Economic development professionals agree that there is a link between government buildings and the local economy in what has been labeled the Connection to the Corridor. When cities and local governments invest in critical government facilities and assets, they create an image that is broadcast to the outside world. This image is crucial because perception is everything when attracting new businesses and residents to a community. Now, more than ever, local government needs to look the part.
Cities Must Reinvest in Their Buildings
With today’s transient workforce, employees have the ability to work anywhere, and businesses today have more choices than ever in terms of where to locate. Selecting a site requires a lot of considerations — high speed broadband, cost and availability of transportation, utilities, incentives, taxes, as well as an available, trained workforce. So how does this relate to the condition of city hall?
Real Estate and Economic Growth
In addition to creating an attractive city image, investing in public facilities supports local real estate values, which can be a significant contributor to economic development. Government facilities can provide stability in real estate value that helps retain current residents while also attracting new residents. This retention and influx is important not just for property taxes, but also because it provides the necessary talent to support current and new businesses that will drive economic growth.
In addition to improving government facilities in regular use, cities can also focus on improving underutilized or even vacant government-owned space that needs to be remodeled or repurposed. With the continued growth of government services or temporary programs like the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a municipality can provide flexible and on-demand spaces for piloting new government programs or supporting the needs of community partners, which can further contribute to a growing, dynamic corridor.
Moreover, many cities tend to build a new building without necessarily demolishing the existing structure. In some cases, there may be an opportunity to save capital funds by carrying out an exterior facelift or complete renovation to the facility, whether that be an old fire station, public works building, or a commercial building purchased by the municipality for future development.
ESG Modernizes Municipal Infrastructure
We Handle the Details
ENERGY SYSTEMS GROUP® (ESG) has been helping cities address their facility needs for more than 25 years. Many cities fall behind on facility improvements and never present their best image because they get hamstrung by the development, procurement, and management required to execute these projects. ESG helps customers succeed by handling the heavy lifting and acting as the sole source of responsibility, managing the various development stages and parties involved in the project. We help create economics around projects that make sense, and we can help customers navigate supply chain and labor factors while integrating these into a workable schedule. We can help you, but it starts with a procurement process to select a partner like ESG to co-author a plan that aligns with your goals.
Our Collaborative Approach
Our approach is collaborative. At the conceptual stage of a project, we listen to our customers to understand their external pressures and how they are impacting their goals. We are skilled at listening to customer goals and packaging a technical and financial plan around achieving them using existing legislation to support the procurement. We identify, integrate, and implement comprehensive technology solutions that drive revenue, reduce costs, and promote security and sustainability.
When cities and local governments invest in critical government facilities and assets, they create an image that is broadcast to the outside world.
One of the best ways to facilitate the transition of older workers to younger ones, is to ensure your organization has the technological infrastructure the incoming generation expects and can build upon.
The “passing of the torch” is an idiom that many of us have heard and even seen before. The ancient Greeks may have best depicted the art of “passing the torch” through their ancient Lampadedromia race. In the race, runners held a torch and passed it on to the next runner until the final member of the team crossed the finish line. The prize was awarded to the first team to reach the finish line with its torch still lit.
More modern forms of the famous relay have made their way into our track and field and other Olympic events. While fast runners are essential, the transition of the torch or baton to the next runner is just as important. Failing to have smooth transitions will lead to failure.
The Local Government Workforce is Aging
We are at a critical transitional moment with our local government workforce today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than three-quarters of public sector workers are 45 or older. As baby boomers retire, the number of workers per retiree will decline sharply, causing a loss of experience and institutional knowledge.
So how, exactly, can local governments prepare for this inevitable transition? Outside of recruiting, mentoring and cross-training, one of the best ways to ensure the successful “passing of the torch” is to build systems and invest in platforms that empower employees to face the demands of tomorrow. Having modern tools already in place will help the incoming younger generations close the inevitable skills gap and help them build upon the legacy you have dedicated your career to.
When it comes to public service, local governments are increasingly being asked to do more with less. This has made modernization efforts more pressing than ever before. Recent surveys show that most local government organizations are not keeping up with the need for technological modernization. Local governments tend to be traditional and are more likely to resist shifting from older processes that have been entrenched for decades simply because “it worked before.”
