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Entries for 2016

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.

One Stop Shop revenues grow with economy; fees won’t increase

Posted on June 07, 2016

When NKAPC/PDS established its One Stop Shop program in 2005, it expected to increase fees each July to keep pace with inflation. The amount of increase was to be dictated by the cost of living for the previous year. That is how the program’s financing has worked for most years since then.

“One Stop Shop was built on the premise of total cost recovery,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “By building the cost of living escalator into all our local government agreements, we let everyone know that there would be incremental annual increases in our fees.”

Gordon says the small annual increases were requested by area builders and developers because they can be absorbed better than huge increases every five or ten years.

Last year’s cost of living increase in the Cincinnati metro area was negligible. The expanding economy is bringing in additional workload and dollars so according to the agreements, fees in all participating One Stop Shop jurisdictions will stay the same as this year.

“Staff did a lot of homework back then to create fee schedules that would cover costs,” said Gordon, “but there were certainly no guarantees that revenue would match expenditures. The economy was obviously a huge unknown in this—and who would’ve ever predicted the Great Recession?”

Gordon says small increases have been implemented during a majority of the past ten years. He says that the agency’s goal of full cost recovery has been re-evaluated by officials and lowered to an 80 percent cost recovery rate.

Food Summit provides public with healthy food input

Posted on June 07, 2016

Eat Healthy NKY held its inaugural Food Summit on March 28th at Turkey Foot Middle School, showcasing healthy eating habits, local food production, and food preparation from across the region. Over 250 people attended the free, family-friendly event that featured 25 information booths covering a wide variety of topics important to our local food system—from production and distribution to consumption and food waste.

“We were really excited about this event,” said Michael Ionna, AICP, a principal planner at PDS. “Not only did it allow us to raise awareness and educate the public about the impacts of food and nutrition on healthy communities, it also allowed us to get input from attendees about what specific food issues are most important to them.”

If you are interested in learning more about healthy and local food initiatives in this region, visit and like the Eat Healthy NKY Facebook page which also features information about "next steps" events. At these events you will be able to provide input about food issues important to you as well as network with other individuals interested in creating positive change to our food system, all while eating some delicious chow.

“The goal is to begin initial conversations about creating a network, or coalition of individuals, groups, and organizations who have an interest in creating healthier communities in our region,” said Ionna.

The Food Summit was sponsored by Eat Healthy NKY, an outreach campaign to educate members of the public about healthy food options, and the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition.

To learn more about this initiative, click here.


Staff facilitates public information with social media posts

Posted on June 07, 2016

George Bernard Shaw once opined that “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Mr. Shaw was obviously not thinking of social media when he offered his assessment of the need to communicate. His opinion is nonetheless as pertinent today as it was during his lifespan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

With the understanding that in 2015 the average time spent per adult user per day with digital media is 5.6 hours, and 51% of that time is on a mobile device, PDS staff members are growing the agency’s presence on various social media platforms. The goal is to keep the public informed on what it’s pursuing and how citizens can get engaged.

PDS’ Facebook page and Twitter page (@PDSKC) has been online for several years now and Pete Berard, the agency’s public information coordinator, has used that platform to provide timely notices to followers for some time.

The GIS team committed to social media communications last year when team members realized that hanging one of their maps in a room or hallway was not going to reach the masses and was not a very effective way to spread useful information.

Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration (@twbrush) was the first to tweet, “Join us for the future of trails in NKY meeting 9:00AM at NKAPC sponsored by Green Umbrella.” Members of her staff followed by creating a twitter account (@nkymaplab) for residents to follow staff’s monthly NKYmapLAB initiative. The mapLAB account is managed by Louis Hill, GISP, AICP, the agency’s geospatial data analyst.

The push to social media is a response in understanding how citizens receive their daily news, and an acknowledgement to the age and technologically savvy citizens that live in the Northern Kentucky area.

Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director at PDS, is gearing up for a twitter account dealing with planning issues and news of PDS’ projects.

