NKYmapLAB completes second year, shows number of successes

Posted on February 02, 2017
The Northern Kentucky Map Lab (NKYmapLAB) initiative completed its’ second year last month, having produced 23 high-quality poster map displays and online Story Maps. It has also increased the community’s—and the world beyond—awareness of the rich data that have been created within LINK-GIS and the analytical opportunities it has created. And, it’s won several awards.

Story Maps are online multi-media applications that allow users to interact with maps, images, videos, embedded websites, and other documents (think PDFs).

“From the beginning, NKYmapLAB’s goal was to highlight the analytical value of what’s been created within this GIS system,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Thirty years of diligent work has gone into this system. That effort has fostered tremendous capabilities to further the goals of this community. To the extent that those capabilities aren’t utilized, that work has been rendered meaningless.”

“NKYmapLAB takes the system’s data, applies them to a current issue of interest, and illustrates the results in formats that can foster community discussion. These past two years’ successes prove the value and capabilities built into this GIS.”

NKYmapLAB projects help local leaders and citizens better understand issues affecting Kenton County, while highlighting the analytic capabilities of LINK-GIS. Some of the topics covered in recent analyses include the following.

- Trails
- Landslides
- 2012 Piner Tornado
- Morning View Heritage Area
- Farmer’s Markets of NKY
- Accela/ROW Management
- Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood
- Beyond the Curb – Ludlow tour
- Turkeyfoot Road – Thomas More Parkway Realignment
- Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK)

The NKYmapLAB team consists primarily of two GIS professionals, Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, Geospatial Data Analyst, and Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal Geospatial Analyst. The two and other PDS staff as needed have chosen topics each month that would prove useful to the public and its elected officials.

No two projects are alike. Successful projects, however, create demand for similar products. In December 2015 NKYmapLAB had just completed analytical products regarding a Buttermilk-Orphanage intersection realignment project for the City of Fort Mitchell. Armed with the Story Map and poster from this project, city officials were able to bring back $250,000 in much-needed design funds from the General Assembly for this project. This very successful result caught the attention of other jurisdictions prompting the Turkeyfoot Road NKYmapLAB project in November 2016.

Hill and Kent have been proud to share their work with GIS users from around the nation, having been selected for several recent presentation opportunities.

- A presentation at the 2016 ESRI International Users Conference in San Diego.
- A presentation at the 2016 Kentucky GIS Conference in Covington.
- A live technical webinar, produced and hosted by the American Planning Association, showing attendees how to build their own Story Map.

The NKYmapLAB initiative was recognized with a first place finish in the Map Gallery at the 2016 Kentucky GIS Conference. NKYmapLAB submitted and displayed ten of their analytical products at the 2016 ESRI International Users Conference. Several of those are now under consideration for publication in Vol. 32 of the upcoming ESRI Map Book.

The American Planning Association (APA) featured NKYmapLAB’s Story Map of Covington’s Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood during its October celebration of National Community Planning month. APA had selected the neighborhood several years ago as one of its “Great Neighborhoods” in America.

“Being able to share some of the exciting things going on in this community and communicating the resulting analyses to people is what has made NKYmapLAB so successful,” stated Kent.

Hill added that “the third year of NKYmapLAB is underway and we’re exploring new partnerships and new project opportunities. We feel confident that we’ll be able to continue delivering useful data and analyses that can contribute to the data-driven discussions we’re promoting within the community.”

Email Louis Hill or Ryan Kent or call them at 859.331.8980 with questions or suggestions. NKYmapLAB is available online and on Twitter @NKYmapLAB.

LINK-GIS represents two collaborative partnerships. The first includes Kenton County Fiscal Court, Sanitation District #1, the Northern Kentucky Water District, and PDS. The second includes Campbell County fiscal Court, the Campbell County Property Valuation Administrator, Sanitation District #1, the Northern Kentucky Water District, and PDS.


Kenton County PLAN4Health initiative continues to provide benefits

Posted on February 02, 2017
One year after PDS and its partners received a grant to highlight and improve access to healthy food, progress can be measured. Hope can be expressed as well that the initiative helped raise the bar.

