Developers, elected officials meet on cost recovery for inspections

Posted on July 29, 2016
Members of the PDS Council discussed the growing gap between infrastructure inspection costs and fees that are paid to cover them during their March meeting. Staff initiated a review process in May to determine what it would take to cover those costs as well as how and when to accomplish the goal. These fees were last reviewed and increased in 2008.

Subdivision inspection fees are paid by developers as they develop new subdivisions; they cover inspections primarily for earthwork, grading, and storm sewer and street construction.

“In previous years the Kenton County Planning Commission set the subdivision inspection fees that developer paid,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “It would then hand those funds over to staff when they provided the required inspections. It was a cumbersome process.”

The county planning commission decided earlier this year that the task would be administered better by PDS that provides the inspections.

The first thing that staff did was to go back and do a comprehensive review of fees that were paid and compare them to the expenses that were incurred from staff doing the inspections. The fee and expense information collected dated back to 2001.

“We found that the fees were covering only 70 percent of the cost to do the work”, said Hiles. “Our directive from PDS Council was to make sure that fees paid for 100 percent.”

Subdivision inspection work performed by staff that is not covered by fees is paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Staff then formed a subdivision inspection fee committee made up of members of the Home Builders Association and elected officials to discuss their findings. They started meeting monthly beginning in May. Committee members discussed various methods for collecting fees but discussion centered on the 30 percent gap between fees and expenses.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ask the taxpayers to subsidize 30 percent of a developer’s for-profit subdivision,” said David Jansing, Mayor of Lakeside Park and one of the committee members. “We need a fee increase so that fees cover the cost to do the inspections”.

Staff hopes to conclude its work by the end of summer at which time it will forward the proposed new fee schedule to the PDS Management Board for review and approval. Hiles believes the resulting increase will probably be effective on January 1st.

The consensus of the committee agreed with Mayor Jansing and has instructed staff to propose a fee increase at the next committee meeting that would close the gap between fees and expenses. Staff is currently preparing that proposal and the next committee meeting is scheduled for July 28th at 5:30 p.m. at PDS.

Board, Council say “Thanks” to Bill Goetz for decades of service

Posted on July 29, 2016
Lyndon Johnson had just assumed the presidency when Bill Goetz was elected to the Fort Mitchell City Council. Ronald Reagan was completing his first term as president when Bill Goetz was appointed to the NKAPCouncil by the Fort Mitchell City Council. And, Bill Clinton was midway through his second term when Bill Goetz was elected to the NKAPCommission.

Bill Goetz decided earlier this year to call it a career. His colleagues on those NKAPC—now PDS public bodies decided last month to call those 52 years “distinguished” as they adopted a joint resolution honoring Goetz for his service.

Among the accolades included in the joint resolution by the PDS Council and PDS Management Board were these:

“WHEREAS William H. Goetz served continuously as a member of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council until 1993; and

WHEREAS during this time period members of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council elected William H. Goetz to be their president from 1984 through 1987; and

WHEREAS members of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council elected William H. Goetz in 1998 to serve as a member of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission; and

WHEREAS William H. Goetz served continuously as a member of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission until 2016; and

WHEREAS during this time period members of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission elected William H. Goetz to serve as their treasurer from 2000 through 2003 and their chairman from 2004 through 2011; and

WHEREAS his role in service to the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council and Area Planning Commission were marked with dedication, distinction, commitment, and integrity.”

Members of the two boards also certified that:

“WHEREAS this exemplary record of service to the two organizations ends this month as William H. Goetz declined to stand for re-election to the Planning and Development Services Management Board; and

WHEREAS his decision marks the end of 52+ consecutive years (since 01/01/64) that he’s held a statutory office in the Commonwealth—one of the longest in Kentucky history.”

In conclusion, members of the two boards:

“RESOLVED that a Wall of Distinguished Service be created in a prominent location in the PDS Building to be a lasting tribute to those individuals whose dedication and service to “more efficient planning” improved the quality of life for all Kenton Countians and that a copy of this joint resolution honoring William H. Goetz be the first mark of respect to be placed there.”


Planners pursuing downtown parking study/plan for Ludlow

Posted on July 29, 2016
Ludlow Administrator Elishia Chamberlain, Mayor Kenneth Wynn, and City Council have worked hard over the last few years to market and redevelop Ludlow’s downtown commercial district. They’ve also developed a concern that inadequate parking in the downtown area may hinder additional growth. So, the city has partnered with PDS’ planners to study existing and potential parking needs within the business district.
 
“Ludlow has a great opportunity to grow within existing storefronts and buildings,” commented Emi Randall, AICP, RLS, PDS’ director of planning and zoning. “The city’s charming and affordable housing stock and overall proximity to world-class amenities in downtown Cincinnati make it an ideal candidate for businesses looking to start, relocate, or expand. Our team is working with the city to help identify areas that could help these businesses succeed through expanded parking options.”

