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Property Management Tools and Techniques

2. Example Property Management Inventory Systems

Eleven SDOTs participated in the three regional roundtables informing this report (see Appendix A). Interviews with two Federal agencies–the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of the Interior–regarding their property inventory systems supplemented the insights provided by the SDOTs. This section provides an overview of basic aspects of the property inventory systems that the participating SDOTs use.[6]

2.1 California Department of Transportation

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) currently uses several property management tools. The largest of the existing tools is Caltrans’ Right of Way Management Information System (ROWMIS), a tool that was developed in-house. ROWMIS includes over 31,000 active and 60,000 inactive, or archived, parcels and has data going back to the 1990s. Offering project, parcel, and acquisition information, ROWMIS was intended to help reduce inefficiencies related to ROW planning and management.ROWMIS provides staff members with a secure, centralized, web-based database and standard input/output to facilitate planning and management of highway projects and parcel acquisition. The database, which is accessible by anyone at Caltrans with an account through Oracle’s web based Discoverer application, does not track excess lands, airspace leases, or information on operational/facility assets.

Some of the information not currently included in ROWMIS can be found in Caltrans’ Right of Way Property Management System (RWPMS), AMI (Asset Management Inventory), and ELMS (Excess Land Management System). RWPMS includes over 3,000 parcels and 1,600 airspace leases and is the system used to maintain inventory and financial information for property Caltrans owns. Monthly, expenditure reports (revenues, abatements[7], and reimbursements) are generated from RWPMS and then reconciled with data in other accounting systems in order to prepare required reports for FHWA. In parallel, the AMI contains all assets for each Caltrans District, while the ELMS is used to record, monitor, and report the status of all parcels defined as “excess land,” providing the agency with a comprehensive record of accountability that facilitates management and disposition of those properties. These systems do not integrate with GIS capability although each district is in the process of digitizing ROW maps.

Another system currently under development–the California Land Management System (CLMS)–will eventually replace the existing systems, integrating the functionality provided by earlier systems (e.g., procurement, budgeting, fixed assets) with real estate functionality.

Within this integrated environment, Caltrans’ Division of ROW will be able to cost alternate routes for a transportation projects based upon routes passing through various parcels.

2.2 Colorado DOT

At Colorado DOT (CDOT), property management functions are performed by both central office and region staff.The Property Management Section in the central office is responsible for maintaining the inventory of all excess, remainder, office, and maintenance site parcels including improvements.Property Management staff members in the central office also manage all properties turned over by CDOT’s six regions to the Section for rental and/or disposal.

CDOT’s property inventory system is based on data available in the agency’s Real Estate Management System (REMS), which is a system that enables staff members to view, analyze and update detailed information on all of CDOT’s facilities; its Quit Claim Deed (QCD) Book; scanned ROW plan sets from three of its six regions (the other three are currently scanning their plan sets); and Region and Central Office acquisition files.Using these data, CDOT created a number of spreadsheets that it uses to manage its properties.One spreadsheet, based on the QCD Book shows every sale CDOT has done dating back to 1952.Another maintains an excess and remainder parcel spreadsheet that tracks excess properties by CDOT Region, county, and state highway.CDOT also tracks “disposable properties,” or those not needed for upcoming projects.

Once a property is sold, CDOT records the transaction–including information regarding improvements and improvements removed from the agency’s insurance policy–in the QCD book and the spreadsheets.CDOT then sends a copy of the QCD to CDOT’s asset management team and to the Region so that the Region can modify its ROW plans to reflect the parcel site(s).

The property management system was updated recently to integrate with CDOT’s Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing (SAP) accounting tool.The SAP accounting module, which automatically tracks lease payments, allows users to easily sort leases, licenses, and deeds, while following the status of excess properties and contract expirations.