“From the start, the Kenton County team hit the ground running with a clear strategy for assessing the environment and taking a comprehensive look at the food system,” said Anna Ricklin, AICP, Manager of the Planning and Community Health Center for the American Planning Association (APA). “Their work and its results serve as excellent examples of what can happen when staff from public health and planning agencies come together with a united goal to support community needs.”

The Kenton County PLAN4Health program was established by a $135,000 grant from APA via its partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program was a collaborative effort that included professional staff from the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Inc., the American Planning Association-Kentucky Chapter, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), and PDS.

Collaborative efforts to promote healthy eating and behaviors as well as to improve food access throughout the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati Region continue following the end of the PLAN4Health initiative that concluded in May 2016. Early in the program, PDS staff and the other grant partners recognized the need to continue collaboration with other organizations. Their intent was to partner on initiatives and implementation projects in the region long after the end of the PLAN4Health program.

Since the program concluded last year, the grant partners intensified their involvement with work on the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council. This group examines food policy from many different perspectives. Its broad mission is to define a set of collective decisions made by governments, businesses, and organizations that affect how food gets from the farm to tristate tables. The Council promotes a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system for all within Greater Cincinnati’s ten-county region.

The grant partners are also involved with LiveWell NKY, an organization that focuses on community based implantation programs geared towards healthy lifestyles. The core focus of the group begins with healthy behaviors, which are enabled by healthy policies and environments. Their ultimate goal is making the healthy choice the easy choice everywhere we live, work, learn, play, and worship. The stated objective of LiveWell NKY is “to ignite an uprising within the community to build a movement toward a culture of health.”

The Kenton County PLAN4Health project was a yearlong planning effort to increase access to nutritious food across the county. The program worked to achieve this goal through several efforts including building a better link between urban markets and rural food producers, focusing on corner stores in urban communities, a targeted awareness campaign, and even hosting a marketing campaign as well as healthy foods summit near the end of the program.

More information about the initiative may be found online.

Lienholder registry online; joint code enforcement board compliant

Posted on February 02, 2017
The Kentucky General Assembly enacted HB422 during last year’s long session. The bill made sweeping changes to responsibilities and authority of code enforcement bodies across the commonwealth. The Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement—which serves the county and 12 of its cities—is now compliant with the all provisions of the new law.

One of the key provisions of the new law is the extension of lienholder priority to all code enforcement violations, including civil and zoning code violations. In order to obtain and maintain this lien priority, however, local governments must implement a system for notification to lienholders to allow them a timeframe to remediate or abate their violations. PDS now provides this lienholder registry service for all joint code enforcement board jurisdictions.

“PDS took on code enforcement responsibilities in a big way roughly ten years ago,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Providing the service was another way to support our local governments and their citizens. That’s a good thing.”

“The bad side of providing the service has been that there was no real revenue stream to fund the effort. So, as local governments do with police, fire, and ambulance services, we depended on tax dollars to administer the service. Among other things, HB422 changed that,” said Gordon.

The lienholder notification system provides lienholders and other interested parties with electronic notifications of all final orders filed by the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board. Citations that are not paid or appealed within seven days of issuance automatically become a final order. Final orders prompt filing of liens against the property.

The board may also issue a final order following an appeal by the property owner. Approximately every ten days, final order information will be sent electronically (emailed) to the parties who have submitted the request form. To receive notifications of final orders issued by the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board, property owners must complete the online registration form available on the PDS website.

The Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement board serves 12 cities and Kenton County. They are: Crescent Springs, Crestview Hills, Edgewood, Fort Wright, Independence, Kenton Vale, Lakeside Park, Ludlow, Park Hills, Ryland Heights, Taylor Mill, and Villa Hills.

In addition to providing professional staff support to the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board and its 13 jurisdictions, PDS provides code enforcement officers to serve the Cities of Elsmere and Fort Mitchell.

For questions about these services, contact Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, PDS’ director of planning & zoning administration or Rob Himes, its codes administrator, for more information at 859.331.8980.  