Although the concept of modernization is in no way unique to the public sector, it has a particular meaning in local government. For cities and counties facing a rapidly-changing world, modernization isn’t just about better customer service or greater efficiency. It’s about being able to anticipate the needs of your citizens and provide them with the services they want now and will want ten years from now.
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers President Denis Goulet recently advocated for modernization through cloud technology. In addition to investing in cybersecurity, Goulet said, “States should invest in cloud services for these modernization efforts, which reduce complexity, enhance security and ensure that no unused services are kept active. While this may be more difficult in less centralized IT environments, operating systems that continue to rely on outdated technologies simply cannot meet the future demand for increased digital services and the delivery of critical services and benefits to our citizens.”
A modern-day cloud-based solution can provide local governments with the tools they need to operate more efficiently. Some of the most significant potential benefits of moving to the cloud include:
A breach might make critical data accessible to criminals or even halt business operations. Local governments are becoming more frequently the target of cyberattacks like ransomware because their outdated systems make them particularly vulnerable.
Some cloud services allow staff members to access and work on projects from any location and on any device. They also make it easier for staff members and government departments to collaborate. With cloud-based storage, information silos and duplicated documents are minimized, and remote work transitions can be completed more quickly.
Scalability & Cost Savings
Running on-premises infrastructure is expensive, especially in the current climate where almost everything is becoming digital. Thanks to cloud computing, local governments can be more responsive to frequent shifts in computing capacity needs, such as requests for service and data storage.
Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery
To preserve data and prevent downtime due to outages or cyberattacks, redundancy is one of the most vital components. Storing data locally and running crucial digital infrastructure, such as servers, without any off-site redundancy is a prescription for catastrophe.
The incoming younger workforce have expectations of modern cloud-based systems. The flexibility of remote work and quick access to data is important to them. They have grown up with the internet and prefer digital over paper and self-service over asking for information. Right or wrong, the workforce is starting to expect a certain level of modernization in the workplace.
To address today’s challenges, modern governments require innovative solutions. Cloud-based services can help safeguard confidential data, streamline tasks and teamwork, guarantee business continuity in the case of a crisis, and attract the incoming younger workforce.
Keeping the Torch Lit
An important distinction between the ancient Greek relay race and those of today is that the runners in the Lampadedromia faced the extra challenge of ensuring their torches weren’t extinguished during the race. While we may not be carrying physical torches today, we are still very much concerned with how we guard our flames.
Investing for tomorrow can be challenging. But just as the Greeks saw the importance of “passing the torch,” so it is with our local government officials. We all have experienced transitional times and we have always found ways to pass the torch while keeping the flame lit. Fortunately for us, today we have the added benefit of technology to help in making this important transition even smoother.
Public officials are in many ways a microcosm of the community that employs or elects them. People drawn to public service typically value fairness, collaboration, and other qualities that are cornerstones to helping communities grow and thrive. At times, though, the tension between the desire to remain the same charming place versus one that allows itself to be reimagined can result in communities being seen as less progressive and possibly less welcoming. This can be a dilemma for communities working to make diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) part of their core values.
While DEI is most often discussed through the lens of hiring and human resources, it can go well beyond that in the public sector. We have all overheard neighbors and residents lament “the good old days”, seen visitors at public meetings fight tooth and nail over code or zoning changes, oppose a development that they view as changing the character of a neighborhood, or even balk at efforts to replace a blighted site with a commercial project that could mean jobs and income tax. Perhaps the new proposal included affordable-housing or senior living components, or proposed to develop multi-family right next to a single-family subdivision. All these possibilities, as well as how public officials react to them, can affect our DEI efforts at creating more inclusive communities.
Why is DEI so important? An article in Harvard Business Review noted that the coaching service BetterUp surveyed thousands of employees who reported that the benefits to organizations when workers feel accepted and included result in 56% better performance, 50% fewer resignations, and 75% fewer sick days.1 And of course, when a workforce reflects its community, it is better able to understand and respond to the life experiences and problems of its citizens and how to authentically engage with them to deliver services.
