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Senior GIS specialist speaks at KACo regarding NextGen 9-1-1

Posted on December 17, 2013
How does Next Generation 9-1-1 differ from our current Enhanced 9-1-1? Why do we need to understand the difference? These questions are what NKAPC staff member Tom East was asked to explain to the 39th Annual Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) Conference held last month at the Galt House in Louisville.

East, a senior GIS specialist, was invited to present to because of his GIS experience, his history of developing address point databases and road centerline layers for LINK-GIS partner organizations, and his understanding of the steps necessary to prepare for the transition to the new technology.

“Explosive growth of cell phone usage and the concurrent decline in land lines is driving this change,” said East. “Enhanced 9-1-1 was designed to work with land lines and callers with fixed locations. The cell phone has completely changed the rules of the game. Add to that the additional capabilities of smartphones—texting, messaging, cameras, video and internet connectivity—and the limits of Enhanced 9-1-1 are quickly exposed. Younger generations in particular expect dispatchers to be able to use these new technologies.”

East continues, “The decline in land lines is reducing the funding stream for dispatch centers, while county and city general funds have been pressured for several years by the state of the economy. All these factors have come together, feeding the ‘perfect storm’ that is driving the change.”

East explained to the attendees that Next Generation 9-1-1 has been designed to handle the new technologies and capabilities while also solving some of the problems Enhanced 9-1-1 cannot.

“Next Generation 9-1-1 is designed with GIS, or computerized maps, at its core. It won’t function without this map which must include roads, dispatch service areas, cell tower locations and address databases. Fortunately, a great deal of this information is already available, but the electronic infrastructure required still needs to be developed and built, along with a solution for the funding issues.”

East participates in a National Emergency Numbering Association (NENA) work group developing recommendations for the creation of address point databases to be used in emergency dispatch systems. Last month he co-chaired the national “Locating the Future” Conference, sponsored by the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) and NENA in St. Louis.

Staffer recognized for service to the Kentucky GIS community

Posted on December 04, 2013
The Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP) presents three awards during the annual Kentucky GIS Conference: Exemplary System, Service to KAMP, and Service to the GIS/Mapping Community.

In 2013 the Service to GIS/Mapping Community award was presented to Christy Powell GISP, Senior GIS Programmer at NKAPC. In the peer-submitted nomination it was noted that Powell had performed tremendous service to KAMP’s community-of-practice.

Powell helped review the various iterations of these documents resulting in better and streamlined KAMP governance – positively affecting KAMP’s functionality in serving its community. Most importantly, she has consistently and diligently maintained and improved the public-facing aspect of KAMP. Christy has responded and affected every change requested over the years; this being particularly true during hectic times.

Powell has been in KAMP since its inception in 2003 and was presented the Service to KAMP award in 2006. She has served as a member of two KAMP committees and was the President of KAMP for 2009-2010. Her goal is to continue improving the LINK-GIS system to win the final KAMP award, Exemplary System.

New sirens- A welcome sound to a scarred landscape

Posted on December 04, 2013
On October 23, 2013 in southwestern Kenton County, a siren could be heard echoing over the rolling hills of Kentucky for the first time. The Rotary Club, city officials, representatives from Duke and Owen Electric, Homeland Security, Piner Fire and Police departments, and representatives from the NKAPC were gathered on a Carlisle Road hillside for the new siren dedication.    
Not all of the 34 sirens in Kenton County have a plaque, nor was there a special ceremony for them. However, this siren is important because it was needed on March 2, 2012, when an F4 tornado ripped across the Northern Kentucky area destroying 213 homes, damaging another 550 structures, and taking four lives.

In November 2012, Steve Hensley, Director of Kenton County’s Emergency Management contacted the NKAPC GIS department asking to create a map that pinpoints all 33 existing warning sirens across Kenton County. This project utilized software which not only located the sirens, but also illustrated 1- and 2-mile buffers around each one. This map helped determine how well a siren could be heard if it was visible from a certain site and distance.

