April 6, 2015 (Council Chambers, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613)
April starts with a shower of business. GIS, Inflow & Infiltration, street signals and public safety fill this Council Connection edition. Keep the feedback coming!
-Committee of the Whole (5:20pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-
We have a full committee agenda - Board of Adjustment appointments, inclusive play park review, geographical information systems ("GIS") update, rental ordinance updates and changes. We received staff documents on the GIS plan, I will offer committee words, council business to follow.
GIS excites me. At the request of staff, this software was made a council priority in our 2014 goal setting. It's like taking a step into the 21st century, eh, yeah we should be here. In summary, GIS relates information to its geospatial properties allowing it to more effectively be visualized, analyzed and managed. Think of it as layered maps tied to relational data. Need to know where that sanitary sewer runs, the grade degree, trunk connections? Forgo the ultrasound and check your tablet. Need to know where the snow plows are working, check the city website and dynamic map. Want a status update on that nuisance complaint, go to the interactive map and get your info. Nearly everything the city does has geospatial relationships that can be represented, interrogated and analyzed through GIS. Property boundaries, underground infrastructure, traffic lights, crime incidences, traffic accidents, street/sanitary sewer/storm sewers - these are all objects in a system with unique properties. Today, they are managed in disparate systems with minimal connectivity. With this system and a little training, information and analytics will be at our fingertips (yep, all public data!). Better data equals better decisions. The GIS systems will be the new source of truth. There are few things that excite me like good technology... GIS will improve staff efficiency, citizen engagement, planning and execution.
-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-
G.1) This item relates to the Inflow and Infiltration ordinance discussed at the last council meeting. If you didn't see it, I wrote it up in my last blog (March 16 - Committee of the Whole). We need to mitigate infiltration and inflow for the good of the public system and your neighbor's basement. I am a fierce privacy advocate. Naturally, I am uneasy about compulsory sump pump inspections for all homes built after 1969, but it is hard to identify any other course of action that would be less intrusive while serving the public (the waste water treatment plant) and neighborhood (sewer backups) good. The sanitary sewer system is a shared system and what you do with your water (gray, black or clean) can have an effect on another person's property (causing sanitary sewer overload and floaters in their basement). Inflow and infiltration is the main cause for overload at the waste water treatment plant (causing direct sewer discharge in the Cedar River). The EPA gives the city little choice - we must mitigate for the good and preservation of our shared sewer system.
If the homeowner elects a city inspection, it will be limited scope -- under no circumstance would I endorse any policy that goes beyond eyes on the sumps. Yet, to quell intrusion concerns, the homeowner may also arrange a private inspection by a licensed plumber. In any event, we've been presented numerous options, the sump inspection of select properties appears to be the least intrusive while promising measurable results in the way of inflow reduction. Through this program, we hope to avoid further EPA involvement. The next conversation should address the treatment of redirected sumps on premise rather than creating above ground surges or storm water sewer overloads.
G.2.g) This item relates to an additional street light at Hudson and 8th Street for about $166,000. I have acquiesced on signals for certain roadways like Hudson - they will be slow and frustrating, dissatisfaction will rise, we may even see psychological road-rage (I'm hearing this already on Greenhill!). The fact is, Cedar Falls is a larger town with small town qualities - it is easy to get from point A to point B. But as signals proliferate, we will add minutes of delay and congestion to all road users which will add up to weeks and years (this is a government time tax). I ask, is there a better way? Probably... and the solution might be round (about). By 2020, I estimate Hudson Road will have 2 more signalized lights and we will wonder why the road doesn't work. Today, we try to design roadways with pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle flow in mind - the new University Avenue if you will. Added traffic signals is the surest indicator of bad road design.
G.3.d, e, f) These items relate to the creation of two new job classifications for the Public Safety Officer (PSO) position, part of the 2010 Police Union contract. This could represent a paradigm shift for incident response, professional development and workforce efficiency. The city spends approximately $7.8 million per year on public safety ($4.5MM for police, $3.3MM for fire).
Today, most public safety personnel are divided into police and fire groups. The functional divide is understandable, no doubt a product of long-standing collective bargaining, standards-setting bodies, academies and training programs. While it is true that professional training differs among police and fire - their purpose is essentially the same - to protect people and property. Cross-trained first responders can reduce response time, expedite incident assessment, and prioritize and deploy resources to maximize positive outcomes. We are not eliminating police or fire positions, rather we adding a job classification that provides development resources and additional compensation for broadened skill-sets.
In 2011, you may have read in Currents about Police Officer Sam Shafer and Firefighter and Reserve Police Officer Bobby Wright who responded to a cardiac arrest incident and were credited with saving a runner's life. In that same year, Officer Jim Gray responded to a fire incident and rescued a building occupant. There are many similar situations that demonstrate the value of cross-trained personnel for life and property. Response time and incident management is paramount to serve the health, welfare and safety of citizens and property - a public safety officer role is good policy.
A public safety officer voluntarily accepts the challenge for training, continuing education and performance expectations. The program will allow public safety officials to manage workforce schedules more effectively based on skills and availability. It should result in a net gain in police and fire skill sets which means more qualified police officers and firefighters addressing incidences in Cedar Falls. As a result, City Council has determined that we should provide additional compensation for the skills and workforce flexibility afforded through the position; a public safety officer will receive a 10%-12% salary premium.
Of course, there will be objections based on addressable concerns. It represents a change from conventional police officer or firefighter roles. It will require a new level of competency, teamwork and goal alignment. Great businesses challenge operating silos and seek to continuously improve to drive productivity and organizational effectiveness. The public sector doesn't have competition, it has few internal incentives to improve. The fact that we are taking this step is a true signal that our staff, police and fire personnel are leading the way for public safety innovation and effectiveness. There are always calls for more officers and firefighters, but rarely is there a call for process improvement or workforce development to deliver a better product at the same or lower cost. As an industrial engineer, I see public safety ripe with opportunities for improvement. It often begins with introspection, resource accounting and aligning people and systems to serve a common goal. In this case, we are seeking to develop another skilled position, to make good use of limited resources, and to enhance life and property protection in our city.
- Nick's Briefs -
Pat Mitchell - There are many remarkable people in our community. Pat Mitchell is one who we will surely miss, but his legacy will live on in the many lives he's touched during his many decades as a coach and role model. This is an excellent YouTube piece on his legacy: