once, use it many times), but will save money by providing for the economy of scale of statewide LiDAR collection and enhances a state’s eligibility for USGS (Federal) funds through the USGS BAA process.
You will also note two features of this model bill: (1) performance of the data acquisition under the responsible charge of a licensed surveyor and (2) QBS for contracting, either under a state “mini-Brooks Act” or through the USGS GPSC contracts. Links are provided to locate and insert references to the relevant state laws in your state
MAPPS recently hosted a meeting with a number of our partners in other associations who support 3DEP. You may be interested in the update provided at the meeting by USGS.
All MAPPS members are encouraged to meet with their state legislators to discuss introduction of this model bill in your state.
Please also be aware that Lou Driber, National Map Liaison to FL, PR, and US-VI, US Geological Survey, will update on the 3D Elevation Program: Year 1 a Success, Year 2 Ahead! at the upcoming MAPPS Winter Conference Program. This presentation will provide an overview of 3DEP status and plans, highlighting the final tally of data acquisition of FY16 and projections for FY17, efforts to advance elevation and hydrography integration, and ongoing communication to build the investment needed for a nationwide elevation program. The Winter Conference is January 13-17 at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, (greater Tampa area), Florida.
Additionally, at the conference, MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello and Government Affairs Manager John “JB” Byrd” will lead a discussion of election results, the new administration and the 2017 Congressional agenda, and state legislation, with a focus on issues impacting business generally and the geospatial community in particular.
In recent months, several MAPPS members, as well as a number of our partners in Federal agencies, have complained that procurements are taking too long, and there are inherent problems that need to be addressed. In one major Federal (geospatial) contract program, a Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) notice issued in October of 2014 still has not resulted in the award of contracts to all the selected firms. This is harmful on many levels to those firms and unacceptable practice.
Why is it taking so long for government to contract with private sector firms?
MAPPS has opened a discussion with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), the White House office that oversees government-wide contracting policy and procedure. We’re looking at both problems and solutions.
Do agencies have too few contracting officers?
Is more training needed for the acquisition workforce within the government?
Are bid protests slowing down the process?
Is the time and cost of compliance with processes or regulations a factor?
To gather information to present to OFPP, the MAPPS staff is asking for your help. Any responses with be confidential. No individual or firm names will be shared with government officials. This is a community effort to identify problems and offer solutions. And, as I mentioned before, this is an issue and concern that our colleagues in the Federal government share with the private sector. The frustration with the process transcends both government and private business.
Let me know your thoughts. From your experience, what are the problems, and if you have suggested solutions, please share those as well. Use this email link, or post a comment on this blog.
Thank you for your feedback.
At the MAPPS Winter Conference, January 13-17 at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor (Tampa area), Florida, I will make a presentation on a Political & Legislative Forecast. This will provide insight on election results, the new administration and the 2017 Congressional agenda, with a focus on issues impacting business generally and the geospatial community in particular. Bring your procurement reform ideas and share them during this session.
CLICK HEREto view the entire, updated MAPPS Winter Conference Program.
Make your hotel reservations at the Innisbrook Resort. The special MAPPS rate of $189 will expire on December 19, 2016!!! Don't miss out. Click here to book your room on-line. You can also call the Innisbrook Resort at 800-492-6899 and let them know you are with MAPPS to receive the discounted conference rate.
REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE TODAY!!! CLICK HEREto register.
Action will take place in Congress this week on another issue MAPPS and NSPS members brought to Capitol Hill during the organizations’ joint conference on March 16. A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives “will examine the impact on the private sector from the deceased use of public-private competition in sourcing government products and services. The hearing will also examine best practices for encouraging a more robust utilization of commercially available products and services to increase government efficiency while decreasing costs.” Among the invited witnesses is MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello, who also serves as President of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC), of which MAPPS is a member. MAPPS has advocated before Congress that “a positive public-private partnership model is needed so that there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities to provide synergy between the public and private sectors in the Federal level, and particularly with regard to geospatial activities.” The association said, “There is a need and role for government in surveying, mapping and geospatial activities. Agency personnel should be focused on inherently governmental activities such as enforcement of standards and specifications, development of requirements, coordination, and administering contracts. Commercial activities, including data acquisition, processing, applications, and value added services should be left to the qualified, competent and capable private sector in surveying and mapping.” The hearing will include a review of the “Freedom from Government Competition Act”, H.R. 2044/S. 1116, introduced by Representative John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) to codify the “Yellow Pages” test, applied by Mayors and Governors, both Democrat and Republican, that says if you can find private sector firms in the Yellow Pages providing products or services that the government is also providing, then the service should be subject to market competition to break up the government monopoly and prove a better value to the taxpayer. This bill will not only make government more efficient, saving more than $27 billion annually, but improve the quality of services and focus the Federal workforce on high priority governmental functions. The hearing is on Friday, July 8 at 9:00 AM EDT and can be viewed on-line via the website of the full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Reston, VA – MAPPS, the association of private sector geospatial firms, today announced it is participating in a national summit to develop a strategy to establish a National Parcel System of interoperable land ownership data.