When the map was finished in December 2012, NKAPC staff members began travelling to specific locations around the county to see if the audibility estimations were correct. Individuals would be ready to conduct a field check during the existing sirens’ monthly tests. Their reports included feedback as to how many sirens could be seen and heard, and the wind direction at that time.

This data was charted to reflect the areas protected and unprotected by the warnings, and the location for Kenton County’s 34th siren was chosen. Through the collaborative efforts of everyone involved, the siren now stands ready.

Click here for WLWT’s coverage of the dedication.

While there is no way to stop tornados from entering our region, it can be made certain that the warning goes out to those communities in danger.

A tribute to an NKAPC Navy veteran

Posted on December 04, 2013
Thanksgiving time in 1968 a young 17-year old Dennis Richard Uchtman took advice from his older brother, who was on leave from the Navy for the holidays, “Join the Navy now!”

After forging his mother’s signature on a required Navy form Uchtman joined the Navy Reserves by signing a six-year commitment.

His first challenge was boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Base in the middle of winter. Afterward he did two years on active duty reporting to the USS Wright CC-2 in Norfolk, Virginia. That ship was decommissioned several months later and he was assigned to the USS Belknap DLG 26, the first in its class of guided missile destroyers and to carry the SH-2 helicopter on deployment.  

While on active duty Uchtman traveled to Athens, Greece; Naples, Italy; and his favorite port, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

On ship Uchtman would stand watch on the bridge and volunteer to paint the hull. Many seamen were afraid of heights, but he did not mind sitting on a 12-inch board and dangling over the side of the vessel. He was at home with this job, and liked the peace and quiet.

Uchtman was proud to serve his country and enjoyed his time in the Navy. The best gift he received on Christmas Eve in 1974 was his honorable discharge papers, signed by President Richard Nixon. Thank you for serving, Seaman Uchtman. Anchors aweigh!

Uchtman works in the NKAPC Planning and Zoning department as Codes Administrator, and has been serving the citizens of Kenton County for eight years.

Subdivision submittals see big jump since Great Recession end

Posted on October 14, 2013
Subdivision activity this year in Kenton County has shown a marked increase over the last several years and has continued steadily throughout the summer months. Seven core subdivisions include most of the activity occurring. They are located in Erlanger, Independence, Villa Hills, and unincorporated Kenton County.

Some of the activity is new, stand-alone developments like Stillbrooke in Villa Hills. Stillbrooke is approved for 26 single-family lots and will prompt construction of just over 1,000 feet of new public street in the city. Because Stillbrooke is a smaller development, it is expected that it will see final construction, marketing of lots, and building new homes later this year.

Other developments are additions to older, established subdivisions like Battleridge in Independence and Lakemont in Erlanger. Battleridge has multiple entrances and is interconnected with other existing subdivisions in the vicinity of Bristow and Cody Roads. This addition contains 41 acres, is approved for 75 new single-family lots, and will account for more than 3,000 feet of new public street.

Lakemont intersects Richardson Road and is presently being expanded to include an additional 53 new single-family lots that will account for more than 1,800 feet of new public street.

Developers indicate that they may move forward later this year with new phases within other existing subdivisions. These subdivisions also are located in the Cities of Independence and Erlanger where new development activity was most prevalent before the Great Recession began.

“We’re seeing more residential development activity right now than we’ve seen in years”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, director of infrastructure engineering with NKAPC. “Just in the months of July through September we inspected more than 3,400 feet of new pavement.”

Hiles says this new pavement will ultimately provide access to more than 200 new building lots Given there are several more months left in the construction season, the activity is not likely to slow down any time soon.

Work begins to update the 2003 county transportation plan

Posted on October 14, 2013
NKAPC and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) partnered earlier this year to completely rework the 2003 Kenton County Transportation Plan. Since that time staff members at both agencies have worked behind the scenes to study existing conditions, review past plans, and consider where future land use demands are expected to increase within the county.

