New Technology and Business in the Civic Sector

New GIS Software Increases Ease and Accuracy of Property Maps

The geographic information system (GIS) software industry is becoming increasingly specialized toward the needs of state and local government users. SpatialData a San Antonio Texas-based GIS software provider recently unveiled SpatialData Parcel specifically designed for tax assessment and appraisal agencies. The software enables users to access databases containing land ownership records and to create parcel objects that can be easily and accurately updated split merged or otherwise changed.

Mike Shannon a mapper for the Fannin County Appraisal District in Texas has been using the new software for about a month. Before SpatialData Parcel he had to move parcels as he drew them line by line. "Now I enter polar coordinates and the program draws the parcel from these coordinates. Then I can pick up the parcel with my cursor and place it as an object. In essence I am moving a piece of property " said Shannon whose district has about 32 000 parcels to be mapped and tracked.

"I haven't yet used it enough to bring out all its benefits or idiosyncrasies. But I foresee it having a significant impact on work efficiency here " Shannon said.

Sue Ann Robertson the only mapper for the Erath County Texas Appraisal District which has more than 28 000 parcels is using SpatialData Parcel for a new project to map school districts so people can see which properties are in a given school district. "It would have taken me a few hours to map out each school district. Now I can tell Parcel to map out a particular school district and it will find and map it in a matter of minutes " she said.

A strategic affiliate of Exton Pa.-based Bentley Systems Inc. SpatialData offers a suite of GIS applications for state and local governments including 911 Map View Parcel and Electric. All SpatialData products are integrated with Bentley's Microstation 95 an application platform and design engine for drafting modeling and visualization. Microstation 95 and Microstation Geographics an integration platform for mapping are required to run SpatialData Parcel.

- Meg Misenti

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Minnesota DOT Ends Document Traffic Jams

For every transportation problem the Minnesota Transportation Department solved in the last decade its document management gridlock only worsened. "For the last 10 years or so people have been dumping files into all kinds of directories on all kinds of PCs " said Keith Slater right-of-way director for DOT's Metro Division.

To help restore order the agency has turned to an Internet-based document management tool to create an electronic-document library that can be managed and accessed with an Internet browser. "Our project came out of the fact that Minnesota DOT did not have a document system or file management system " Slater said. "We were trying to figure out ways to manage documents but we also wanted to find an electronic environment which would be compatible with the World Wide Web."

The department settled on Intra.doc a tool from IntraNet Solutions that allows users to manage their corporate document holdings in a Web environment. "We created a pilot library to store and retrieve documents in an electronic library but we stored and retrieved those through a Netscape [Communications Corp.] Web browser " Slater said.

In setting up its document library the department had to create a software link or bridge between the documents and users. "We have computer-aided design files photos word processing documents and spreadsheet documents so one of the keys was to create an indexing environment " Slater said. The solution was the electronic equivalent of an index card stored as a PDF file. The original document was stored in the DOT "vault."

"The pilot has been successful so far " said Slater who has since embarked on an effort to push for national standards for the electronic management of transportation documents. "We need standards for storing this information around the country " he said. To that end he has approached the American Association of State Transportation Highway Officials to begin work on a national equivalent of the agency's pilot.

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