National Guard provides excellent experience for building inspector

Posted on December 29, 2015

The recent observance of Veteran’s Day provides an appropriate opportunity to introduce PDS’ new building inspector. Gary Forsyth, II enlisted in the Kentucky Army National Guard in March of 2007 in an effort to serve his community and the commonwealth.

Upon entering the Guard, Gary chose the military occupational specialty (MOS) code for vertical construction, as he was interested in engineering. Gary is currently a Carpentry Masonry Sergeant (SGT) (E-5) with the 149th Vertical Construction Company (VCC) based in Cynthiana.

In 2010, leaving a five-day-old baby girl and new mom at home SGT. Forsyth arrived at training in Hohenfels, Germany. The training was to prepare him for combat deployment with an exercise in building replica cities for infantry units. The major challenge while training in Germany was converting imperial measurements to metric. The conversion did not always work well, so the company went out and bought metric tools to finish the job.

SGT. Forsyth was deployed in 2013 to Afghanistan during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM as a team leader of five soldiers, eventually placed as a squad leader of two teams for a total 12 soldiers. In June of that year, the soldiers of the 149th VCC were tasked with a very high priority construction mission at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.

The engineers were tasked with constructing a two story tactical operation command center for the 2nd Brigade, 1stCavalry Division, known as the “Black Jack” Brigade that were due to arrive in Afghanistan during the summer. Some challenges of constructing buildings in Afghanistan were convoy trucks with supplies could be blown up and new materials would have to be sent. Also, local materials were sometimes used in construction, and the quality of the resources was questionable and tricky to incorporate into the build.

The VCC completed the critical Cavalry construction and exceeded expectations creating a conference table in the shape of the Cavalry patch and includes all the likeness of the very recognizable yellow shield that is established as the symbol of the United States Cavalry. Due to the company’s fine work and for going above and beyond the call of construction, to show their gratitude the “Black Jack” Brigade held a surprise ceremony to induct those Soldiers into the “Order of the Combat Spurs” to show their appreciation.

From that day forward, the 2/1 Cavalry Division recognized the Soldiers of the 149th by issuing the award that authorizes the troops that are given the prestigious honor to wear the Cavalry Stetson and Combat Spurs in noted situations as honorary members of the Cavalry.

SGT. Forsyth’s highest award is the Bronze Star for meritorious service during deployment. From the narrative Bronze Star submittal, “SGT. Forsyth demonstrated outstanding professional skill, knowledge, devotion to duty, and determination. He was instrumental in the success of 12 vertical construction missions, one being a theater priority $1.3 million Tactical Operations Center for the 2-1 Cavalry.”

When asked what SGT. Forsyth missed the most on deployment to Afghanistan he responded, “No question, it was my kids and family.”

“We’re really proud to have Gary on our team,” concluded Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “The experience he received and is still receiving in the Kentucky Army National Guard is extremely beneficial to his responsibilities with PDS. We continue to thank him for his service to our country.”



GIS staff pursues roadshow highlighting capabilities of new website

Posted on December 29, 2015

Dozens of people across Northern Kentucky use the LINK-GIS map viewer on a daily basis for business or personal applications. With the system’s new release, users can now access the viewer’s interactive maps on their mobile devices.

“I have to tell you that I don’t know that I’d be able to do half of what I do without LINK-GIS,” said Seth Cutter of the Campbell County Fiscal Court. “It’s a great resource, and the latest release is terrific!”

The newest release of the map viewer has a similar look and feel as the previous version, but with even easier access to mapping information. This easier access to data means the functionality of the map viewer has changed in a few areas. To make users aware of the changes and how to interact with the map viewer on their mobile devices, LINK-GIS staff literally took the mobile map viewer on the road.

The road trip began with a visit to the Campbell County Fiscal Court chambers, where attendees included administrators from Campbell County Public Works, Planning and Zoning, and the Fiscal Court as well as the Cities of Alexandria and Cold Spring. Christy Powell, GISP, Senior GIS Programmer and Joe Busemeyer, GISP, Principal GIS Programmer, showcased the capabilities of the new map viewer for over two hours.