It all starts at the top, and organizations are considering how to layer DEI into all aspects, from hiring, to leadership training, to outward-facing customer service, and everything in between. Last June, President Biden issued an executive order directing federal agency heads to comprehensively review their practices and identify improvements that would create opportunities for underrepresented persons. If a town is committed to including DEI among public hallmarks like stewardship and trust, its leadership – elected and appointed – must be clear in what that means and then model the desired behavior. This starts with placing a premium on respect and understanding.
Here are a few suggestions that may jump-start your DEI efforts and get you out of that “we’ve always done it this way” mindset:
Recruiting talent: Often, we default to hiring people we or our co-workers know. This may prove useful, but statistically, it likely means we are hiring people who look or think like us, or have similar backgrounds or skills. If your recruiting talents are not generating a diverse pool of applicants and, therefore, diverse thinking, consider alternative ways or places to reach potential applicants. Participating in job fairs and veteran outreach organizations, posting in newspapers with minority readerships, recruiting at historically black colleges and universities, and creating talent pipelines that start with internships or trade apprenticeships are just a few ways to do this. According to Mission Square Research Institute’s September 2021 report, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Public Service Workforce, “…Recruitment efforts include direct outreach to colleges (27% of survey respondents), targeted neighborhoods and demographics (17%), and veterans and military family members (13%). With attitudes about public service starting early in life, governments are also helping to develop civic curricula or other partnerships with K- 12 schools (4%)…. Rather than simply relying on a single jobs board, employers recognize that diverse audiences are best reached by a mix of platforms, associations, or media most appropriate to their varying education, industry, technological proficiency, geography, primary language, or demographics. This requires efforts that increase connections with candidates that typically would not have considered a position in public service.”
Background checks: Consider also the efforts of many public agencies to offer second chances by removing barriers such as an applicant’s criminal history. While a criminal background check may be mandatory for certain positions, EEOC guidance provides that the relevance and age of past convictions should be considered relative to the position you are filling.2 Many public agencies are also subject to “ban-the-box” laws that restrict asking about criminal backgrounds prior to the interview or offer stage.
Interviews: Have you reviewed your interviewing practices and questionnaires to equitably compare applicants based on qualifications and merit, rather than just “personality fit”? Tools like behavioral-based interview questions tend to better elicit responses based on actual work experience.
Retaining talent: Retaining talent is often the harder piece of the HR puzzle. Making new hires feel welcomed as valued contributors may necessitate revisiting your orientation, onboarding, and training processes, incorporating inclusion into aspects of decision-making, teaching leadership, and finding new ways to engage employees. In addition to recognizing talent, building a sense of belonging, and offering educational opportunities, many employers now use “stay” interviews to gauge employees’ satisfaction, long before an employee informs them in an exit interview that they have sought an opportunity elsewhere.
Inclusive logistics: Does your workplace have a dedicated mothers’ room for lactation breaks? Is accommodation made for non-Christian employees whose beliefs require daily prayer? Is your town able to accommodate an employee who can no longer walk up a flight of stairs to reach her office? Can residents who are otherwise-abled receive the same level of customer service when seeking help? Are restrooms fitted and signed in an inclusive way? Considering situations through another person’s lens will help inform improvements in workplace procedures and delivery of services.
Personnel changes: Many public entities are limited by law in how layoffs are conducted, but other personnel changes such as promotions, separations, and the like. Regardless, the law requires that employment decisions are not made on the basis of of age, gender, race, disability, and other protected factors.
Training: When leaders modeling good behavior is not enough, train, train, and then train some more. Hiring trainers or looking for online training programs geared to police and other groups of public employees, especially ones that ask employees to get outside their comfort zones to understand that we all carry some level of implicit bias, is an important investment in community relations.
Communications: We sometimes become jaded to how words can impact the public’s perception. It may be helpful to periodically review communications with a peer to gauge how they are perceived by non-employees, or whether they will be understood to someone whose first language may not be English. Thinking about specific departments, are there words that may be perceived as offensive or biased? Can a simple word swap alleviate this? Here are some examples:
“incarcerated person” “person with mental health needs” “substance abuser” “undocumented person” “sex worker
Public or youth engagement opportunities: Would your public body consider a mentoring program where each elected works with a young person in the community who is curious about or interested in the public sector? This is also an opportunity to encourage underrepresented high school and college youths to learn about the role of government, and to potentially create a talent pipeline. What about ways that your community can welcome New Americans? Are there social-service agencies that you can partner with to advance this goal?