“To have a good idea of where you need to go, you have to know where you’re starting,” said Robyn Bancroft, AICP, OKI’s strategic planning manager. “We’ve been researching everything from roads with high crash rates, to congestion, to roadways with narrow widths, among a number of factors. This research will give us a comprehensive view of mobility in the county today and where the problem areas exist that need to be addressed.”

While OKI staff has focused primarily on technical transportation data, NKAPC staff has been researching anticipated land use changes in Kenton County. Members of NKAPC’s planning, building, and engineering departments met with OKI planners in late August to discuss where the county might experience the most development through the plan’s 2040 horizon. Staff considered technical demographic data, housing density changes from 1990 to 2010, vacant parcels, and existing land use, among other factors, as a guide for the discussion.

With full consideration of these factors, staff then employed their knowledge and expertise to paint a picture of where future demands might be highest.

“Once the working map is finalized with the Advisory Team’s input, we will go to work writing the land use component for the plan,” explained James Fausz, AICP, NKAPC’s lead on the study team. “Ultimately, the map and ensuing land use document will help provide scoring criteria to rank and prioritize projects as the study’s recommendations are crafted.”

The most recent milestone of the effort occurred on October 9 with the first meeting of the study’s advisory team. The group comprised of local officials, transportation agency representatives, and citizens meets at key points of the plans to provide direction for the study. The October meeting was well attended and resulted in general agreement with staff’s existing conditions findings. Members also provided guidance through comments where more direction was necessary.
Staff will continue to research existing conditions through the fall, examining problematic areas and looking for trends around the county.

One major way you can contribute to this effort is by taking a survey on the study’s webpage. Click on “surveys” once you are on the page and you can present your thoughts on mode choices including bicycle, bus transit, driving, freight transport, and walking.

In the meantime, if you would like to receive additional information regarding the plan via email newsletters, contact James Fausz.

New sidewalk inventory provides valuable information

Posted on September 19, 2013
NKAPC staff undertook and completed a county-wide sidewalk inventory earlier this year. Locations of all sidewalks, pathways, trails, and crosswalks were documented along with materials to the extent that they can be determined from aerial imagery.

This information has already proven valuable in various planning projects including assessment of existing conditions for the Direction 2030 comprehensive plan and the Kenton County Transportation Plan update efforts that is currently underway.

A preliminary review of the sidewalk inventory indicates that the urban cities of Covington, Ludlow and Bromley are well served by sidewalks on both sides of the street. The density and grid pattern of streets in the urban areas create an environment that is conducive to walkability.

Approximately 60 percent of the first ring suburbs that are located just outside of the urban core are served by sidewalks either one or both sides of the street.

Suburban areas including the Cities of Independence and Taylor Mill include streets with sidewalks in most of the newer subdivisions. However it is important to note that compared to the urban and first ring suburbs there is still land available for development in the suburbs.

The rural area which is predominantly south of Walton Nicholson Pike is not served by sidewalks due to the rural nature of the roadways and lower density of homes.

The next step in the process is to do a cursory evaluation of locations within the county where there are missing sidewalk linkages. A prioritization of these locations based on their proximity to schools and other key destinations will be evaluated. This could assist in pursuing funding strategically to improve connectivity.

National trends indicate that people want a healthier lifestyle and providing places that are walkable is one way of promoting that. “We felt that if this community desires to have a conversation about walkability and healthy lifestyles, we need to have some baseline documentation on our existing infrastructure,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC’s planning manager. “Now that we have this information, we can work with legislative bodies on key locations where sidewalks may be missing and pursue those opportunities.”

These data will also be used in the update to the Kenton County transportation plan which will be multi-modal in nature, analyzing the need for all forms of transportation. This includes driving, walking and biking. Additionally, when transportation dollars are sought, this information will be useful to illustrate the need for infrastructure.

Staff participates in disaster preparedness exercise

Posted on September 19, 2013
During the past two months, three GIS personnel from NKAPC were trained to assist emergency responders during emergencies while a fourth staff member participated in a regional training exercise using these same tools.

