Agency 23: Community Land/Utilities
NOTE: The names and purposes of some agencies have been revised, but not all website content has been updated to reflect these latest changes. We are working to get the names and explanatory content updated, but in the meantime you may see some inconsistencies.
The twenty-third agency in the community is the Public Facilities Agency. This agency works to ensure that the community has enough public facilities for its needs. The agency does this by managing the acquisition, development and maintenance of community public facilities.
The agency is part of the Urban Planning Bureau, which also includes the Land and Housing and Equipment Agencies. The bureau’s overall objective is to ensure the availability and good condition of public facilities required by participants to live, work, and recreate adequately.
The Public Facilities Agency’s objectives are achieved with a highly sophisticated system, which participants use to access these facilities, while also providing feedback on their quality and user-friendliness. The system is able to analyze a participant’s attributes, including age, health status, special needs, preferences, and location, to ease access. Where the system does not provide solutions that are satisfactory to the participant, the participant can approach the village presidents. Village presidents, as part of their roles for the Leasing Agency, interface for the Housing and Urban Planning Department, of which the Public Facilities Agency is a member. In this position, they assist the participants, while relaying any recommendations to the Public Facilities Agency’s agency president. The agency president then adjusts and improves the system to be better positioned to handle participants’ needs.
For some of its other roles, the Public Facilities Agency relies on the resourcefulness of the village presidents. For instance, the agency may need to monitor public facilities to ensure they are in good order and adequate for community needs. The village presidents do this. In some instances, they may seek professional assistance, with such engagements being approved and paid for by the Public Facilities Agency.
The public facilities that the agency deals with include parks, libraries, auditoriums and theatres, sports facilities, and community art facilities. Others include schools, hospitals, and museums. The agency works with participants and other community agencies to facilitate access and to advise participants. To achieve its objective, the agency performs the roles described below. For some of core roles, it does not liaise with other agencies. For others, it needs coordination with other agencies.
To achieve its mandate, the Public Facilities Agency performs the following roles:
- Planning and developing public facilities
- Engaging participants to run and improve public facilities
- Maintaining and operating public facilities
Planning and developing public facilities
The Public Facilities Agency facilitates the planning and developing of public facilities, an activity which is centered on the participants themselves. The process of planning and developing public facilities goes through a public participation process, which the agency’s automated system facilitates. The agency thereafter analyses the wishes and preferences of the participants in its planning. At the same time, the agency uses its automated system to analyze participants’ attributes, which are relevant to public facilities’ development. Such attributes include age, popular hobbies, and cultural orientation, among others. The agency procures the services required to develop these facilities, with the help of village presidents as necessary.
Engaging participants in running public facilities
The Public Facilities Agency endeavors to train participants on how to use public facilities, in a way that maximizes their benefits while safeguarding the facilities. The agency in particular aims to ensure the safety of participants using these facilities. It also works to sensitize participants on the proper use of the facilities. The agency collects feedback from participants on the facilities’ fitness for purpose. This information is collected through its online system, as well as through village presidents. The agency adjusts its system as needed, while also exploring ways through which it can improve public facilities to meet expressed community needs.
Maintenance and operation of public facilities
The Public Facilities Agency establishes mechanisms through which it coordinates the maintenance and proper operation of public facilities. This involves maintaining and improving the aesthetic and functional value of the facilities. The agency hires contractors to physically maintain their public facilities, carrying out services such as cleaning, technical support, and troubleshooting. Some facilities also require human operators, such as swimming pool instructors and lifeguards, library assistants, museum curators, among others. The agency coordinates its efforts to ensure cohesion and synergy in service delivery. This is especially necessary where the contractors are also participants, rendering these services as part of their stewardships.
The Public Facilities Agency also coordinates with other community agencies to fulfill its objectives. The coordination has three aspects:
- Horizontal, with agencies within the Housing and Urban Planning Department
- Vertical, with agencies in the Social Integration and Support Vertical
- Diagonal, with agencies beyond the vertical and department
The Public Facilities Agency works with Agency 23 – the Land Management Agency so that the Land Management Agency can prepare the space designated for public facilities’ installation. The Land Management Agency acquires land and puts it in a condition suitable for further development by the Public Facilities Agency. The Public Facilities Agency also liaises with Agency 24 – the Assets Management Agency for access to buildings needed to host public facilities. The Public Facilities Agency advises the Asset Management Agency on what to consider when developing buildings and procuring equipment, so that public facilities’ functionality and aesthetics are not compromised by buildings.
The Public Facilities Agency liaises with Agency 1 – the Human Relations Agency to analyze participants’ personal and professional attributes, and therefore plan better for public facilities development. The Public Facilities Agency liaises with Agency 4 – the Life Planning Agency to sensitize participants on the use and care of public facilities as part of the education curriculum. The Public Facilities Agency also works with Agency 10 – the Communications Agency to communicate the same message to the wider community. The Public Facilities Agency obtains 20% of the funds needed to develop public facilities from Agency 7 – the Capital Fund Agency. The amount is utilized as a down payment, for the facilities to be developed. The money is repaid through the rents that the Public Facilities Agency levies for use of the facilities.
