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A public project is any project that is funded by a government, and is meant to be owned or operated by that government. Governmental agencies may have a hand in a number of other projects through the provision of loans or other means of financial help, but they are not considered to be public projects even though the public has a stake in them. Most public projects relate to work a government does to fulfill a public purpose, and commonly they include such things as road repair and construction, public building construction, schools, and even public parks.
In most cases, city managers or administrators at any level of government must follow a certain process when looking to do a public project. These projects are funded by taxpayer dollars, and therefore are subject to more open procedures than many other projects. For example, a public project may need to publish requirements and request bids. Those bids must be opened at a public place and then considered publicly.
In order for a contractor to win in a bid for a public project, it may need to meet certain criteria. Often, the company must be bonded and submit a bid bond with the project. Some governments may require union work, or at least salaries on par with the prevailing wage in the area, which the local government often determines. Advocates say this helps protect the jobs of union workers, and prevents companies from out of the area bidding low and corrupting the process. Opponents say it is another way for politicians to provide political kickbacks to unions.
It often takes months or years for a public project to move from the conception stage to the construction stage. Depending on the project, the construction could take anywhere from a matter of days to multiple years. During this time, decision-making bodies, such as councils and boards, often seek public input to determine the best way to proceed. For example, a transportation board may seek the best location for a new highway, or prioritize highways that need repairs, with the public's help.
Government projects may also include what is commonly known as vertical construction, most likely in the form of buildings. These buildings may be used for public agencies and offices, schools, prisons or even public housing. These projects are often funded by a variety of sources, such as local and federal governments. Once completed, they are used for the benefit of the community in which they are located. Just like transportation projects, these public projects often are the result of extensive planning and subject to being changed during that process.