GIS staffer prepares for presidency of state mapping organization

Posted on February 02, 2017
Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, a geospatial data analyst with PDS was elected recently to be the next president of the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP). He will serve on the KAMP board for three years, in the role of president-elect in 2017, president in 2018 and past-president in 2019.

“KAMP continues to experience growth in its membership… which is great but can also present challenges,” said Hill. “We need to make sure that we continue to offer training, networking opportunities, and services to our members that they can’t find anywhere else.”

The Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals was formed to:

1.    foster the understanding and improvement of the management and use of geospatial information throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky in all levels of government, academia, and the private sector; and

2.    provide a mechanism for dialogue and education regarding geospatial information issues of concern or interest to all Kentucky professionals involved in the collection, processing, analysis, use, and maintenance of geospatial information.

To further this mission, KAMP provides an annual series of low-cost and no-cost training options throughout Kentucky. The event formats vary, but they are typically webinars, formal presentations and hands-on trainings conducted by distinguished industry speakers.

“The geospatial and mapping industry is expected to see above average growth over the next decade,” according to Hill. “We want to be able to keep our membership at the front of that trend.”

This year’s conference will be held at the Galt House in Louisville on September 5, 6 and 7.

“It’s the best place to learn the latest mapping technologies, establish yourself, network, get involved, present, and contribute to the geospatial and mapping profession in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” concluded Hill.

KAMP Executive Board: L-R, Meghan Dunn (AECOM), President; Michelle Bough (Stantec), Director; Louis Hill (PDS), President Elect; Vince DiNoto (KCTCS Jefferson), Director; David Siskin (Precision Products), Secretary; Lane Hartman (Hartman Spatial Data Consulting, LLC), Director; Angela Scott (Trideum), Treasurer; Stephen Chino (City of Paducah), Director; Tim Fields (Floyd County 911), Director; Lance Morris (Owensboro - Daviess County GIS Consortium), Past President. Not pictured: Jennifer Miller (Kentucky Division of Water), Director.

LINK-GIS is an ever-growing treasure trove of geospatial data

Posted on January 27, 2017

LINK-GIS is all about data. Thirty-two years’ worth of data. Fourteen terabytes of data… a number that grows incrementally each day as the world changes around us.

Consider this:
·       
Over 2017 PDS processed 954 building permits; each new building prompts changes to GIS data.
·       
PDS inspected 7,540 linear feet of surface asphalt and 2,525 linear feet of concrete streets during 2017; each foot of new pavement prompts changes to GIS data.
·       
Staff filled over 1,880 public and private requests for data and maps during 2017. It also sold over 60 gigabytes of digital data.
·       
The linkgis.org website serves 13,159 users monthly; 6,088 of those users are unique.

When you look around your neighborhood and community and see change happening, understand that that change will prompt LINK-GIS to update its data.

“We make it easy for people to use our portal to download digital data,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration at PDS. “You can also browse the map gallery with downloadable maps and review our fee schedule on-line. With over 300+ layers to choose from, you will be sure to find some data you just can’t live without.”

For more information about purchasing maps, data, or analyses, visit the LINK-GIS website, email Trisha Brush, or call her at 859.331.8980.


Analytics show new GIS website capabilities increase user traffic

Posted on January 03, 2017

PDS’ new LINK-GIS website experienced a 49 percent increase in unique visitors during the first quarter of FY17 compared to the first quarter of FY16, according to Google Analytics. That increase in unique visitors drove an increase in the number of sessions by 70 percent during the same period.

Unique visitors are determined by the IP or internet protocol address of the device that visits the website. Sessions are groups of pages that the user visits before exiting the site, either by going to another site or closing the browsing window.

“Our site’s new content works well on mobile devices,” said Christy Powell, GISP, PDS’ senior GIS programmer. “We’re seeing more users across more devices accessing our site. Much of that increase in sessions is attributable to visitors using the interactive maps on their mobile devices.”

The main LINK-GIS MapViewer showed a 174 percent increase in sessions for the first quarter of FY17 versus the same quarter of FY16.