The Ludlow downtown business district located along Elm Street (KY 8) features unmarked on-street parking on both sides of the street, with a few limited private parking lots for individual businesses. The city has asked PDS to study the business district and surrounding area to determine if public parking lots are warranted, and where potential parking opportunities may exist.

The study will estimate the parking needs of existing businesses and residents along Elm Street as well as the potential future needs should all available storefronts become occupied. Through the study, PDS staff will explore alternative parking arrangements along Elm Street, and make recommendations for these.

Staff will also look for other off-street parking options like shared lots or even the potential for new lots within the downtown business district. PDS staff will provide the city with recommendations on the most feasible and desirable locations for any proposed additional parking.

With this study, the city hopes to identify several opportunities for off-street parking lots of various sizes. Work on this study is underway and will continue through late August. The city will utilize the study to make strategic capital investments to construct parking lots desired to enable the continued redevelopment of their historic business district. 

Elsmere Council approves move to greater One Stop Shop services

Posted on July 29, 2016
Elsmere City Council and PDS entered into an expanded level of services agreement effective July 5th that delegates all the city’s building codes administration responsibilities to PDS. Until recently, PDS pursued only non-residential building codes work.

“When our long-time building inspector retired, it made sense to move our building permitting and inspections to PDS,” Mayor Marty Lenhof said.  “I know that PDS will continue to provide great service in the manner that Elsmere residents expect.”

 “We’re pleased to be able to provide more services to the city,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “We’ve built a good relationship with Elsmere residents. This expansion of services will help us strengthen it.”

As it is with other One Stop Shop program communities, filing code enforcement complaints, seeking information about building or electric inspections, and searching for a property’s zoning classification is one phone call away. PDS can be reached at 859.331.8980 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday. Considerable information in this regard is also available on the PDS website and the One Stop Shop website.

“The One Stop Shop program has helped a number of cities increase service levels for their citizens and reduce costs since 2005. We’re looking forward to providing more of those benefits to Elsmere and its citizens,” concluded Gordon.

Staff update, upgrade, and upload improved LINK-GIS website

Posted on July 29, 2016
The LINK-GIS website, linkgis.org, has an updated look and feel. Streamlined, sleek and easy-to-use were goals accomplished with this latest overhaul of the popular geographic resource.

PDS staff rolled out a new public-facing website earlier this month. It replaces a website that had been in place since 2010.

After sifting through thousands of website templates, staff chose a template best suited for the project. Building a website from scratch is not easy. The months following the template selection were filled with configuring pages and customizing code, allowing the new website to provide the public with services only LINK-GIS can offer.

“Most of the talent needed to design, build, and execute the website was found in-house, said Trisha Brush, GISP, PDS’ GIS director. “Our programming team did have some assistance from our friends at Esri when it came to the clip, zip and ship to your inbox widget.”

Clip, zip, and ship is a function of the new website that allows remote customers to identify data they want, to clip and zip it as a file, to pay for it with PayPal, and to get it emailed to them; all without having to contact anyone at PDS.

 “The Esri professional services team helped us convert our data-purchase tool from the older mobile incompatible platform to the up-to-date version that will work on any device,” said Christy Powell, GISP, a senior GIS programmer with PDS. “They also helped us secure the clip, zip, and ship service against unauthorized downloads.”

Over 50 pages of data were added, along with links to LINK-GIS map viewers, NKYmapLAB journal entries, and LINK-GIS partner websites.

“Even though we added more content, we’ve heard from users that the site is easier to navigate,” reported principal GIS programmer Joe Busemeyer, GISP. “Finally, the Store component was customized, allowing users to purchase and download map and data products 24/7—even during hours that PDS GIS team members are not available for service.”

Powell and Busemeyer suggest viewers explore the new LINK-GIS by:
•    clicking on the Map Viewer and searching for an address, owner name, or PIDN, directly from the LINK-GIS website homepage;
•    learning about NKYmapLAB and how geospatial technology is used to educate Northern Kentucky on a variety of topics about the community;
•    shopping for digital data on a county-wide level or choose a specific area by selecting tiles to clip, zip and ship the data directly to your in-box;
•    browsing the map gallery to find dozens of pre-existing maps, which can easily be downloaded for free or requesting a printed copy for pick up or delivery for a nominal fee.

Questions about the new LINK-GIS website can be forwarded to the GIS staff at 859.331.8980.

