Growing city enriches map info

In fast-growing Dublin, Ohio, where the daytime population nearly doubles to 70,000, the government has created a robust geographic information system with 60 layers of data to help manage the city.

Employees can tap into the city intranet to view overlaid maps of land parcels, water pipes, gas mains, storm water drains, sanitary sewers, police incident reports, floodplains, ponds, parking lots, bike paths, crime statistics, fire hydrants and even landmark trees.

About 60 to 80 employees — planners, engineers, public works employees, building inspectors, police and financial analysts — use the system daily. The public also has access to some maps via the city's Web site (www.dublin.oh.us).

Before the system was put in place, disparate pieces of data were not in a centralized location and not being maintained across the board, said GIS director Vance Cerasini, adding that the city, which is near Columbus, Ohio, changed the approach from a map-based to a data-driven architecture.

"The biggest problem was erroneous data," he said. "It's symptomatic and typical in an environment where you don't have this system."

Users of the new system can view data via the Web on computers or handheld devices with Autodesk Inc.'s MapGuide software. Cerasini said the city already had been using AutoCAD, a design and drafting platform by the same company, so MapGuide didn't require a lot of training. At first, the city planning department used the "lion's share" of the GIS data because of the community's continuing growth, but Cerasini said his department was repositioned in the information technology division so that it could take a more citywide perspective. The enterprise system has been in place for about a year.

The wider approach has spurred employees and other users to recommend new data sources. For example, Cerasini said the city's arborist suggested that all landmark trees, including their species, condition rating, tag number and location, be plotted in the system. Nearly 6,300 trees were recorded in the system, a task that took six to eight months. As a result, it's easier and quicker for planners to show commercial developers which trees are protected, Cerasini said.

"That's how you can take seemingly useless information and make it very, very useful," he said. "What we've done is we've demystified the technology and made people understand what it is and how it could help them."

The city is developing standard procedures for the system to avoid any confusion about who maintains what data, Cerasini said. The city also is planning to input 56 miles of new digital orthoimagery this spring. This includes computer-readable aerial photos that have been processed to minimize the distortions found on traditional photos.

Eventually, the GIS system will be integrated into the police dispatch system, with other crime databases, and would be accessible wirelessly in public safety vehicles.

Cerasini estimated it would cost about $70,000 annually to maintain the system.

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