 “We have found GIS mapping to be one of the most important tools needed when responding to a major disaster: centralized, readily available, highly accurate information is mission critical,” said Steve Hensley, Director of Kenton County Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“During these events we have utilized the dedicated staff of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission to assist us with GIS mapping and structural inspections. On every occasion, where we have utilized their services, Dennis Gordon and his staff have performed over and above expectation.”
Joe Busemeyer, GISP, Principal GIS Programmer; Gretchen Brown, Associate GIS Specialist; and Kathy Stephens, GISP, Associate GIS Specialist, attended training seminars for WebEOC (Web Emergency Operation Control) and RAVEN911 (Regional Asset Verification & Emergency Network). Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal GIS Specialist; Christy Powell, GISP, Senior GIS Programmer; and Tom East, Senior GIS Specialist, have also been trained on these systems. Training is administered by the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). Its coverage area consists of 12 counties in the Tri-State area referred to as SOSINK (Southwestern Ohio, Southeastern Indiana and Northern Kentucky).

The main purpose of UASI is to address the unique planning, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas. The initiative also assists in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism. The UASI headquarters for the Cincinnati metro area is located the Regional Operations Center (ROC) in Cincinnati.

Training for the WebEOC and RAVEN911 software components was conducted by Steven C. Siereveld (ROC Technology Planner). The WebEOC software is an incident management system that can be accessed through the internet. This enables WebEOC software users to assist in disaster management from anywhere there is internet access; thus not having to be at the ROC.

UASI uses WebEOC to coordinate the use of the region’s assets. It provides a link from UASI to local Emergency Operation Centers during real-time events and exercises. It allows multiple emergency personnel agencies to have access to real-time information simultaneously.

RAVEN911 is an internet based mapping system developed from the perspective of an emergency operator utilizing exemplary technical expertise, and the latest in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer technology. The RAVEN911 mapping system brings together responder defined critical data sets with easy to use mapping tools (or widgets), thus allowing users to interact with the map in a meaningful and efficient way during an emergency.

Some of the tools include RSS feeds of weather warnings, radar loops, earthquakes, wildfires and more. Other tools assist emergency personnel in dealing with bomb threats, plume areas, using Twitter to gather information, finding missing persons and setting up containment zones. RAVEN911 offers users access to the location of critical infrastructure and assets as well as a host of tools to gather information and analyze particular situations.

Christy Powell participated in a training exercise in Latonia that used the RAVEN911 system to determine affected properties, containment zones, and compromised infrastructure during a simulated train wreck. CSX hosted this training exercise to train local emergency responders how to safely respond to incidents on and around railroad property.

First responders from many local and state agencies spent the morning developing plans to deal with an unfolding situation involving fire and leaking chemicals. The data from the RAVEN911 system and linkgis.org were projected onto the wall for all to view. Additionally, an iPad with a custom LINK-GIS map application was in use by one of the groups.

“The devastation of the Piner tornado in 2012 and the flooding event in 2011 are sobering reminders that we always need to be prepared to respond to large-scale natural disasters. When faced with incidents of this size, we investigate all available resources in preparation, including those it we don’t typically utilize under normal conditions,” said Hensley.

WebEOC and RAVEN911 are critical components for putting emergency personnel in the right place at the right time during tragic events. With the training received by NKAPC staff, they can assist UASI with their mission to prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters that may occur in the SOSINK region.

Real World Dixie Fix improvements move forward

Posted on September 19, 2013
“Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you'll be surprised how successful you can be.” –Paul Bear Bryant

Success in planning is often measured by implementation of adopted studies and reports. A great example of implementation currently taking place can be found along Dixie Highway. Continued efforts have been underway to implement recommendations from The Dixie Fix plan, which studied Dixie Highway from Covington to Boone County. Projects ranging from median beautification to intersection realignment have taken place this year, all stemming from recommendations of the 2006 plan.