Page views have increased by 44 percent during this time.

“Much of this increase is due to additional content we added during the update,” said Joe Busemeyer, PDS’ principal GIS programmer. “We wanted the end user to have better access to our maps and especially the NKYmapLAB content.”

Time spent using the MapViewer has decreased over 30 seconds on average from two minutes three seconds to one minute 28 seconds.

“Quicker load times and easier-to-use tools are responsible for getting answers to users faster,” said Powell.

Powell and Busemeyer will use the insights gained from Google Analytics to continue to improve the LINK-GIS website over the next year.


New subdivision construction approaches pre-recession levels

Posted on January 03, 2017
Subdivision construction activity in Kenton County increased in 2016 to levels not seen in almost a decade according to PDS’ Infrastructure Engineering Department. The department and its staff are responsible to review and inspect new subdivision streets and storm sewer infrastructure in those new subdivisions.

“One of the ways we track subdivision activity is by keeping track of the length of new street pavement that we inspect in subdivisions”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “Streets have to be constructed first in order for lots to be created and new homes to be built. So when subdivision street construction is up, we know all of the activity that follows will also be up.”

There was just under 12,000 feet of new subdivision street constructed in Kenton County in 2016. This number neared levels not seen since 2007, when approximately 15,000 feet of new subdivision street was constructed. By contrast in 2015, there was 7,095 feet of new subdivision street constructed.

“The majority of these new streets were constructed in the City of Independence which has been the norm for a number of years now,” said Hiles. “Of that total constructed county-wide, almost 8,000 feet was constructed in Independence throughout nine different subdivisions.”

“We even had a small amount of street constructed in one subdivision in the unincorporated portion of the county this year,” said Hiles.

The 4,000 feet of new subdivision streets that were constructed outside Independence were located in six subdivisions located in the Cities of Lakeside Park, Taylor Mill, Erlanger, and Covington.

The subdivision streets constructed county-wide during 2016 will serve 150 acres of developed land and result in 312 new residences. “Three hundred of those residences will be single-family homes,” said Hiles. “The remaining 12 will be condominiums.”

Based on all projections, it appears subdivision activity levels should be as busy next year as they were in 2016, according to Hiles.

Villa Hills task force, staff schedule open house for planning study

Posted on January 03, 2017

The City of Villa Hills, the Benedictine Sisters of Covington, Kentucky, Inc., and PDS are nearing the completion of the Villa Hills Small Area Study after nearly a year’s work. The result of that work will be displayed and explained during an open house on January 4, 2017 from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the River Ridge Elementary School cafeteria (2772 Amsterdam Road). City residents may come and go at any time during the 90-minute timeframe.

The group collaborated since early 2016 on a detailed study of land on and around the Saint Walburg Monastery property in Villa Hills. The study culminates in a plan that includes recommendations on mobility, land use, and community facilities for the site. 

A task force overseeing the study held a public meeting at the beginning of summer to learn from the community their ideas and desires for the site. Since that public meeting, the task force has worked towards developing direction for the plan and refining recommendations for the site.

Members of the Task Force also sought the expert advice of regional developers, with the goal of gathering insight and understanding regarding the types of development that would be appropriate for the site. Staff conducted interviews with regional developers and the information gathered through this process was used by the task force to help guide the direction of the final plan.  

“The interviews with regional developers allowed task force members to view the site from a developer’s perspective and get a good grasp on what may be feasible on the site”, said Craig Bohman, City Administrator/Clerk for Villa Hills. Information from the developer interviews, the public meeting, and market study were all used by the task force to help guide the direction of the study.

The task force consists of Villa Hills elected officials, city employees, citizens, Saint Walburg representatives, and Madonna Manor officials. The group worked with PDS from the beginning to provide guidance for the plan and help be a voice for the larger community.

If you are interested in learning more about the project and/or getting updates about its progress, visit the city’s website or contact Bohman at 859.341.1515


Monthly staff performance metrics will be available online soon

Posted on January 03, 2017

How many inspections does PDS staff pursue in a month? How long does it take to get a permit? How many phone calls did staff handle last month? How large is PDS’ total collection of GIS data? How many code enforcement cases is staff handling currently?