Multi-agency collaboration supports Latonia Lakes turnaround

Posted on July 29, 2016
In what can only be described as a tremendous collaborative effort, a number of local agencies have joined forces to improve the quality of life for residents of Latonia Lakes. Those taking part include the Kenton County Fiscal Court, the Kenton County Public Works Department, the Kenton County Sheriff’s Department, the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington (CGN), Oak Ridge Baptist Lighthouse Church, PDS of Kenton County, and the New Hope for Latonia Lakes Community Group.

The collaborative effort began in 2014 when residents contacted local, state, and federal officials about fixing the roads and maintaining the dam and lake within the community. What began as a conversation about basic services in the community grew into a groundswell of residents and local officials working together to address the larger needs of the community.

Kenton County Fiscal Court accepted the former Latonia Lakes roads for maintenance in October 2014. Since then the Public Works Department has been working with the Northern Kentucky Water District and SD1 to upgrade water and sewer lines before installing new streets throughout the community.

In an effort to increase the safety of the neighborhood, the Police-Community Partnership was initiated in November, 2015, according to Melissa Bradford, a principal code enforcement official with PDS.

“This partnership has led to a decrease in several categories of criminal activity. It’s also spawned a positive relationship between the officers and the residents—specifically the children—as evidenced by the spirited cornhole games that took place at the recent community cookout.”

The New Hope for Latonia Lakes Neighborhood Organization was formed in the fall of 2015. Since its inception, the organization has applied for and achieved 501(c)3 status and is using CGN as a fiscal agent, which means the organization can accept and use donations for neighborhood events and projects.

The group meets monthly at Lighthouse Baptist Church to discuss community projects, issues affecting the community, and residents’ concerns. A list of upcoming meetings, events, and additional information is available at Kenton County's New Hope for Latonia Lakes website.

“This little community continues its efforts to improve and thrive,” said Bradford. “In June, they held a community cookout at the lake. County officials and police officers, several of us from PDS, and Rachel Hastings of CGN and Byron Lile of the New Hope Group attended.”

“The group grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and provided games for kids of all ages. Everyone considered the event a huge success and is awaiting the next event eagerly.”

After considering what all has been accomplished, Byron Lile had this to share, “The Community of Latonia Lakes had a great start, but years of neglect left us in a mess. Instead of giving up, we chose to move forward and fix the problems.”

“It’s been a lot of hard work and the community has experienced a lot of disruptions, but the gain has been worth the pain,” he said. “In the past two years we’ve seen many positive improvements—road repairs, old abandoned houses torn down, properties cleaned up, and several community cleanup programs initiated.”

In concluding, Lile asserted, “From a grateful community, we say thank you! The gain has been worth the pain for a great community environment.”

New budget funds electronic plan review for all PDS projects

Posted on July 29, 2016
Submitting a plat, a site plan, or building plans to PDS for review and approval? You won’t need to hit the PRINT button on your CAD system to create the hard copies for submission. The agency’s FY17 budget includes funds for transitioning its staff to electronic plan reviews and away from paper. Full implementation of the new process is expected by next June.

“We took our first step in this direction two years ago when we purchased development-tracking software,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Virtually everything we do now as an agency—planning, engineering, building review, and code enforcement—is stored in TRAKiT. And, because our GIS provides the supporting foundation for the entire tracking system, all records are tied to the parcels on which the activity takes place.”

The TRAKiT system employed by PDS has made accessing records and tying those records to individual parcels significantly less time-consuming, according to Gordon. The one exception to this new process is the time it takes staff to scan paper images into the electronic system, and of course the time it takes then to handle the resulting paper.

“Handling plans in electronic format is going to improve the workflow in several ways,” Gordon suggested. “Staff will be able to receive plans, applications, and payments via email using PayPal. Those same time savers will apply to customers who won’t need to drive to our office any longer. They won’t have to buy paper and print plans—some that look more like small logs than anything else—and we won’t have to scan and eventually dispose of them.”

One of the great benefits of TRAKiT’s all-electronic format is that inspectors can access all relevant records and plans in the field using their iPads and the internet. Being able to review original plans rather than scanned versions of those plans will only improve this ability.

Gordon said that builders in particular have wanted to be able to submit plans electronically for some time. The technology to do that has existed for quite a while. But, he suggests, electronic plan review needed to be part of an overall strategy for improving workflow for PDS customers and staff—and that took time.

“We’re happy to be able finally to meet our customers’ requests,” Gordon said. “PDS is a service organization. Even though our customers don’t have the ability to go to a competitor for the services we provide, we try to operate in a manner as though they do.”

Transitioning to electronic plan review will begin sometime in the fall, once software and hardware are purchased. As staff are trained on the software, they will eventually move away from paper plans toward CAD drawings on their computer screens.

“We intend to pursue this transition in a slow and easy manner,” concluded Gordon. “We’ll all have things to learn, customers and staff alike. We want this to go as smoothly as possible.”