“Since the first National Research Council study in 1980, a national “cadastre” or parcel system has been deemed desirable and feasible, but has lacked organizational and institutional leadership at the Federal level’ said Susan Marlow of Stantec, President of MAPPS. “In 2007, I was honored to serve on the National Research Council study, National LandParcelData: A Visionfor theFuture. Today’s summit will focus on an action plan to implement the NRC recommendations and make a national system a reality.”
The summit is being hosted by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and its Homeland Infrastructure Foundation - Level Data (HIFLD) Subcommittee, along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). More than 120 experts from Federal, state and local government, private companies, and nonprofit organizations are meeting at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) headquarters in Reston, VA to develop the parcel strategy.
“MAPPS is pleased to be a partner with the summit’s hosts. A parcel system has been a MAPPS public policy goal for many years, thanks to the longstanding leadership of Ms. Marlow. Were optimistic today’s session will result in actions that will finally result in a parcel system that will assisting with economic development, housing, homeland security, land management, and dozens of other government and commercial activities,” said John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director.
Support for the summit was provided by these firms: Esri, Digital Map Products, CoreLogic, Stantec, OptimalGEO, The Sidwell Company, and Boundary Solutions, Inc.
MAPPS, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation - Level Data (HIFLD) Subcommittee of the Federal Geographic Data Committee, is hosting a National Parcel Data Summit.
If you have a business or professional interest in a National Parcel System, your participation is invited.
This one-day event will be held on Friday, June 17 at USGS headquarters in Reston, VA.
This meeting will focus on how to successfully build a national-level parcel database in the context of 1) the current state of parcel data holdings and 2) the need for a Federal champion to ensure new progress. We will hold a series of facilitated discussions to generate an in-depth understanding of parcel data needs, requirements, and access challenges. We look forward to your participation! In particular, we will look at needs, current conditions, a lessons-learned review of past efforts, and development of next steps and an action plan to make a National Parcel System a reality.
WHAT: National Parcel Data Summit
WHEN: Friday, June 17, 2016 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
WHERE: USGS Headquarters in Reston, VA
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, Reston, VA 20192
Summit Details: • This event is entirely unclassified.
• There is no cost to attend the meeting, but advanced registration is required for security purposes. Attendees should register by Wednesday, June 15.
• No refreshments will be provided. The USGS National Center has an onsite cafeteria and convenience store. No food/drink will be allowed in the main auditorium.
MAPPS is securing sponsors for this event. If your firm desires exposure in from of about 100 of the nation’s leading decision makers on parcel data at the federal, state, local, tribal government level, and the commercial sector, a limited number of sponsorships are available. Click here to view the options and to sign up to be a sponsor.
If you wish to attend the Summit, please let me know ASAP. Email me at email@example.com.
Have you ever heard Mark Twain’s comment about the weather? “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” he said.
The same could be said about parcel data.
After the mortgage crisis hit the U.S. and global economy, the Federal government hosted a land parcel data stakeholder meeting in 2009.
The only major outcome of that meeting was action by MAPPS. We successfully lobbied for language in the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill to add a parcel data collection authorization provision to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.
In discussions with Federal agency partners, MAPPS President Susan Marlow, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John “JB” Byrd and I believe we have the government’s attention once again.
Action is needed to make a National Parcel System a reality. A plan to develop and implement such a parcel system is needed. Leadership from within the Federal agencies is essential.
Interest from MAPPS is being sought. If you have a concern about parcel data, if these data are important to your firm, or you have expertise in this area, let me know.
Posted By John Palatiello,
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
One of the greatest benefits of attending a MAPPS conference is the ability to share information, concerns and the latest trends in the market with one’s peers.It is during coffee breaks, receptions, and networking time that MAPPS members catch up on the latest “scuttlebutt” in the community.
During the 2016 Winter Conference held earlier this month in Henderson, Nevada, there were numerous conversations regarding the resurgence of “offshoring” – sending production work to facilities outside the United States.
