Navigator Award Finalists: Sherry Schoonover and Team, City of Topeka, Kan.


Connecting state and local government leaders

Making its easier to track capital improvement projects—and the funding that’s been budgeted and spent on them.

This is the 50th in a series of profiles on the 50 finalists for Route Fifty’s Navigator Awards program. The first 10 finalists were from the Government Allies and Cross-Sector Partners category. Finalists 11-20 were from the Agency and Department Leadership category. Finalists 21-30 were from the Executive Leadership category. Finalists 31-40 were from the Next Generation category. Finalists 41-50 are from the Data and IT Innovators category. Explore our complete list of 50 finalists.

Most cities have long lists of infrastructure and other major capital projects that fall somewhere on the planning, budgeting or construction timeline. It can sometimes be difficult to keep citizens up to speed on where a particular project falls on those timelines. And more broadly, it can be difficult for citizens to understand how those projects that are underway—or not underway—fit within the larger framework of strategic planning or funding realities.

In Topeka, Kansas, open data is helping make it easier for residents to not only better understand those capital improvements but also how the city is budgeting and spending taxpayer money. The city partnered with Socrata to launch its open data portals and dashboards.

In the case of the Topeka’s Capital Improvement Plan, you can explore the city via a mapping tool to see various infrastructure projects.

So, for instance, looking at a streetscaping project for a four-block stretch of Kansas Avenue in downtown Topeka, it was completed on June 30, budgeted for $888,032 and final costs came in slightly under at $875,936.22. The project page also displays green check-marks showing that it’s on schedule and on budget.

Making this all happen at the city is Deputy IT Director Sherry Schoonover, who is a Navigator Award finalist along with her team.

Schoonover discussed the Capital Improvement Plan exploration tool in a Socrata case study earlier this year:

This will allow citizens to see the timelines and expenditures for each project, while also showing the location. Constituents are able to see what projects are in a district or neighborhood. We were looking for the best way to allow users to analyze the information using their own questions and selecting what they want to know.

Implementing these portals and dashboards require municipal governments to think of ways to streamline the ways departments are managing data related to these infrastructure projects.

“Streamlining our methods will not only save us on resource time but will also eliminate the problem with duplicate and incorrect information,” Schoonover said.

Route Fifty is pleased to include Schoonover and her team as Navigator Award finalists.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Navigator Award Finalist: Michael Walters Young and Team, City of Franklin, Tenn.