The session allowed attendees to interact with the map viewer, ask questions, and engage in conversation with the Powell and Busemeyer who developed the new map viewer.

The map viewer was received well by Luke Mantle who is director of Campbell County Public Works. “I use the map viewer eight to ten times a day.”

The road trip continued on to the City of Covington, where Powell and Busemeyer showcased the map viewer for several of Covington’s administrators—from Public Works, Urban Forestry, Zoning, and Code Enforcement. Covington officials were very excited with the new map viewer.

As Jessica Moss of the city stated, “As the City of Covington moves toward mobile implementation, the LINK-GIS map viewer has become increasingly beneficial to city workers, both out in the field and in the office.”

She added, “Recently we provided many city staff with iOS devices for work phones, and the improved JavaScript map viewer allows our employees to work more efficiently and effectively thanks to having such a great resource in the palms of their hands.”

The road trip concluded with a visit to Thomas More College. Students from ecology and environmental science attended an afternoon session showcasing the new map viewer. More than 20 students spent two hours with the developers and asked a variety of questions about data and applications.

If you would be interested in having PDS’s website developers speak to your group, please contact the PDS office.


Staff working with local jurisdictions to expand code enforcement tools

Posted on December 29, 2015

As code enforcement issues morph and grow, PDS staff and the elected officials they serve work to keep pace. As those issues present new challenges, the collaboration on which PDS was founded pursues new tools for its communities to use.

“Ten years ago when we initiated the One Stop Shop program, code enforcement was pretty straight forward,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Staff responded to complaints, visited the sites and sent letters, and followed up with those violators who resisted complying with local ordinances. It seems like everything’s gotten more complicated and time consuming since then.”

Gordon cites the many foreclosures witnessed during the Great Recession as the first issue to challenge PDS’ protocol for abating code violations.

“Keeping up with code enforcement issues prompted by foreclosures was extremely frustrating for staff. The homeowners were gone. The lending institutions weren’t stepping up to offer any assistance. So, the staff got trapped into wasting untold hours looking for people who were taking steps not to be found.”

The solution to this issue came in a program used by hundreds of jurisdictions across the country. As requested by most county jurisdictions, Kenton County Fiscal Court is now considering a county-wide Vacant Properties Registration Ordinance to remedy the problem of finding no one of record who is responsible for vacant foreclosed properties. Action on the proposal is hoped for after the first of the new year.

Staff’s second challenge came in the form of nuisance codes adopted by most of the jurisdictions served by PDS’ code enforcement program.

“Our first real experience with chronic nuisance codes came with ongoing problems being experienced at the old USA Hotel in Fort Mitchell. It seemed as though law enforcement, health department, and code enforcement officials took turns citing the owner for violations. Once the city adopted a chronic nuisance code, all agencies collaborated to get the place closed. A Mercedes dealership occupies that site now—a clear instance of success benefitting the city.”

The solution to this issue came out of discussions between Gordon and the chief executives of those jurisdictions.

“When confronted with the fact that the minor differences and form of their Chronic Nuisance Codes were going to prompt higher costs, the elected officials were pretty quick to suggest ironing out those differences and standardizing language,” according to Gordon. “We collected all the local nuisance codes and are working with legal counsel now to pull all the disparate contents into one model ordinance that can be adopted by each of the legislative bodies.”

The resulting model ordinance is near completion. Gordon suggests that a meeting of all jurisdictions to discuss the model will be held after the first of the new year.

“If the collaborative spirit that’s marked this process to date continues, we expect to have all jurisdictions under the new model nuisance code by the second quarter of 2016,” he concluded.

The One Stop Shop codes administration program was initiated in 2005 and 2006 at the request of eight Kenton County jurisdictions. In its earliest form, the program provided building and electric inspection services, zoning and property maintenance codes administration, and support for the jurisdiction’s board of adjustment.

It has since grown to include providing staff support for the Kenton County Joint Board of Adjustment and Joint Code Enforcement Board, collaborations between the Fiscal Court and a number of local municipalities. As for jurisdictions, the original membership of eight has more than doubled to include 17 of the county’s 20 jurisdictions.

A listing of those jurisdictions and the services provided to them can be found online.