Moving forward, CDOT anticipates completing the scanning of its regions’ plan sets, as well as linking the property inventory to a GIS in an interactive ROW data layer.[8]

2.3 Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s (LADOTD) current property management system is a module of the agency’s larger Appraisal, Acquisition, and Relocation System (AARS), a web-based enterprise application that centrally stores detailed appraisal, acquisition, and relocation level information in an Oracle database.LADOTD owns the AARS product (rather than licensing it through a vendor organization).AARS was designed in 2001 by Xybernaut Solutions LLC to meet process/data requirements that LADOTD’s management team devised.The system was first deployed in 2002 and has continued to undergo enhancements and new version releases since.As LADOTD now migrates to a SAP system, the user community consists of over 150 staff members, including Real Estate Managers, Headquarters’ Agents, Headquarters’ Review Appraisers, Appraisers, Field Agents, and Headquarters’ Relocation Agents, and consultants.[9]

2.4 Nevada DOT

Nevada DOT (NDOT) currently uses a series of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to inventory properties and keep track of rentals, licenses, abandonments, sales, and other property characteristics.NDOT is moving toward fully implementing a new system called the Integrated Right-of-Way Information Network (IRWIN).Partnering over several years with Smart Data Strategies (SDS) to develop IRWIN, NDOT is seeking to enhance its ROW management practice to provide real-time property information to state employees.The system, which was developed as a result of a legislative audit, has several components, including an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS), Property Inventory, Property Management, and Permit Management.It will also incorporate GIS functions, taking advantage of work done by NDOT’s GIS section to create a historical road network showing most of the system changes over time.The feature will allow users to perform queries and receive results for a specific place or time.NDOT expects IRWIN to offer its staff members greater consistency and accuracy in carrying out property management responsibilities (Figure 1.).

Figure 1. System Diagram for NDOT’s IRWIN

Title: Figure 1. System Diagram for NDOT’s IRWIN – Description: Flowchart showing the linkages between the series of modules that comprise IRWIN. IRWIN consists of interface screens customized for the major ROW area workflows, including an acquisition module; property management module; project management module; permits dashboard; encroachment permits module; billboard module; junkyard module; and document linkage.

2.5 North Carolina DOT

At North Carolina DOT (NCDOT), properties are conveyed by the ROW Branch but managed by the General Services Division, which includes a property management section.NCDOT’s Property Management Section is responsible for property leases, sales, acquisitions and allocations, building demolition, and asbestos program management.It also maintains a statewide inventory of the department’s 2,900 buildings.

Currently, the Property Management Section inventories NCDOT’s properties primarily using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet solution (Figure 2.).Additional property inventory information is also separately entered into NCDOT’s SAP tool for accounting purposes.As ROW claims are closed, residue information are recorded on a “residue card” and submitted to the property agent who enters the information on a master list in the spreadsheet.The residue card indicates the property’s NCDOT division, county, funding, project, parcel, asset number, former owner, area, purchase price (value) and date acquired. As residue properties are sold, they are deleted from the master list and entered into the sold list, deactivating its asset number.

Figure 2. Screenshot from NCDOT’s Property Inventory Spreadsheet

Title: Figure 2. Screenshot from NCDOT’s Property Inventory Spreadsheet – Description: The image of NCDOT’s property inventory spreadsheet shows example entries in the agency’s property inventory. Data is tracked according to the NCDOT Division, country, Transportation Improvement Project number, parcel number, asset number, former owner, size in acres, value in dollars, and date acquired by the DOT.

Borrow pits, asphalt sites, and other miscellaneous division sites are considered assets and are entered into a Borrow Pit database for record keeping.When these properties are sold, they too are deleted from this list and added to a sold list, deactivating their asset numbers.When it is determined that residue property is required for a future ROW project, wetland credits, or mitigation, a copy of the revised plans is submitted to an NCDOT property agent who deletes the residue from the master list and enters it into a ROW “converted list,” deactivating its asset number.

In the future, NCDOT plans to integrate the inventory with geospatial tools by overlaying the agency’s residue properties with the State’s umbrella GIS system.

2.6 South Carolina DOT

Operating since 1917, South Carolina DOT (SCDOT) has accrued many parcels identified as potential surplus property. Under SC Code of Laws, Section 57-5-340, "The department shall continuously inventory all of its real property [surplus property]."

