Skip Maine state header navigation
A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume VII, Issue 1||January 2004|
By Jim Ward
|The City of Lewiston began researching Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the 1980’s as a new method of mapping and parcel/infrastructure management. The old mapping, based on photography of the early 1970’s was simply outdated. For the future development of the city, it was essential to have updated land mapping, and an accurate, seamless, intelligent base of current feature conditions and city infrastructure.||
GIS became the logical choice and natural progression, since the Engineering Division had been using Computer Aided Design (CAD) for plan drafting and preparation, along with digital survey equipment since 1989-90. By 1996 the city contracted with Camp Dresser & McKee, of Cambridge MA for GIS consultation and a needs study. Funding was also procured for survey level aerial photography, which was performed by James W. Sewall Co. (JWS), in 1997. This provided detailed and accurate land feature/topographic layering, and the resultant CAD data provided the base for upcoming infrastructure and transportation improvements. Since the core of municipal GIS is the land parcel layer, our property tax maps were digitized by JWS and fitted to match actual land features, thus giving us a seamless parcel coverage to link to assessor and other related data.
Today we have approximately 150 layers in the system! Some, like the above, and the sewer and water utility systems, were contracted to consultants to develop. Others, such as zoning and police beats were done in-house. Additional layers were free in that they were downloaded from the Maine Office of GIS and other public websites like the GeoLibrary’s recent Maine Aerial Photography Project (which we are utilizing to update our 6 year old land base data).
|GIS Everyday … As there are hundreds of miles of roads; sewer; storm; water supply; and other infrastructure to maintain, Lewiston’s Departments of Public Works and Public Services currently are the largest GIS users. GIS is utilized for such purposes as street tree maintenance and inventory; snow plowing routes; capitol improvement planning, estimates; utility mapping; public project notifications; and field locates. The GIS provided a base for layering systems such as water mains; sewers; storm drains; and CSO’s (Combined Sewer Overflows), so we have complete and accurate inventory models of these essential infrastructure layers. They have been enhanced and hyperlinked with scanned images of engineering drawings, where available, to view design data on the fly! Also, a custom “system trace” button in the software allows the user to determine the path sewer or storm water would follow through the system if dropped from a particular point. The Water and Sewer service folks even utilize portable GIS in the field.|
The Development Department is also heavily reliant on the GIS. Examples of their typical daily use would include generating abutter’s lists for Planning Board meetings, housing studies, buildability analyses, economic development planning, general mapping, and endless custom thematic maps.
One city department that unexpectedly benefited from the GIS this past spring was the Auditing/Accounting Department. The infrastructure data layers such as water, sewer, roads (pavement, lane miles), bridges, etc. proved invaluable for the GASB 34 inventory, accounting, and assessment reporting. Retrieving and tabulating that information without GIS would have been very difficult, or, in some cases, impossible, as some of the required data did not previously exist.
More than Pretty Maps… The power of GIS is limited only by imagination, intuition, and enthusiasm. At the municipal level, GIS can be utilized by practically every department. Nearly all have databases, tables, statistics, images, and incidents, which can be linked spatially. One of the challenges is to get people to recognize GIS as a tool which they can integrate into their activities, beyond the cool maps and inquiry ability. It is a terrific productivity, planning and study tool.
Admittedly, few people get excited about such GIS uses as re-assessments studies and modeling of sewer systems. However, an area which promises to have interesting potential is GIS for Public Safety. This will be presented to Police and Fire, as these departments are certain to benefit from the potential power of GIS. Some examples include: incident pin mapping; accident occurrences; fire alarms; hydrant water pressure; pre-incident planning; major buildings linked to floor plans and/or locations of hazardous materials, etc.
As GIS gains exposure, further implementations and new uses will emerge citywide. The goal is to have every city department utilizing GIS to their potential. We have only scratched the surface!
Access to GIS… The GIS data resides on a city network server and is available to departments via the City Wide Area Network. About 6-10 users within the city utilize desktop GIS software such as ArcView or ArcInfo for data editing, layer development and GIS analysis. However, for most people on the network, (about 150), interaction with GIS occurs through our WebGIS (IMS) Internet Mapping application. The browser-based IMS provides simple GIS functionality such as: viewing layers; basic queries; abutter’s lists; and printing maps, satisfying all but more complex GIS analyses. Other functions can be built in.
GIS for everyone… An equally important benefit of GIS is enhanced customer service through ease of access to information. To further accomplish this, we hope to have a public access kiosk at city hall, running a secure public version of the WebGIS soon. This will allow the general public, surveyors, developers, real estate researchers, taxpayers etc., to look at Lewiston GIS data, identify, list, and even print maps. This will be the prelude to launching an Internet version via a link from the City web site, which we hope to make available by spring.
Our sister city, Auburn, deserves credit here, as they too are on similar paths in terms of utilization of GIS. The cities of L/A joined forces in building each of their GIS from the start, minimizing duplication, and we continue to collaborate.
Now that computer hardware is becoming more affordable, software more advanced and user friendly, GIS is becoming more feasible even for smaller communities. Certainly, GIS is the wave of the future for municipalities everywhere.
Jim Ward is the GIS Coordinator of the City of Lewiston. He may be reached by calling 207-753-0330 ext. 270 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.