“I read a good deal about planning in different parts of the country and am always coming across articles I believe are relevant to issues here in Kenton County,” said Gordon. “Until I witnessed what our GIS folks were able to accomplish with tweets, I wasn’t able to share those experiences with friends and acquaintances here locally. I’ll soon be tweeting along with members of my staff.

Gordon says other staff members will follow him over the course of FY17 which begins next month.

Social media posts typically cover project updates, approaches to solving new problems, and success stories. Posts can spark conversations that follow any number of directions. In many cases they can lead to new opportunities, more frequent staff interactions, and an increased awareness as to the overall capabilities of PDS.

Benefits the GIS team has realized by using apps like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and GeoNet are increased data sharing, a wider reaching audience, networking opportunities and best management practices. Keeping current on industry standards and development are major rewards as well.

“Rather than waiting for formal venues, such as conferences and organized training, to network, we are doing it on a weekly basis” said Hill. “We’ve also widened the reach of our products and services through professional social media use. We have more eyes on our work, receive more feedback, and have increased the overall quality in our products.”

PDS’ GIS team and the LINK-GIS partnerships ascertained that the good data and works of the GIS team, which seemed obvious to the partnership, failed to translate into effective external communications. The messages seldom reached outside the partnership.

Using social media as a deliberate tactic in communication has resulted in unforeseen increased revenue by 25 percent for PDS and the LINK-GIS partnerships.

House Bill 422 means big changes for local code enforcement

Posted on June 07, 2016

House Bill 422—an act relating to local code enforcement—was signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin on April 9th; the bill’s provisions take effect January 1, 2017. With this bill come several important changes to the code enforcement process across the commonwealth. PDS staff are working diligently to make sure each of the cities who depend on PDS for code enforcement are prepared for Day 1 of the new regulations.

“We’re pleased that this bill made it through this year’s session,” stated Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Our code inspection program has come a long way over the past ten years but it’s been limited in what it can accomplish due to the fragmented structure of Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) as it’s codified today. This bill changes all that.”

First, the bill consolidates code enforcement provisions, including nuisance codes, under one chapter, KRS 65.8801 to 66.8839. Under the current scheme, provisions can be found in KRS 82.700 to 82.725 (abatement of nuisances), KRS 381.770 (abatement of nuisance) and KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 (code enforcement boards).

This consolidation clarifies the authority of code enforcement boards to enforce all civil offences, including zoning and nuisance codes. In addition, the new law authorizes code enforcement boards to fulfill the duties of a vacant property review commission, to review and certify vacant properties as blighted or deteriorated.

Second, the bill extends lien priority provisions to all code enforcement violations, including civil and zoning code violations, not just nuisance code violations. Code enforcement liens will take precedence over all other liens, except state, county, school board and city taxes. However, in order to obtain and maintain this lien priority, local governments must implement a system for notification to lienholders and allow lienholders a timeframe to remediate or abate violations.

Newly created KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 requires the creation of a lienholder notification system, or registry, to allow lienholders to receive information on final orders and requires the local government to send out an electronic mail notification on a monthly basis to those who have registered to receive notifications. Under the legislation adopted by the General Assembly, the lienholder has 45 days from the date of notification to correct the violation or elect to pay fines.

PDS will provide the lienholder registry service for its joint code enforcement board jurisdictions to ensure compliance with the new legislation. PDS will also pursue this as an opportunity to combine the administration of the lienholder registry with the administration of a Vacant Foreclose Property Registry, for better communication and increased compliance for properties during the foreclosure process.

PDS initiated its current code enforcement program in late 2005 with nine jurisdictions. Since then, the program has grown to include service to 15 jurisdictions and staff support to five code enforcement boards. One of those boards—the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board—serves 11 jurisdictions.

“These changes to state law will certainly help us support local property owners who seek an end to code violations in their neighborhoods,” said Gordon. “The changes will also give code enforcement boards the ability to pursue a number of different violations for their communities so long as they’re considered civil cases. That’s certainly going to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these local boards.”

Stay tuned for more information from PDS on these changes in services to be provided.

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