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Posted on: February 6, 2024

Time Rewind: Consolidation, innovation drive change at Kenton County Public Works

Kenton County Public Works employee making road repair

In 2015, a decision to consolidate departments altered the course of Kenton County Public Works. The strategic merging of the Solid Waste and Fleet Services divisions into Public Works enabled the combined department to steadily broaden its scope.

Consequently, Public Works has continued extending its services beyond unincorporated county areas to support local municipalities and state agencies. Annually, the team:

  • conducts snow & ice removal for more than 200 miles of roadways;
  • stripes an average of 120 miles of city and county roads; and
  • provides vehicle and machine maintenance to 29 entities. 

“These achievements, stemming from the strategic integration of the Solid Waste and Fleet Services divisions into Public Works in 2015, mark a significant restructuring that have increased the department's efficiency and capabilities,” said Spencer Stork, county engineer and director of Public Works. “Now, with our four key divisions – Engineering Services, Fleet Services, Public Services and Solid Waste, the Public Works team has scaled operations and built stronger local and regional partnerships.”

Engineering Services in action: Grants led to new opportunities for county, cities

Over the past nine years, the Engineering Services division has transformed Kenton County's approach to infrastructure and grant management. This transformation is exemplified through the shared service initiative for road restriping and its success in grant procurement for larger-scale infrastructure projects. 

Prior to 2020, individual cities in Kenton County managed their own road restriping projects, meaning the County and cities were subject to higher costs, inconsistent quality and workforce challenges. Recognizing these inefficiencies, the Engineering Services division created a shared service model for road striping, inviting cities to participate. Since the implementation of this program, 12 of the county’s 19 cities have participated.

Public Works also secured more than $17M in grants for significant infrastructure projects, including: 

  • Bromley Crescent Springs Road (2020): Obtained $7.5M in federal funding for the reconstruction project completed in 2022. This project was a collaborative effort with the cities of Fort Mitchell and Crescent Springs, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the OKI Regional Council of Governments.
  • KY 536 (2020): Awarded a $9.6M BUILD grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for a one-and-a-half-mile section between US 25 and KY 1303, scheduled for completion in summer 2024.
  • Staffordsburg Road (2022): Secured $155K from the Kentucky Division of Waste Management for a resurfacing project to test rubber modified asphalt made from recycled tires. 
  • Amsterdam Road (2023): Procured $1.9M for this road reconstruction project, showcasing a successful partnership between the Kenton County Fiscal Court and the city of Park Hills. 

Enhancing Public Services: Technology drives improved outcomesLine graph showing growth of miles covered by KCPW

The evolution of Kenton County Public Works since 2015 extends to the Public Services division, particularly for its snow & ice operations. 

Annually, the department allocates around $200,000 for salt, a crucial resource in servicing 206 miles of roads during the winter. 

For more than two decades, Public Services has been plowing roads for the cities of Crestview Hills, Lakeside Park and Ryland Heights. In 2019 and 2021, agreements with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet added 75 miles to its snow removal responsibilities. 

The Public Services division has implemented several cost-reduction and efficiency-enhancing measures to its snow process, including:  

  • Automating salt application (2015): Automation ensures precise salt distribution, eliminating waste and inconsistent application.
  • Increasing accuracy of salt measurement (2015): Specialized scales for loading salt increase accuracy.
  • Doubling capacity for salt and brine tanks (2022): With a larger reserve of pre-made brine, the Public Services team reduces the time and frequency needed for production and ensures rapid response for road treatment during winter weather events.
  • Geotagging salt trucks (2023): Tracking systems provide location and diagnostic data, allowing the maintenance team to proactively fix issues and keep trucks on the roads.

Modernizing Fleet Services: Operational changes eliminate inefficiencies, lower repair times

Reflective of the changes initiated in 2015, the Fleet Services division has focused on service efficiency and operational effectiveness. 

From the Taylor Mill Police Department to Elsmere Public Works, the division’s maintenance team extends its expertise to a diverse range of clients, including three fire departments, seven public works departments and nine police departments. And it’s not just vehicles - they service weed eaters, backhoes, firetrucks, ambulances, SWAT trucks, bulldozers and beyond. 

Graphic showing logos from all entities served by Kenton County Fleet ServicesOver the past nine years, the Fleet Services division has implemented many improvements, including:

  • Revamping fleet replacement program (2015): By switching their surplus vehicle sales from local auctions to a national audience and replacing cars earlier, they decreased the average mileage on Kenton County Police Department’s first responder vehicles by over 30,000 miles and eliminated significant downtime and costs associated with major repairs. 
  • Streamlining assets (2016): By removing $1M in excess vehicles, equipment and parts from the garage, they reduced replacement costs and prepared themselves to contract with a single fleet parts vendor.
  • Contracting with NAPA Auto Parts (2019): In a joint effort with Boone County, Fleet Services contracted with NAPA Auto Parts to decrease overall cost and time required to obtain quotes, create purchase orders and procure parts. 

Innovations in Solid Waste: New initiatives drive community participation

Since Solid Waste merged with Public Works in 2015, it played a pivotal role in engaging county residents through its various programs.  

Melissa Grandstaff, Solid Waste coordinator, led the creation of new initiatives for residents, including: Infographic with totals from Trash for Cash since 2020

  • Trash Voucher Program (2019): Prior to this program, Public Works hosted a monthly cleanup at its Independence facility. Now, Kenton County residents can request vouchers online and take their trash directly to Bavarian Waste without planning for a specific date. This is an improved convenience for residents and for staff, and it reduces the wear on parking lots and grounds at Kenton County Public Works. Five hundred and twenty-four vouchers were redeemed last fiscal year. 
  • Spring and fall cleanup events (2019): Since the Trash Voucher Program replaced the monthly cleanup events, Public Works now offers biannual cleanup events for large item disposal. In 2023, the Solid Waste team collected 1,736 loads of waste filling up 62 dumpsters. 
  • Trash for Cash Program (2020): This program provides 501(c)(3) entities an opportunity to raise money while cleaning roadsides throughout Kenton County. Since the program’s inception, 15 nonprofits have participated cleaning 121 recorded roadway miles and collecting 546 bags of litter (10,920 lbs). 

Kenton County Public Works also collaborates with its peers from Boone and Campbell counties to host an annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event. In 2023, more than 1,000 Kenton County residents participated in the event, bringing with them 3,226 items.

What’s next for Public Works?

Moving forward, completing major projects and securing funds for roadway improvement plans is the main priority for Kenton County Public Works. 

"Our goal is to ensure efficient planning and execution of projects that benefit the community," said Stork. "We frequently collaborate with elected officials, local agencies and state organizations to align on priorities for two- to six-year plans.”

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