SCDOT’s early property management efforts focused on keeping track of sold parcels of land by assigning index numbers to each parcel of land sold that indicated the counties of the parcels and chronological order in which they were conveyed.It was later noted that parcels purchased outside of the ROW limits also needed to be identified and tracked at purchase.SCDOT determined that the most effective approach would be to index these properties at acquisition when the ROW document was turned in to SCDOT’s Headquarters office.Now, a copy of the pertinent information, including the deed or easement, the appraisal summary sheet, the agent’s worksheet, and a plan sheet, is forwarded to the Property Management section so it can index the information in a project file.

That inventory is currently kept in a Microsoft Access database.The database includes fields such as:

  • Date updated
  • Index number
  • File number
  • Road/Route
  • Tax map number
  • Tract number
  • County
  • City
  • Road name
  • Parcel size
  • Grantor
  • Book/Page
  • Date sold
  • Grantee
  • Sales price
  • Remarks
  • Congressional District
  • Date of Commission approval for sale
  • Land type (economic or uneconomic)
  • Land use description
  • Status (For Sale, Not For Sale, ROW, MSC, Mitigation, Project Not Complete, Sold)
  • A brief description of the property
  • A hyperlink to view the deed and exhibit for a sold parcel

SCDOT is currently considering potential replacement off-the-shelf solutions, as well as integration with GIS in order to better meet SCDOT’s present needs.For example, it has become apparent to SCDOT that, over time, some parcels were inadvertently omitted from the inventory and that reviews of county tax assessors’ records are necessary to update the agency’s records. This presents a challenge since different SCDOT disciplines identify and name property records in a variety of ways. Additionally, SCDOT leadership is increasingly sending requests for more accurate tracking and reporting capabilities, or information that has never previously been captured, such as past offers for sale or numbers of uneconomic[10] parcels owned. SCDOT anticipates that an updated inventory system with links to geospatial information in a GIS could help it address these and other issues.

2.7 Tennessee DOT

Tennessee DOT’s (TDOT) Right-of-Way Division Relocation and Property Management Office supervises the regional field offices’ relocation sections to ensure that regions adhere to Federal and division policies and procedures. TDOT’s ROW Division Excess Land Office, meanwhile, is responsible for disposal of TDOT’s surplus property and ROW in fee simple, legal access changes, land leases, and some licenses.

Relocation sections in regional field offices inventory and inspect vacated properties and arrange for the clearance of improvements. These disciplines use TDOT’s Tennessee ROW Information System (TRIS) as the department’s centralized ROW inventory database. Among other attributes, TRIS tracks the area of parcels acquired and the amounts paid on all tracts for projects dating from 1997. The database also contains information specifying uneconomic remnants. This information is also captured in “Edison,” Tennessee’s Enterprise Resource Planning financial system.

The TRIS database does not currently provide a means to readily access the information.An April 2011 performance audit of TDOT by the State noted that TDOT lacked a fully functional and readily accessible ROW property inventory.[11] Based on this finding, TDOT is currently accepting proposals to replace its existing spreadsheet-based property inventory solution with a web-based, relational database tool. It is expected that an improved property inventory system will allow TDOT to better track, maintain, and report on all ROW and potential excess land, while also taking advantage of related existing, but currently underutilized, geospatial data.

2.8 Texas DOT

Texas DOT’s (TxDOT) Right of Way Information System (ROWIS) is the agency’s current primary property management system. In place for approximately 15 years, ROWIS is a relational database, client-based server system that enables users to capture, track, and report data related to the ROW acquisition process.

ROWIS captures key attributes that can largely be categorized into four groups:

Authorized district personnel enter records into ROWIS as activities occur on ROW-related projects.

Some TxDOT users have found that ROWIS could be improved in the way it supports the management and inventory of ROW assets after the conclusion of the acquisition process. The system also does not currently have the ability to display or link to ROW parcels on a map, which has made the cost-effective integration with the state’s web-based GIS platform challenging. ROW maps have been scanned in portable document format (PDF) from 14 of TxDOT’s 25 districts, and the department is discussing ways that these maps can be linked to the ROW inventory.

