Archive for Saturday, March 26, 2016

Shawnee creating neighborhood initiative program called ASSIST

March 26, 2016

In an effort to maintain and improve neighborhoods throughout Shawnee, no matter their age or value, the city of Shawnee is creating a new neighborhood services initiative.

The program, called ASSIST, was created by the city’s public works and codes departments as a way to prevent blight in neighborhoods across the city and as a way for citizens, and city staff, to become more engaged and proactive in city codes enforcement.

Doug Allmon, deputy planning director for the city, said the ASSIST program is in its early planning stages but will eventually allow the city to use a comprehensive, data-driven formula to monitor and manage neighborhoods around the city.

“This initiative is to protect the wonderful things we have,” Allmon said. “We have very stable neighborhoods now and this is intended to keep them that way.”

ASSIST is an acronym standing for All-encompassing, Strategic, Stability, Informed, Safe and Transformative.

The ultimate goal, Allmon explained, is to reduce levels of crime and increase property values, resident satisfaction and levels of health, safety and social interaction.

The city came up with the plan over the past couple years as a way to proactively address the Shawnee neighborhoods that are diverse in house value, income, age and other characteristics. Many homes in the city are approaching 75-to-100 years old, while others in “newer” subdivisions are approaching 30 years.

Allmon said the comprehensive approach would be more proactive than the current complaint-based system. He said it would also be flexible to fit the needs of a particular neighborhood. Not only will it promote stability in neighborhoods by identifying trends before they become problems, Allmon said, it will be measurable and quantifiable.

The program will measure median appraised values of homes, median home values over five-year trends, absentee ownership of homes, absentee ownership over a five year percentage change, owner occupied and rental vacancy rates, crime, and free and reduced school lunch program participation. It would also measure low and moderate income area trends, infrastructure requests, the citizens’ satisfaction survey, Citi Works and the city’s See Click Fix program.

Current staff including the planning and deputy planning director, neighborhood planner, communications manager, engineers and more would operate the program.

Financial information wasn’t made available for the program because city staff is still in the process of creating and researching the program.

As part the program, a “Windshield Survey Assessment Tool” would also be created for residents. It would be similar to the See Click Fix program, in that residents could instantly report a problem in their neighborhood using an easy to use program online or on their mobile device.

Council Member Eric Jenkins fully supported the ASSIST program and said it would be good for the city.

“Everyone in the city can be a codes enforcement officer basically,” Jenkins said. “It’s not that much of a burden while you’re out there to keep your eyes open. It’s really a force multiplier if I’ve ever heard one.”

Council Member Jeff Vaught also supported the program but said the city needs to focus on being proactive in addressing code violations in neighborhoods, rather than completely relying on resident complaints.

“You have to be proactive on codes,” Vaught said. “No one wants to complain on their neighbor. We have got to get stronger on code enforcement.”

Council Member Dan Pflumm supported the program but said the city should look into partnerships with businesses to provide discounted construction or paint rates for lower income neighborhoods. Pflumm also emphasized the need for the city to keep this program positive so neighbors don’t turn on each other.

“We need to keep things positive,” Pflumm said.

Allmon agreed, saying the goal is to get neighbors engaged rather than upset. Allmon said studies show neighborhoods where people are actively engaged in keeping up their own property lead other people to do the same, ultimately improving property values and quality of life.

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