Connecting state and local government leaders

Empowering a Smarter Community Through GIS

Covington is located in Kenton County, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.

Covington is located in Kenton County, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Kenton County, Kentucky, is using intelligent maps and apps to provide citizens with the data intelligence they need.

COVINGTON, Ky. — When a sewage pipe burst unexpectedly, resulting in a hepatitis outbreak in Kenton County, Kentucky, in 1984, it was suddenly clear that the pipeline infrastructure had not been mapped—and no reliable system of record existed. It was only then that the urgent need for geographic information system (GIS) technology was realized.

Fast-forward 30 years. Our GIS team in Kenton County's Planning and Development Services (PDS) agency is now viewed as one of the nation's pioneers in the GIS space.

GIS Solutions Enable Smart Government and Safe Communities

After the sewage pipe rupture, a partnership of Kenton County agencies sought a new enterprise GIS that would help ensure that the county's infrastructure was mapped accurately, and a modernized system of record was stood up. A GIS team within the Kenton County Planning and Development Services office was formed to build the system and help guide new projects for the county—using GIS mapping solutions.  The County’s Fiscal Court (Kentucky’s version of county government) and sewer agency partnered with PDS to fund the project.

What began in 1985 as a simple tool for our one county agency to use in an environmental cleanup has become a game changer for Northern Kentucky. Today, LINK-GIS, our planning agency’s information portal, serves Kenton, Campbell, and Pendleton Counties as an enterprise GIS platform that has vastly improved how government services are made available to the community, in a smarter, more efficient way.

The partnership that oversees and funds the operation has grown as well.  Besides Kenton County Fiscal Court, Sanitation District 1, and PDS, the collaborative now includes the Campbell County Fiscal Court, the Campbell County property valuation administrator, and the Northern Kentucky Water District.

LINK-GIS enhances the partnership’s enterprise GIS based on an ArcGIS platform. The self-service site allows users to explore, connect with, and download the county's geospatial data—provided by various municipalities and agencies—using any smart device to search for and access information.

Our GIS team has developed ready-to-use web and mobile apps, data analysis, and cartography services to all of the three counties' departments, agencies, businesses, and citizens across 36 cities.

Our mission is to deliver valuable information services in one location to empower the people of Northern Kentucky. Our GIS team works to meet the county's needs and demands across a broad spectrum of applications. The solutions we have built enable us to create new, useful applications fast, providing an important service to our user community.

Making Location-Based Data Consumable with Maps and Apps

As recently as 2011, there was a serious question as to the legitimacy, or necessity, of GIS. Numerous local government agencies didn't understand exactly how it was being used, even though it brought in $2.3 million to the area through the leveraging of data and selling of new projects.

It was at this point that we realized we weren't doing something right, because decision-makers didn't understand how GIS was being utilized for the greater good. As a planning and development organization, we had all this GIS big data, and we weren't making it discoverable or consumable for the average citizen.

That disconnect led to the creation of the Northern Kentucky Map Lab (NKYmapLAB), a centralized online hub used in long-range planning activities. NKYmapLAB analyzes a variety of data and visually presents it in engaging story maps for the community. Planning and Development Services is now creating engaging story maps on key issues once a month to educate the public, communicate concerns, and solicit feedback in order to strengthen the system’s information services offerings.

In May 2016, NKYmapLAB received the Outstanding Use of Technology Award from the Kentucky chapter of the American Planning Association. This award is a great recognition for our team and it acknowledges our efforts not only to better use GIS technology but also to use it in a meaningful way—one that makes our cities, our county, and our citizens better informed and more proactive.

Delivering Added Value to Citizens, Businesses, and County Government

Citizens can now easily access powerful web maps, apps, and comprehensive information resources anytime, from anywhere, via the LINK-GIS and NKYmapLAB sites. New smart tools forming the foundation of smart communities in northern Kentucky include aerial views of properties and communities, city and zoning boundaries, voting precincts and state legislative boundaries, school districts and school locations, fire districts, and police and fire station locations, to name just a few.

Emergency services personnel and first responders develop easy-to-read web maps that determine the fastest route to the location of an incident. Police use these smart maps to locate, analyze, and deter criminal activity. School district administrators use the site to create bus routes that are based on where students live and that adapt to changing residential patterns. Administrators and engineers in departments of transportation (DOT) gain insight by using LINK-GIS to more accurately and efficiently identify growth patterns in the community so that they can adjust resources or strengthen infrastructure as needed.

LINK-GIS also plays an important role in ensuring that public and private projects are properly coordinated, efficiently run, and responsibly executed. Land planners and developers use it to make better decisions and implement smart projects, with geospatial data analysis brought to life on smart maps and apps. Users can also develop web maps from their database data; coordinate projects online with other agencies; easily access needed county data; and provide accurate real-time property maps for Realtors, appraisers, and buyers.

It is clear that the more people understand location-based data intelligence, the more GIS will be used in the creation and advancement of smart communities.  In our case, what started as a geography-based response to an urgent public health issue over 30 years ago has evolved into an enterprise GIS solution used by 3 counties and 36 municipalities on a daily basis.  Today, Kenton County is a pioneer in the GIS space.  Unlocking your community’s GIS potential could be just as transformative for your agencies and the citizens you serve.

Trisha Brush, GISP, is the Director of GIS Administration for Planning and Development Services in Kenton County, Kentucky.

NEXT STORY Boston’s Redevelopment Rebranding; California’s New Fishing Rules