2.9 Utah DOT

Utah DOT’s (UDOT) ROW Division is responsible for acquiring property needed for highway purposes and relocating displaced businesses or persons. The division also manages those properties acquired, including security, leasing, and maintenance on them. When that property is no longer needed for highway purposes (usually remnants of larger parcels), the Property Management division is responsible for its disposition.

UDOT currently uses an Oracle 10G ROW system to track its lease agreements (Figure 3) and surplus properties (Figure 4). The system is designed to help manage and track the SDOT’s land inventory. Parcels are entered into the database upon acquisition and can then be tracked through their life cycle including leases or sales of surplus areas. Searches can be made by tenant name, parcel number, project number, and other attributes and data can be exported to create reports containing details that individual users can define, such as tenant name, project number, parcel number, lease commencement and expiration dates, rent, lease type (cell tower, billboard, vacant land, residential, air space, commercial), expenses, and sale transaction details.

Property management agents analyze reports from the system, which can be viewed by project managers, lead agents, and division directors. The reports are used to improve the efficiency of property management. The success of property management results in the coordination with statewide UDOT personnel and utilizing reports to track status, income, and expenses for each property.

UDOT anticipates future enhancements to the system that will include GIS capabilities of properties that the department currently owns, leases, or has sold.

Figure 3. Screenshot of UDOT’s Right of Way Lease Management System

Title: Figure 3. Screenshot of UDOT’s Right of Way Lease Management System Description:UDOT currently uses an Oracle 10G ROW system to track its lease agreements.  Parcels are entered into the database upon acquisition and can then be tracked through their life cycle, including leases or sales of surplus areas.  Searches can be made by tenant name, parcel number, project number, and other attributes; and data can be exported to create reports containing details that individual users can define such as tenant name, project number, parcel number, lease commencement and expiration dates, rent, lease type, expenses, and sale transaction details.

Figure 4. Screenshot of UDOT’s Right of Way Surplus Property Management System

Title: Figure 4. Screenshot of UDOT’s Right of Way Surplus Property Management System – Description: UDOT currently uses an Oracle 10G ROW system to track its surplus properties. This screenshot shows the interface used to ipnut information on those properties. Numerous fields are available for entering data that describe the excess land, includling an option to upload scanned documents.

2.10 Virginia DOT

Virginia DOT’s ROW and Utilities Division first developed an electronic database of residue properties in 1977 with the advent of its ROW Management System. In 1998, the system was replaced with the ROW and Utilities Management System (RUMS), the property management system still in use today at VDOT.

RUMS is a web-based system that tracks the real estate acquisition process on a project-by-project basis. RUMS tracks pertinent information for each parcel of land from the time it is identified as a potential acquisition in the estimate stage to the time it is disposed. The system also manages leases and sales and displays information for each step in the leasing and sales processes. Approximately 5,000 residue/surplus properties or leases are currently maintained in RUMs. A contractor was hired to develop the Oracle system, but VDOT retains ownership of the programming code created. VDOT anticipates having GIS capabilities integrated with RUMS within 24 months.

VDOT’s asset inventory process begins at the highway project scoping stage by identifying any residue property or improvements to be acquired and roadbeds to be abandoned. Each asset is then entered into RUMS, with residue and surplus parcels getting assigned an individual Property Management Inventory (PMI) number. If the property being reviewed predates the current system a new PMI number is generated in RUMS. Multiple contiguous parcels are “grouped” under a PMI Group Number and sold as one property. Similarly, improvements are assigned an individual Demolition Number, using a categorized number series depending on the improvement type.The location is distinguished as it relates to the project stationing, and disposition of each improvement is selected. Additionally, prior to conveyance of any residue/surplus property, a site inspection is performed; photographs are taken; and research is completed confirming title, acreage, the most recent project plans showing the property, zoning requirements, and other characteristics.