Staff gathered the answers to these and dozens of similar questions over the past 12 months. The collection of these data will become the base data in a new program being called PDS by the Numbers.

“It’s difficult at times for people to comprehend all the activities that our staff handles on an ongoing basis,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director. “Even for those who understand our responsibilities, it’s sometimes tough to realize how quickly work numbers grow when you don’t experience them on a day-to-day basis. These situations are the reason we’re initiating PDS by the Numbers.”

Gordon names Kenton County Commissioner Joe Nienaber the catalyst for the new program.

“As a member of the PDS Council—our oversight body, Joe frequently asks about numbers of permits, processing time, customers served, and the list goes on,” according to Gordon. “We usually have answers to his questions, or at least are able to get them, but they prompted me to consider gathering those data on a more routine basis. Publishing them just adds to our transparency.”

Gordon approached PDS’ GIS programmers with some of these data earlier this year. He asked them for an effective way to present the information in an interesting way, one that would catch attention and allow for some level of interaction.

“Christy (Powell) and Joe (Busemeyer) provided me with a template in pretty short order,” said Gordon.

PDS by the Numbers’ 2016 data will appear on the agency’s website sometime in January; new numbers will be added on a monthly basis. The interactive display will provide visitors with an overview of the most important of 89 criteria gathered by staff on a monthly basis. As the program moves forward, current data will be portrayed in comparison with last year’s activities as an indicator of staff’s workload.

“At first the effort it took to collect these numbers was a bit tedious, more about remembering to do it than anything else. Once everyone made it a part of his or her routines, it became second nature,” said Gordon.

He concluded by suggesting that some of the numbers are going to surprise people.


PDS Council, Management Board back task force recommendations

Posted on January 03, 2017
At its November 17th meeting, PDS Management Board members approved a recommendation regarding infrastructure inspection fees. This action ended a months-long effort by staff to analyze costs and expenses for the program and recommend a funding strategy that would provide 90 percent cost recovery for the inspection service moving forward.

“Earlier this year Kenton County elected officials serving on the PDS Council challenged staff to complete an analysis of the financial condition of the infrastructure inspection program, and to determine whether the fees paid by developers were coving the cost to perform those inspections”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering at PDS.

“When inspection fees don’t cover the cost of performing the inspections, the deficit is covered by taxpayer dollars, which is why it’s important that we perform the analysis. We began by forming a task force of elected officials and representatives of the Home Builders Association.”

The task force met for three months, focusing on fee and expense data that spanned a 16-year period. Members determined that at the end of FY16, there was approximately enough money left in the program fund to cover the cost of the inspections left to be performed.

“That showed that based on the 16 years of data we studied, the program was just about where it needed to be at that time,” said Hiles.

Components of the recommendation that PDS Council endorsed and the Management Board members approved included the following:

1.    Leave current inspection fees unchanged through the end of FY17.
2.    Increase inspection fees annually in an amount equal to the Metro Cincinnati CPI-U beginning with FY18.
3.    Analyze staff’s project-by-project data for FY15, 16, and 17 to determine if fees charged are covering roughly 90 percent of costs associated with providing the services. Assure that the costs of inspections to be provided in the future are included in this analysis.

“The annual adjustment of fees referenced in recommendation #2 will help the program fund stay current with the cost of living,” said Hiles. “We’ve never done this before which resulted in actions that no one liked—not staff and not developers.”

“This not only caused the fund to fall behind our targeted cost recovery, but also forced us to propose higher-than-normal fee increase periodically to catch up to where we needed to be. This incremental adjustment should eliminate this in the future.”

Staff began collecting fee and expense data on a project-by-project basis in FY15, rather than just aggregate totals for the year.

“Beginning in FY18, staff will begin analyzing cost recovery using the project-by-project data”, said Hiles. “It’s another useful tool that will help us assure that fees are covering costs.”

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