Procurement/Purchasing: Where competitive bidding is not required, how can your agency diversify its pool of vendors for goods and services? Does your community have organizations focused on providing new opportunities to underrepresented merchants or service providers? Many workshops for persons with intellectual disabilities partner with local organizations to train persons to scan documents and perform other services that benefit public entities. Many entities use space on ads or bid packets, to let underrepresented businesses know they are encouraged to apply/submit.
Legal: Have you reviewed contracts to ensure they limit the use of gender-specific pronouns and include non-discrimination provisions?
Parks & Recreation: Has your P&R department factored mobility issues, the needs of persons with sensory issues, and inter-generational options in its programming opportunities? Can the community partner with transportation agencies to make programs more accessible? Is signage universally understandable through words, images, or size of fonts?This is just the tip of the DEI journey. Hopefully these ideas will jump-start or invigorate your agency’s efforts to continue its welcoming strides toward progress.Marie-Joëlle Khouzam, a partner with Bricker & Eckler, has represented employers and public entities for over 30 years. In addition to advice and counsel work and defending clients in dispute matters, she also conducts frequent in-house training on DEI, harassment, and other workplace topics of interest.
Whether you play golf for fun or on a more serious level, or just admire the grass on the course as you drive by in your car, a golf course is the pinnacle of lawn care and maintenance. The quality and conditions of the greens and fairways are critical to your game.
Apart from a groundskeeper cutting the tee box while you’re putting on the green nearby, many of us don’t think about the maintenance of a golf course. The reality is that the upkeep of a golf course is very labor intensive and requires a high degree of management. Additionally, with a push towards sustainability, using technology for better management of resources is becoming a critical piece of maintaining a golf course.
So, what is Golf Information System? A Golf Information System is not a real software or solution, not yet anyways. It’s a fun play on words for the real GIS or Geographical Information System. GIS has been used in cities, counties, and states for over 20 years to organize and manage digital information such as parcel data, utilities, infrastructure, and other assets. GIS allows you to store digital data in a graphical format and allows users to add information or intelligence to the data.
Golf courses share some similarities with cities, on a smaller scale. They are required to manage golf course assets and resources such as vegetation, water and wastewater, pavement,
building/structure, equipment, and personnel. When the team from AJ Jolly Golf Course in Campbell County Kentucky approached us about challenges with managing their sprinkler valves and sprinkler heads, a GIS solution made sense.
As part of our consultation, our discussion focused on two things: the challenges they had with maintaining their sprinkler system maps and knowing exactly where the valve controls were for each segment of the system.
The sprinkler system map started with a paper map that covered their entire 18-hole course and was created when the sprinkler system was installed in 1995, showing the location of the lines and heads on each hole. From that main map, sections of the golf course were copied to smaller more manageable sheets that could be taken into the field and used as a visual
guide for maintenance. It was a simple yet effective system that worked well for many years. These maps were used frequently, taken out on the course rain or shine, thrown in golf carts or placed in pockets to locate, adjust, and perform system maintenance (see Image 1). The maps became worn, torn, smudged, and sometimes lost,
Our client was looking for a more effective method for locating the valves and being able to quickly turn them off in cases of leaks, damage or just regular maintenance.
so new copies of segments were made frequently, but without these paper maps, managing their sprinkler system would be nearly impossible.
For the valves, the golf course was interested in more precise locations. These valves sit at grade level or slightly below grade so they would slowly become hidden and buried, making them very challenging to locate. In maintenance situations, finding the valves took time, often required a magnetic locator and a shovel, and even then, you were not sure it was the right valve for the section that contained the leak. They were looking for a more effective method for locating the valves and being able to quickly turn them off in cases of leaks, damage or just regular maintenance.
The information on these maps was invaluable, and precisely locating the valves for future access was critical. Our plan was to combine all this data into one source, making a more permanent digital solution. We were also looking to create something easy to maintain, easy to update, and with the ability to use on a cell phone or tablet that could be taken into the field. With today’s GPS enabled devices, the ground crews could use the digital solution to literally drive a golf cart to the precise location of the valve or sprinkler head for maintenance.