Developer installs ‘improved’ concrete in Crestview Hills subdivision

Posted on December 29, 2015

Much of the debate leading up to the March 2015 adoption of new subdivision regulations for Kenton County focused on new street construction standards. Last month, eight months after that action, a 22-acre subdivision along Shinkle Road in Crestview Hills became the first subdivision to see streets constructed to these new beefed-up standards.

The subdivision, named Crown Point, will create 42 single family lots and approximately 2,300 feet of new public concrete streets that will become the maintenance responsibility of the city when finished. Work began on the subdivision in July of this year and areas were readied for paving in November.

“This is the first subdivision—and likely the only one this year—to benefit from the new street standards,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “Being that this was the first development approved under the new regulations, there were a few bumps along the way. That was to be expected. In the end though it all came together and there’s no reason this street shouldn’t last its complete design-life and beyond.”

About 1,300 feet of new street was constructed that will allow the first 16 homes to begin construction, according to Hiles. Crown Point will be the site for a Home Builders Association Home Show in the spring of 2016. Work to complete the remaining 1,000 feet of street will likely also begin in the spring.

The new street design standards that were adopted as part of the subdivision regulations represent a marked increase over street design standards in the past. A few of the new street design regulations include the following:

1.  greater pavement cross-slope to keep storm water in the gutter section and ultimately the catch basin instead of on the street surface where it could infiltrate beneath the street causing it to fail;

2.  skewed contraction joints instead of ones directly perpendicular to the street that ensures impact from only one vehicle wheel load at a time;

3.  crushed (angular) limestone within the concrete mix for better aggregate interlock at the joints as well as helping to ensure better pavement freeze-thaw resistance;

4.  greater subgrade cross-slope as well as an edge drain along both sides of the street to keep surface and ground water draining toward the edge of pavements and away from directly beneath the pavements;

5.  increased testing requirements for soils supporting the streets which serve as the foundations beneath every street pavement; and

6.  mandatory geotechnical explorations for every subdivision that focus on providing the proper materials and methods for every street to help ensure longevity.

The new regulations were developed by the Kenton County Planning Commission and staff with extensive input and participation from multiple stakeholders around several overriding goals. The first of which—and arguably the most important—was to create “Greater taxpayer protection through new street design standards” to combat the problems of new streets that fail prematurely.

The new Kenton County Subdivision Regulations may be found on the PDS website.


PDS receives $10,000 education grant for bicycling/walking initiative

Posted on December 29, 2015

The Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeway Commission announced last month it is awarding a $10,000 Paula Nye Memorial Grant for 2015 to PDS of Kenton County. Funds will be used to educate citizens about bicycle and pedestrian safety and to raise awareness of an upcoming bicycle and pedestrian planning project.

“We’re thrilled to get this opportunity to help increase the safety of cyclists and pedestrians in our county,” said James Fausz, AICP, a senior planner at PDS. “We knew we wanted to get the word out about the upcoming planning project to as many people as possible. This grant will make a major impact in the number of people we can reach and maximize our chances for success with the plan.”

Fausz explained that funding from the grant will be used in a multifaceted approach that will include public service announcements on Time Warner Cable, an educational video, and face-to-face staff interactions with local public officials. It will also provide for a social media / internet outreach program for enhanced interaction with the community.

“Our goal is to launch the educational campaign just before we kick off the planning project and website to get people interested in participating either online or in person,” he said. “If all goes as planned, heightened awareness of the issues facing Kenton County will encourage more citizens to participate.”

Data from the 2010 Census indicates that Kenton County residents overwhelmingly choose single occupancy vehicles for trips, having serious impacts on roadway congestion and pollution. In fact, currently just slightly over one percent of residents commute to work by walking or other means like bicycles.

“Outreach provided through grant funding will ideally lead to more people considering and choosing to bike or walk for trips that are appropriate for those modes,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “If we build awareness with outreach and the plan then we should see those percentages increase in the 2020 Census.”

The application for the grant was part of a joint effort between Northern Kentucky University and PDS. Staff worked with Thomas Jacobs, a second year Master of Public Administration student, to craft the successful proposal for this outreach effort.