One major change to the roadway is currently under construction in the Erlanger / Elsmere area of the roadway. The realignment of side streets in this area eliminates an offset intersection and consolidates two traffic signals into one. The improved intersection will help increase safety by reducing turning conflicts.

“Realigning this intersection was the number 3 improvement out of all 36 ranked regional priorities in the study and will go a long way to help reduce travel times and improve safety,” said Robyn Bancroft, Strategic Planning Manager for OKI and project manager of The Dixie Fix study.

Another change already made is median improvements in front of Crestview Hills Town Center, near the southern city limit with Edgewood. “The median on Dixie needed repair and we wanted to do something to make this heavily traveled entrance to our city more aesthetically pleasing,” said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier. “We applied for grants and were awarded funds that helped calm traffic and visually improve the roadway.”

Additionally, a new bus stop was added in front of the Town Center and the city worked with Edgewood to install new sidewalks along Dixie. Mayor Meier added, “We go back to the study recommendations frequently and are very interested in seeing the study implemented to help improve this vital road within our city.”

While these two projects are very noticeable, much work is going on behind the scenes that will result in new construction and renovation. Intersection improvements at Kyles Lane are currently being designed by KYTC and the City of Fort Wright. These improvements will assist drivers turning left onto Kyles from southbound Dixie Highway.

KYTC reports that the needed property is currently being appraised and work is taking place on utility design. The Transportation Cabinet anticipates construction at Dixie and Kyles in late 2014.

The City of Covington is also seeking funding for improvements to the Pike Street - Main Street area of Dixie Highway.

While priorities and external factors can change the details of any plan over time, the overall goals of the project remain intact. Addressing the main goals of improving safety, mobility, maintain reasonable and adequate access from adjoining properties, fostering economic development, increasing multimodal options, and improving aesthetics remain as important today as they were in 2006.

Keeping that vision in mind and addressing improvements that help all travelers along and through the Dixie Highway corridor is, and will continue to be an important standard for Kenton County communities to strive to achieve.

The Dixie Fix plan is available online.

Erlanger form district provisions near completion

Posted on August 28, 2013
The City of Erlanger and NKAPC staff are near completion of a project to help revitalize the commercial areas along Commonwealth Avenue, Erlanger Road, and Baker Street near the I-71/75 interchange. The city will host an open house on Tuesday, September 10 at the Erlanger City Building from 6 to 7:30 PM to update citizens on the project and to seek their feedback.

“The project was anticipated to take a year to complete. There have not been any major unanticipated issues, and the project is moving into its final phase,” said Andy Videkovich, AICP, senior planner and manager for the Commonwealth Station project.

To review progress to date, citizens should access the city website and link into the Commonwealth Station section. All comments received during this open house will be considered by the steering committee before finalizing proposed changes to the city’s zoning code.

After the public input meeting, and once the steering committee has considered all the comments, the new zoning text will be presented to the Erlanger City Council for its consideration and feedback. Finally, there will be an additional public meeting before the Kenton County Planning Commission after the city council authorizes the map and text amendment applications. The planning commission will make a recommendation back to the city where the council takes the final action.

This project is being pursued by the city through NKAPC staff with assistance from the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University. It began with a multi-day workshop where property owners and city residents showed up to provide input and guide the vision for what they would like to see occur in the study area.

Following the workshop, city officials realized that the city’s existing zoning ordinance would not allow for the type of pedestrian-oriented mixed-use development that was envisioned by those who attended the workshop. (Read the following article for a link to UrbanLand magazine for more on how communities across the US are pursuing similar projects.)

New zoning regulations were drafted by NKAPC staff using input taken from a steering committee comprised of both property owners within the project area and city officials. The main consensus of the committee is allowing for more flexibility for what individual property owners can do with their property, from allowing more land to be developed to permitting additional uses. In exchange for the additional flexibility in area and uses, there are some basic form standards that new have to adhere to in order to create a more inviting public realm for pedestrians and visitors to the area.

 “We expect that the regulations will begin the formal adoption process later this year, most likely in November or December,” concluded Videkovich.
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