The best and most effective method for creating and hosting the data was using ArcGIS. We decided on using ArcGIS Pro to develop the combined database and then ArcGIS Online (AGOL) for posting the final dataset. We were originally considering new aerial acquisition in support of the project, but we knew that Campbell County had recent aerial imagery acquired through Link-GIS that could be used as a back-drop for the AGOL final dataset.
The starting point for this project was to establish highly accurate locations for the sprinkler valves. The location of the valves was not only critical for the golf course’s use, but we would also use them to better scale the paper maps to fit real-world coordinates. CT’s survey team went out in the field, as the golf course staff did many times, with paper maps to roughly locate each valve. They then searched the area with a magnetic locator to find the head and carefully uncover it. The survey team also surveyed a few of the sprinkler heads to aid in the process. The valves and heads were then more precisely located using survey grade GPS equipment to measure the location to sub-foot accuracy.
Our next step in the process was to take the paper maps and harvest the critical information from them. As mentioned previously, there were two sets of maps, the main overall map of the entire system, and the smaller segments. We decided to digitally scan all available documents. As most of us know, scanning documents can present its own challenges, but when you scan documents that have been out in the field, crushed, folded, smeared and stretched, that can add a whole new level of challenge to the process. Upon completing the scanning, we also discovered we need to do a little color adjustment to the scans to bring forward the important information and soften the other marks such as mud and water stains.
Once the maps were scanned, the next step in the process was to move and scale the digital copies of the map into a more accurate geographical location to match real-world coordinates. This process was completed in ArcGIS Pro’s Geo-referencing tool. Mark Hammond, CT’s GIS expert, used the survey information from the valves and heads, along with landmarks on the paper maps, to more precisely locate them in real-world coordinates. Additionally, he was able to use Campbell County’s most recent aerial imagery as a back-drop for additional guidance.
The scaled maps were then used to digitize the information to create symbols representing each point feature such as valves, sprinkler heads, and laterals. Those symbols were then connected with line work representing the various size water lines within the system (see Image 2.) With all the data now digitized in ArcGIS Pro, we now had a more geospatially accurate foundation of their sprinkler system for their entire golf course!
The benefits of using ArcGIS for a project like this is the ability to add intelligence and information to the map beyond what the original hard copy data provided. The range of information you can add in ArcGIS is almost unlimited, but it comes down to what information is useful and what information can be maintained over time. Unfortunately, in many applications of GIS, too much information is added and tracked, and it becomes overwhelming for the client to maintain, so it is essential to manage expectations and needs as part of the consultation with your client.
CT reviewed what information was important to our client and what additional information they would like to track in the future. As mentioned previously, the paper maps had a wealth of information on them from the installer, including valve types and manufacturer, sprinkler head types and manufacturer, diameter and material of waterline, and even the length of the waterline. All this existing information was important to the client, so it was transferred to the new digital map. Additionally, we added a replacement date and notes field in the attribute table for future use.
The final product was loaded into an ArcGIS Online map for our client to use (see Image 3.) They plan to maintain and update the information on the map moving forward using both in-office and in-field editing capabilities.
Digital Golf Information Systems
For a long time, GIS has been looked at as a tool for large entities such as cities and counties, but in recent years the benefit of its applications has been realized for smaller entities. The idea of using GIS to help manage a golf course is long overdue. The game of golf has been moving in a digital direction for over a decade, bringing more intelligence to the players such as ball tracking, instant measurements of ball
location to pin, and more recently, intelligent golf carts with GPS and interactive maps. Now, GIS for management of the course and the intelligence brought to the golf game can play and live together!
Soon after the development of the final map, the data was used in real time when a tree fell on the course during a storm. The golf course manager was able to identify that the tree fell near one of the buried valves that was recently located through this process. That allowed the clean-up crews to stay away from the valve, reducing the risk of damaging it with heavy machinery. It was an early win for a system that will reap benefits for years to come.
Want to learn more? Contact: Joe Cantz. CP, SP, GISP | 440-530-2328 | email@example.com