PDS will continue to accept plans on paper for the foreseeable future.

PDS Council approves FY17 budget; okays “compensating” tax rate

Posted on July 29, 2016
PDS’ budget for Fiscal Year 2017 looks a lot like a number of its predecessors, holding the line on tax revenue. It’s also larger than a number of those that preceded it due to a growing workload and the revenue stream it produces. Those trends were highlighted for PDS Council members last month during the discussion that led to them approving it.

One elected representative from each of Kenton County’s 20 local governments makes up the PDS Council. These officials serve in a role defined by statute to “provide more effective representation of the various governmental units” participating in the organization’s operations. Among the group’s responsibilities is the review and approval of an annual budget and the tax rate that funds a majority of it.

According to Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director, the organization’s new fiscal year budget “continues a trend the PDS Management Board set during the early years of the Great Recession.”

“Because a good deal of the services PDS provides is driven by the economy, our budget reflects to some extent the ups and downs of the regional economy,” asserted Gordon. “Our Fiscal Year 2007 budget for example was our largest as the recession took hold. All budgets since then have been smaller than 2007’s.”

The new fiscal year’s budget extends beyond the 2007 ceiling for the first time with fee revenue making the difference.

FY17’s budget is funded primarily through a “compensating tax rate” according to Gordon. A compensating rate is the rate that produces the same revenue as was produced by the previous year’s tax rate; the difference being the assessed valuation of the taxing unit. The bottom line of a compensating rate budget is theoretically the same as the previous year’s assuming no other source(s) of revenue.

Among the many trends Gordon illustrated for elected officials is the agency’s growing reliance on fee revenue, part of the PDS Management Board’s directive to staff almost ten years ago. Fee revenue is projected to bring in roughly $200,000 more during FY17 than it was projected to produce during FY16—with no increase in individual fees charged.

“This new fiscal year budget is only a little larger than the Fiscal Year 2007 budget,” said Gordon. “This represents a meager 5.2 percent budget increase over the past ten years—or put another way—an average annual increase of just one-half percent.”

PDS provides Fiscal Court with master address list for 9-1-1

Posted on June 07, 2016

As managing partner of the LINK-GIS/Kenton County Partnership, the PDS’ GIS team, along with other PDS staff members, worked diligently during the first quarter of 2016 to incorporate new addresses into the partnerships’ Master Address Database and to provide this information to the Kenton County Fiscal Court for use in its emergency dispatch system.

As new Next Generation 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatch systems begin to replace existing systems, one of the required features is the ability to exchange data seamlessly with other dispatch centers for back up support and to aid in the rapid delivery of emergency services when and where they are needed.

To do this, adherence to standards is a major factor. All addresses in the LINK-GIS Master Address Database adhere to US Postal Service Addressing Standards. They are also identified uniquely so they can be cross-referenced and used by multiple agencies in a consistent and predictable manner.

LINK-GIS partners initiated the Master Address Database several years ago as a compilation of all known addresses in Kenton County. These addresses were derived from multiple sources of information including property records, utility information, and fieldwork, among others.

Over the years it has been kept up to date as new subdivisions or developments occurred or as older structures were demolished.


GIS programmer earns top honors from Toastmasters International

Posted on June 07, 2016

Christy Powell, a PDS senior GIS programmer, competed against contestants from three states on April 30th in the Toastmasters District 40 Evaluation Contest in Dayton, Ohio. The purpose of the evaluation contest is to provide feedback to speakers. At the end of the competition, Powell brought back top honors for her skills.

Powell remembers a time when speaking in front of a group of any size for any purpose was difficult. "When I started my career, I would be nervous, shaky, and sweaty having to give any presentation. I joined Toastmasters to be better at presentations."

Although speech and evaluation contests were not her primary reason for joining Toastmasters, the contest in Dayton marks the second time she has competed in a district-level event. To get to that level, Powell competed in and won three levels – club, area and division.

The club level contest takes place during a regular club meeting. Powell belongs to two clubs – Pioneer Toastmasters which meets in Covington and Northern Kentucky Toastmasters which meets at PDS. Clubs typically have between ten and 20 members. She won the evaluation contest in each club, but chose to represent Northern Kentucky Toastmasters at the next level.

At the area level, the winners from the club contests compete against contestants from up to six clubs in the same geographic area. In this case, clubs from Kenton, Campbell, and Boone Counties were represented.

Powell won both the speech and evaluation contests at the area level. Following the area contest, the division contest had contestants from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. At the division contest, Powell finished first in the evaluation contest and second in the speech contest.

Powell has used skills gained from Toastmasters in speaking situations for PDS. She has presented about the LINK-GIS website to groups of varied sizes and skill levels. In addition to Powell, six other members of the PDS staff are members of the Northern Kentucky Toastmasters club.


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