AWC GIS Consortium

Published on May 26, 2020

Five questions for GIS Consortium member City of Kenmore

Contact: Andy Meyer

City of Kenmore, Tier 4 GIS Consortium member since 2017, is using the AWC GIS Consortium to improve operations across its internal departments, creating trickle-down benefits to the community. Whether it’s organizing data for a specific public works project or simplifying the process for requesting public records related to geographic data, the GIS Consortium is helping Kenmore to get things done with greater efficiency. We sat down with Joanne Gregory, finance and administration director, and Richard Sawyer, environmental services manager, to learn more.

Tell us about Kenmore. What’s the city like?

Joanne: Kenmore is a young city, with about 23,000 residents. We’re at the north end of Lake Washington, and we’re seeing a lot of new people moving to the area, drawn especially to our great parks and schools. A number of operational and capital improvements over the years have really transformed Kenmore from kind of a drive-through community, to where we feel like we’re really developing a sense of place.

Our city manager always reminds us that Kenmore is on an upward trajectory of “becoming” through “relentless incrementalism.” These are the words repeated many, many times at staff meetings. That really does describe how, through many incremental improvements over a period of years, we’re bringing Kenmore always to a higher and higher level. You can really see the improvements we’ve made in the downtown area.

When Kenmore was incorporated, it was originally conceived of as a contract city, so our staff is very limited, and we contract wherever we can if it makes economic sense. We don’t have our own police force—we contract with King County for that—we didn’t have our own maintenance department until this year, and we used to contract for some engineering services that we’ve since brought in-house. So, Kenmore being a mostly contract city is one of the reasons why we don’t have a GIS person in-house, and that’s why we’re working with the GIS Consortium.

What is Kenmore accomplishing through the GIS Consortium?

Richard: It’s a range of things. First and foremost, the [GIS Consortium] contract fills a need that we can’t fill in-house. Before we joined the GIS Consortium, GIS use wasn’t coordinated city-wide. It was a tool that, if you knew how to use it and you needed it for your work, you yourself or members of your own group utilized pretty much in isolation.

So, in the last six months we’ve created a model to really start making our GIS resources available city-wide. We’re starting with a committee approach, where each department has representation; whether they are GIS-fluent or not, they know what they would like to have, so they can sit in on the committee and request services and make sure their needs are heard. Then those of us who are a little more knowledgeable about GIS can articulate our overall needs to FLO [the GIS Consortium’s GIS services provider] through the GIS Consortium. That way, everyone will have GIS access for their projects, or assistance in the form of development of tools specific to their projects.

Joanne: Because we didn’t have a GIS committee previously and public works and planning departments were each doing their own thing, and we could only get work done when interns would come in and do a project and get somebody up to date. FLO’s initial work with us involved scanning our network and identifying all the GIS files that were scattered across it, and organizing and cleaning out what was old or superseded, and also what might have a security vulnerability. They really have helped clean it up and create a structure around it that this committee can now work with and feel more confident in using, and everyone will feel like they’re involved. And just knowing that, rather than operating in the dark and thinking “how am I going to get such and such done? Do I have to wait until next summer when I have an intern coming in?” it’s been a comfort to have that users group. It’s been a huge benefit.

Has the GIS Consortium created value for Kenmore’s city staff?

Joanne: One huge benefit I thought of immediately is responding efficiently to public records requests for GIS information. I don’t know if it was because of Sound Transit coming into the region or our neighborhoods needing to know some information about facilities, but all of a sudden, we started getting public records requests for GIS data. [The GIS Consortium] is able to turn those around so quickly, because they understand the request and they know where to find it in our network and send very succinct information back to us, so we are able to respond to those requests for information in a very timely manner.

Richard: And that’s a benefit for staff and for the community, because the community has transparency and quick access to the data they want to see. From our initial GIS committee meetings, we learned that our permitting software linked to GIS, our asset management software linked to it, and our city website, too. So just making sure those three tools are working flawlessly with the most up-to-date and secure data is a huge priority as well.

How is the Kenmore community benefiting from the work of the GIS Consortium?

Richard: Keeping our GIS infrastructure up and running and available is important for both city staff and the public. I’ve had to get on the phone when public works people are in the field and they can’t get access to the data they need; that impact trickles down to the community. The fact that it’s an indirect connection doesn’t make it less important.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Richard: One of the take-home messages is that we’re pretty unique, but there are other cities our size with limited resources that are probably in the same boat when it comes to in-house GIS expertise. Having this service available for those types of cities—it’s good for them to know that this resource is out there.


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