When the offshoring phenomena first arose in 2001, MAPPS was involved in a number of activities to educate the membership on issues related to the practice.Sessions were held at conferences to discuss the benefits and pitfalls, an attorney’s opinion was sought to outline legal requirements and responsibilities, testimony was presented to Congress, a task force was created to study and make recommendations, and a MAPPS policy was adopted by the Board of Directors.
Whether using an independent subcontractor or a U.S.firm establishing its own facility in a foreign country, there are laws, processes, and ethical considerations that should be noted.For resources on this practice, visit the offshoring page on the MAPPS website.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) continue to influence the profession of remote sensing and mapping like few things ever have. Advances in computer technology, global positioning, and miniaturization have conspired to remove considerable barriers to entry. Many new practitioners are buying drones and providing these services and data for the first time. Much (not all) of the science and art of photogrammetry is now coded on a chip. These advancements enable new practitioners to provide a greater array of services to new and existing markets than ever before and fosters the misperception that “anyone can do it”.
New practitioners of drone-based remote sensing and mapping need to understand the fundamentals of remote sensing, mapping, photogrammetry. Typical deliverables like orthophotography, digital elevation models (DEM), contours, cross-sections, and 3D models depend on this understanding. Nescience of these fundamentals is certain to cause considerable pain, financial loss and compromises to public safety. This article introduces the fundamentals of positional accuracy to help new practitioners provide these services consistent with professional accuracy standards.
I have talked with several practitioners that did not know what “ground control” was or how to use it to establish positional accuracy. This lack of familiarity is not uncommon among novices. They may not know that positional accuracy requirements are needed, or that they are often assumed by the client. They may not know how to discuss positional accuracy with their clients, nor how to measure the positional accuracy of their data deliverables.
Professionals know that an accurate ortho (or DEM or 3D model) can look identical to an inaccurate one. Both are “pretty” pictures with lots of great detail but one has more intrinsic value for a greater number of uses than the other because it is more accurate.
It matters very little what the drone manufacturer says about the positional accuracy of its products. A combination of factors (and seldom a single factor) affects the positional accuracy of an orthophoto, DEM, or other derivative of remotely sensed data. Poor operation of the best drone can vitiate the positional accuracy of a deliverable. If a drone manufacturer claims their camera is accurate to two pixels for any given ground sample distance (GSD), the resultant positional accuracy for the orthophoto is dependent on each of the following factors. [The list below is not a comprehensive list of error sources but includes the major contributors of error.]
the cameras inherent potential accuracy
the stability of the flight
the quality of the GPS data
the quality of the inertial system (if the drone even uses one),
the quality of the DEM used to make the orthophoto, and
the type and quality of processing of the raw imagery into an orthophoto (this factor alone has several important sources of error from a “raw” to “finished” deliverable)
the number and quality of ground control points
Each factor contributes some error to the ultimate positional accuracy of the final deliverable. The sum of all errors determines the measurable positional accuracy.
Understanding accuracy and accuracy standards sets your operations apart from others’. The American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) is the major “standards body” for this profession. Their Standards for Geospatial Data reflect the realities of new sensors and digital data. They are “scale- and technology-agnostic”. That is, the standards apply to data produced at any scale using any kind of sensor today or tomorrow. They can be used to measure and report the positional accuracy of geospatial deliverables like orthophotography, DEMs, digital surface models, 3D models, contours, topographic mapping, etc.
Deliverables with good, consistent positional accuracy can be an important differentiator for your drone-based remote sensing business. Unfortunately, a main cost driver of geospatial deliverables is positional accuracy. More accurate data will generally be more
expensive than less accurate data. Profitability is highest when the required accuracy is not “over-engineered” and drives up costs.
What level of positional accuracy is achievable using today’s drone systems? Assuming “best practices” with a drone using a metric camera (most drones do NOT have a metric camera), high quality ground control, and solid production procedures (all difficult to achieve consistently) the best possible accuracy for orthos would have a root mean square error (RMSE) = 1 to 1.5 Pixels (GSD). Are these levels of accuracy achievable flying a drone with a non-metric camera and without any ground control?Not a chance ... not today!
Because increasing accuracy comes at a premium it is imperative that the practitioner understand what accuracy is achievable from their drone “system”, what the client expects, and what is needed (this is often at odds with client expectations) to meet the deliverable's intended use. Because quality remote sensing data and services are difficult to deliver and need considerable expertise that is not yet programmed into the “easy button” many drone fliers are choosing to collect data and have established firms produce positionally accurate, irrefragable geospatial deliverables.
Mike Tully, Aerial Services, Inc., Cedar Falls, IA