“Thomas was a real asset to the application process. His efforts were much appreciated,” said Gordon.

The Paula Nye Grant was established to improve the safety of non-motorized transportation (bicycle and pedestrian) and is funded solely by contributions of Kentuckians purchasing “Share the Road” specialty license plates.


Gov. Beshear declares October 12th the beginning of GIS Week

Posted on October 12, 2015

The importance of the use of geographic information systems (GIS) for the Commonwealth was highlighted by Gov. Steve Beshear's declaration of October 12-16, 2015 as GIS Week.

The Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP) fosters the understanding and improvement of the management and use of geospatial information throughout the Commonwealth in all levels of government, academia, and the private sector. Continuing its tradition from previous years, KAMP has organized the 22nd Annual Kentucky GIS Conference from October 12-14 in Owensboro.

KAMP President, Lance Morris, said that hundreds of professionals in the geospatial industry from Kentucky and neighboring states are expected to attend the conference. This year's event highlights the use of unmanned aircraft systems and unmanned aerial vehicles in surveying, mapping and emergency response.

Geographic Information Systems are computer-based tools for mapping, analyzing, and understanding our world and the events affecting it, through combining the power of a database with the visualization capabilities offered by maps and web applications. Thus, GIS provides a unifying framework to help resolve complex issues in the fields of environmental protection, pollution control, land use, natural resources management, preservation and conservation.

GIS mapping and information management serve our communities in cities, counties and regions through activities such as transportation, construction, facilities and utilities management, tourism, archaeological and historical preservation, economic development, education, health care, emergency preparedness, response and mitigation planning.

KAMP will also present awards to individuals making significant contributions to the GIS and mapping community, for outstanding services to KAMP, and to an exemplary GIS system implementation, this one presented last year to the Cabinet for Economic Development's Select Kentucky website.

For more information about the 2015 Kentucky GIS Conference, please visit the KAMP website.

 


Website shows heathy progress across US and Kenton County

Posted on October 12, 2015

Work by PDS staff and its partnering organizations continues on Kenton County’s Plan4Health community grant. That work and its results are being made available on a new website that details the $135,000 awarded to the county’s partnering organizations by the American Planning Association with funds from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Awarded to a handful of communities across the country, Plan4Health aims to connect communities by funding work at the intersection of planning and public health. The Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition includes PDS, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, and OKI.

As called for in the group’s application, the various staffs are working to provide access to nutritious food across the county. Current efforts include a countywide assessment of food deserts—underserved neighborhoods with little or no access to healthy food due to mobility, availability, affordability, or a combination of the three. The assessment found a handful of underserved areas located in the urban areas of Kenton County.

Following this assessment, the partners’ work has focused on a corner store initiative that seeks to increase the supply and demand of nutritious food options in urban areas of the county. The program provides stores owners with a number of financial and marking incentives used to accommodate and market healthy food options to customers.

Incentives may include the provision of new equipment or retrofitting the existing layout of the store to accommodate healthy food options. The coalition is currently in the process of approaching targeted store locations and owners in the most underserved areas of the county.

Kenton County Plan4Health partners are excited to connect with community members. If you would like to learn more about the project and all coalitions participating in this initiative, check out the project website and join the national conversation by following #plan4health.

 


Access 30+ pieces of detailed property information with a single click

Posted on October 12, 2015

LINK-GIS’ new map viewer tool was put into service recently. Following an effort to beef up the information available with one click of the mouse, Map Viewer will now serve up numerous levels of property information in a quick, simple, and concise manner.

“One of our top priorities was to pull information from many sources into one list,” said Christy Powell, GISP, PDS’ senior GIS programmer. These data are being pulled from over 30 sources including community information, utility services, inspector contacts, and school and political districts.

“Although this information had been available on the previous version, the new website simplifies the process of getting results,” said Joe Busemeyer, GISP, PDS’ principal GIS programmer, who along with Powell created the new map viewer tool.

Powell and Busemeyer explained how simple the new tool is to use.

From the LINK-GIS homepage, find the Explore LINK-GIS Maps section on the bottom left side of the page (see Figure 1). Type the name or address you’re looking to find, choose the county and search type, then click GO.