The Public Facilities Agency works with Agency 3 – the Leasing Agency on the use of public facilities by private entities, such as for concerts, sports tournaments, and other activities. The Public Facilities Agency also works with Agency 9 – the Commercial Bank Agency to fund the development of public facilities. The Commercial Bank Agency puts up 80% of the funds required. The two agencies also liaise with the Leasing Agency on the payment of loans owed, to be repaid through leasing and other use of the facilities. The Public Facilities Agency liaises with Agency 18 – the QHSE Agency, as QHSE advises on how to develop and maintain public facilities while considering safety and environmental impact. Agency 6 – the Health Agency also works with the Public Facilities Agency, to offer advice that will lead to the development of public facilities that have a firm focus on improving the public health of the community, besides being recreational centers.
The impact of public facilities on the community is complex and profound. This is because of the economic and social value that these facilities bring and embody. The Public Facilities Agency’s ultimate aim is to enable every participant, regardless of their age, culture, or economic or health status, to easily access these facilities, with the realization that such access has positive impacts on their personal and professional life. The community adopts a participant-led approach in developing public facilities, so that the facilities can achieve their objectives.
 Access to public facilities is considered a key element in maintaining a community’s quality of life. In some quarters, it is even considered a civil right. Participants will have access to the facilities they need for leisure, sport, and for health issues (Ghasemzadeh, R. and M. Kamali. “Accessibility to the public facilities: a mean to achieve civil rights of the people with disabilities in Iran.” Iranian Rehabilitation Journal 6.7 (2008): 73-82).
 There is a strong link between physical exercise and health. The provision of facilities is therefore not only for the direct benefit of providing recreation, but also for health reasons, besides cultural exchange (museums and other cultural centers), and professional discourse. People who live in communities where they have access to such facilities are likely to be healthier (Eriksson, U., D. Arvidsson and K. Sundquist. “Availability of exercise facilities and physical activity in 2,037 adults: cross-sectional results from the Swedish neighborhood and physical activity (SNAP) study.” BMC Public Health 12.607 (2012): 10.1186/1471-2458-12-607)
 By involving the community in the development of public facilities, the community is able to develop facilities that a majority of participants can actually use. The process also garners wider support in the community, and ultimately helps fulfill the objectives of the agency. Some public facilities, such as parks may have a historical or sentimental value to participants. Their development must therefore consider their viewpoints (Kansas, University of. Community Tool Box. Kansas City: University of Kansas, 2018)
 In developing public facilities, it is important to consider community demographics, such as increase in population, the age groups of residents, culture, among other characteristics that could have an effect on preferred and needed public facilities. Public facilities that are developed with such considerations are utilized optimally, and are more beneficial to the participants (Anchorage-Municipality. Public Facility Planning. 2019. 07 07 2019).
 The management of public facilities is guided by international standards. The standards enable benchmarking and establishing best practice in facility management. The community will develop its own standards that aim to improve on the international standards (ISO 41001), to enhance usability and manage running costs (Tranchard, S. New ISO standard in development to facilitate facilities management. 21 09 2016. 07 07 2019)
 The development of public facilities must consider the ease of access to everyone with an interest in accessing them. Some of the factors to consider include age, people living with disability, or with other health conditions that demand special accommodation. With easy access to these facilities, the community can realize their full potential, both socially and economically (Ghasemzadeh and Kamali; and Hayati, A. and M. Faqih. “Disables’ accessibility problems on the public facilities within the context of Surabaya, Indonesia.” Humanities and Social Sciences 1.3 (2013): 78-84).
 Public facilities are not only good for their functionality. They are sometimes a testament of a community’s economic and social prosperity, or lack of it. Many times however, they display a community’s culture and influences, and the artistic impressions that define the community. The Public Facilities Agency will therefore develop facilities that embody the values of the community even as it focuses on their usability and impact on the community (Zhou, L. “Research on the Design of Public Facilities in Urban Environmental Art Design.” International Conference on Arts and Design, Education and Social Sciences (2017): 225-230).
 The return on investment used to develop public facilities cannot be quantified on financial terms only. The public facilities generate more than the rents the leasing Agency receives. They have cultural, health and recreational value too. Therefore, while the Public Facilities Agency repays the loans used to develop these facilities, it generates invaluable benefits to participants in other ways. Performance measurement tools should however be employed to have a clear quantitative and qualitative idea of the return (Pichova, S. & J. Stejskal, 2015. “Return-on-investment of public investments to systems which provide public services? a case study,” ERSA conference papers ersa15p1399, European Regional Science Association)