VDOT uses a Microsoft Share Point Portal Sight for processing its leases and sales and uses RUMS (Figure 5.) to track properties from the time of acquisition to disposal. The portal is a one-stop site that allows users to process the sale or lease of a property and permanently maintain PMI files without physically storing those files. Users can also generate an email via the portal that provides a link to information about a given site allowing various VDOT Divisions, other agencies, municipalities, and FHWA to review each property as needed.

Figure 5. Screenshot of VDOT’s RUMS

Title: Figure 5. Screenshot of VDOT’s RUMS Property Management Portal – Description: Information and documentation on parcels is loaded into RUMS via a Property Management Portal. The portal is a one–stop site that users to process the sale or lease of a property and permanently maintain PMI files without the physically storing those files. This screenshot shows the portals interface users access to enter relevant property information.

2.11 Washington State DOT

Washington State DOT’s (WSDOT) web-based ROW management system is known as “IRIS,” short for Integrated Realty Information System. The system, which went into production in 2008 and is an implementation of Smart Data Strategies DREAMapTM software, provides advanced reporting and workflow management that helps WSDOT efficiently track and maintain property acquisitions, financial data, and property costs. IRIS offers real-time information with scheduling and asset reporting while also providing project creation tools. It can also provide daily updates of financial status for reporting purposes.

The system offers the ability to search the database for acquisition data (e.g., project number, parcel number, and property owner) or for property management data (e.g., inventory number, lease number, and property address). A challenge that IRIS users have encountered, however, is that the system is limited in its ability to generate ad hoc reports. Because the acquisition and inventory functions are managed in the same system, the computing power and memory necessary to generate specific reports are sometimes more than what is available.

WSDOT has plans to expand the system to integrate it with GIS. The addition of GIS will provide WSDOT with complete project management capabilities, enabling the agency to easily locate properties affected by an acquisition and display them on a map for estimation. It is expected that this step may also alleviate some of the reporting challenges experienced to date.

2.12 Wisconsin DOT

Seeking to apply a more businesslike approach to its ROW activities, Wisconsin DOT (WisDOT) developed the Real Estate Automated Data System (READS). READS is a web-based Oracle system that tracks and manages all aspects of ROW acquisition, including maintaining over 2,000 records of excess properties. The system, which automatically maintains a modification history for the records it stores, tracks original purchase dates; surplus land sales; disposition; authorized airspace leases; demolition contracts; and potential condemnations, litigation, among other information. System users are able to obtain status updates on and generate reports for any of the department’s parcels. WisDOT is currently exploring GIS integration possibilities (Figure 6.).

Figure 6. Screenshot from WisDOT’s Real Estate Automated Data System

Title: Figure 4. Screenshot from WisDOT’s Real Estate Automated Data System – Description: READS tracks original purchase dates; surplus land sales; disposition; authorized airspace leases; demolition contracts; and potential condemnations, litigation, among other information. This screenshot shows the interface that users access to enter information on a given parcel.

2.13 Other Property Inventories

In addition to the regional roundtables, the project team also interviewed the GSA to learn about its property management inventory systems. It was believed that any effective practices identified at the Federal level might also serve as example approaches for SDOTs.

The GSA, which owns and leases over 354 million square feet of space in 9,600 buildings in more than 2,200 communities nationwide, uses several systems to manage Federal property, including Real Estate Across the United States (REXUS) and the Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP). The REXUS system is an Oracle web-based platform that was developed both internally and externally. The system consolidated approximately 50 applications at the regional level to allow for searching across agencies. REXUS now allows GSA to better track details about the interior space of Federal buildings, building histories, and leases and payments. While some dynamic reporting can be done, standard reports are available and data are often exported to Excel or Access for advanced reporting. Information on previously owned property is maintained offline in a file.

While REXUS tracks building information, the FRPP is an inventory of most Federally-owned property (it does not include National Parks or properties excluded for reasons of national security). All agencies in the Executive Branch are responsible for updating the database each year. They are able to do so one-by-one or by batch entering properties through an XML document. Although like most SDOT inventories it is not GIS-enabled, FRPP establishes a standard for property management terms and definitions, helping to ensure accurate and precise tracking of properties across a number of agencies.

Updated: 9/5/2014
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