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Staff provides hands-on GIS support for NKU and TMC students

Posted on December 17, 2013
Helping users get the most of their interactions with LINK-GIS has always been a goal of NKAPC staffers. During the month of November, they stepped up their efforts and took to the road for several technical venues.

Christy Powell, GISP, senior GIS programmer, and Joe Busemeyer, GISP, principal GIS programmer led hands-on workshops for those wanting to expand their usage of linkgis.org. Morning and afternoon sessions filled quickly with employees from public and private entities. The two-hour sessions covered basic and advanced tips and tricks for the website and offered the attendees the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions of the website developers. Some of the suggestions from the workshop have already been implemented on the website.

Kyle Snyder, GISP, principal GIS specialist facilitated GIS training at Northern Kentucky University on November 21st and 22nd. The first day provided an introduction/refresher to those using Esri’s Arc Map and LINK-GIS data; the second day focused on editing in Esri’s Arc Map. Esri is the industry leader in GIS software. This training session focused on increasing familiarity not only the Esri’s products but also showing GIS professionals from around area data that is available through the LINK-GIS partnership. Participants attended from Tri-Ed, Kenton County Public Works, Northern Kentucky Water, Campbell County Planning, NKU’s Center of Environmental Restoration, Kenton County Schools, and the Campbell County Solid Waste Department.

Nick Brophy, manager of economic development at Northern Kentucky Tri-ED said, "I felt the ArcMap training session was very well organized and structured in a way where we gained relevant knowledge through practical application projects assigned to each topic of the course.”

Powell and Busemeyer visited Thomas More College later in the month to demonstrate the LINK-GIS website map-viewer capabilities to Professor Shannon Galbraith-Kent’s class. That class consisted of about 15 students (mostly environmental science and biology majors) in one of the available computer labs on campus. The students picked up the capabilities of the LINK-GIS website map viewer quickly and what it has to offer.

Students explored areas they are familiar with in Northern Kentucky. They compared current aerial photography with historic aerial photography. They also learned how to query multiple data layers to gather information about their community, including the intricacies of the many tools available on the interactive map.

The visit sparked additional interest with Thomas More College to acquire GIS software and begin providing classes to their students on how to use it. Feedback from this class was very positive and new relationships were formed.

If you are interested in attending a future workshop or would like the GIS staff to conduct a workshop at your location, contact a staff member for details.

Input and collaboration move transportation plan forward

Posted on December 17, 2013
NKAPC and OKI staff knew that engaging Kenton County drivers was critical to the crafting of a new transportation plan for the county. So, they asked them for their opinions on mobility in the county including all modes from pedestrians to freight.

“We wanted to hear about issues from people who are traveling around the county every day,” said Robyn Bancroft, AICP, Strategic Planning Manager for the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. “We created an online survey that was open for over two months and received about 500 responses. They included opinions about pedestrian and bicycle traffic, commuting patterns, and even freight transportation concerns. We’re currently reviewing them to make sure we consider all concerns as we begin drafting improvement recommendations.”

Planners from both agencies met recently with residents and officials in southern Kenton County to discuss the unique needs of that section of the county. The Southern Kenton County Citizens Group, which arose from interest stemming from a Direction 2030 public meeting, has been meeting regularly since that meeting in December 2011; its members participated in this meeting.

“The group has been very active on a variety of issues, and they were particularly interested in discussing transportation,” explained James Fausz, AICP, a principal planner for NKAPC. “We met, discussed their interests and concerns, and came away with a clear picture of what the attendees desired – safer and better maintained roadways.”

A cooperative effort was started as a result of the meeting to review maintenance issues and work to prioritize potential solutions for inclusion into the plan. The Kenton County Fiscal Court, Kenton County Public Works, NKAPC, and local residents are now joining forces to create real solutions for rural Kenton County.

Beyond the online survey and south Kenton County meeting, staff has worked with an Advisory Team to provide direction for the study. The team, comprised of local officials, transportation agency representatives, and citizens, meets at key points in the study process and provides insight to further refine areas and issues that need additional study. Input from this team, combined with public outreach efforts and the professional experience of NKAPC and OKI staff, is truly a collaborative effort designed to help make Kenton County multi-modal transportation systems as efficient as possible – today and into the future.

The study is currently wrapping up research into existing and future conditions and is beginning to move into the analysis and recommendations phase of the plan.

There is still time to participate by in the online survey by visiting www.oki.org/kenton/ and sharing your comments through the form at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to receive information regarding the plan via email newsletters, contact James Fausz at jfausz@nkapc.org. For the latest information on the plan, check the NKAPC and OKI websites.

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.

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