The LINK-GIS Map Viewer will open and provide the search results. Click on the intended parcel from the list and get the detailed information along with a map of the property (see Figure 2).

“We created a similar list for flood plain information that includes many items from the FEMA floodplain information in one place,” said Busemeyer.

Access to that information is also a single click away on the water drop icon near the top left of the Map Viewer. Information passed from the Explore LINK-GIS Maps widget on the LINK-GIS homepage will automatically populate that widget.

“I hate having to type the exact same information several times on a website,” said Powell. “This new Map Viewer capability should help with that.”

Powell said that PDS’ programming team will continue to add innovative features to the online mapping options for the LINK-GIS website. In addition to the Map Viewer, there is already a Park Finder website available and a polling place locator in development that are aimed at niche interest groups.

 


Planner elected officer of APA’s New Urbanism Division

Posted on October 12, 2015

Michael Ionna, AICP, PDS principal planner, was notified recently that he was elected treasurer/secretary of the American Planning Association’s (APA) New Urbanism Division. The division is one of the APA’s core groups aimed at bringing together communities of professionals who have shared interests in the many issues related to planning and land use.

The division also provides an area where members have the opportunity to discuss ideas, contribute to national policy work, develop conference sessions, and build beneficial partnerships. The purpose of the New Urbanism Division is to provide planners, public officials, and other decision makers with the information, support, and tools needed to eliminate restrictive conventional development regulations. It also encourages new urbanism patterns to be incorporated in appropriate communities throughout the country.

Ionna ran on a platform centered on promoting the goals and objectives of the division, increasing networking opportunities for members, collaborating with other divisions to establish meaningful relationships, promoting opportunities for continued education, and working to increase division membership.

Following release of the election results, Ionna stated, “During my one year term I look forward to the opportunity to interact with exceptional individuals from all over the country to develop solutions and policies that have an impact on a national and local level.”

“I’m proud of Mike for deciding to pursue this opportunity for service,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “We encourage all staff to become engaged in the professional associations to which they belong—if they’re willing to commit the time necessary. It’s a great way to burnish their professional skills while gaining information and contacts that can help them do their jobs in the best way possible.”

Whichever the case, Gordon concludes, Kenton County benefits from their involvement.

 


GIS staff provides data to KY CMRS Board, brings $1.1M back to NKY

Posted on October 12, 2015

As part of its ongoing collaboration with E9-1-1 dispatch services in Campbell, Kenton, and Pendleton Counties, PDS’ GIS staff recently submitted Public Safety Access Point geographic boundary data to the state. This work by staff will result in $1.1 million in funding flowing from Frankfort to those dispatch centers.

A substantial portion of the cost of providing E9-1-1 service comes from fees paid by those who have a phone. In some areas of the state, the local phone provider collects a land line fee and distributes it directly to the dispatch centers in whose jurisdictions the land lines are located. However, wireless service providers pass the fee revenue on to the state for distribution to the requisite dispatch centers.

“This assessment is required every year by the State’s Commercial Mobile Radio Service Board (CMRS),” said Tom East, GISP, Senior GIS Specialist. “Before the board distributes the cell phone-generated revenue, it needs to know that the local dispatch centers have the ability to locate cellular users within their jurisdictions who call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance. Providing accurate and up-to-date geographic data is a requirement to receive the funding.”

Because PDS’ GIS mapping system is the basis for dispatching emergency services in Campbell, Kenton, and Pendleton Counties, staff is in the best position to address the state’s questions, according to East.

These typically deal with the locations of cell towers as well as the credibility of address data.

“There’s a significant amount of money riding on our answers to the state’s questions,” said East. “LINK-GIS is geared to providing this level of information to the dispatch centers on an ongoing basis. This exercise gives us an opportunity to show the state that we’re maintaining the high standards and timeliness of data necessary for emergency dispatch purposes.”

Dispatch services are provided in Campbell and Pendleton Counties by single, countywide agencies. In Kenton County, these services are provided currently by Kenton County for unincorporated parts of the county and for all cities except Erlanger, Elsmere, and Crescent Springs which are served by Erlanger’s Dispatch Center.

 


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