Fairfield, Jefferson County discuss partnering to purchase GIS
Fairfield City Administrator Kevin Flanagan met with Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Monday afternoon to propose sharing expenses to purchase a Geographic Information System for use by both governmental bodies.
The cost to purchase a GIS system would be $59,948, said county Assessor Sheri Blough. The amount would be broken down into three payments due in July 2013; June 2014; and July 2015. The amount also includes the cost of a flyover to take photos of Jefferson County.
Blough said her office uses Sidwell mapping company of Chicago to schedule flights over the county for updated aerial photos every three years.
“The mapping is digitalized and on our website,” said Blough.
The last flight cost $65,000, but now has decreased to $61,000, she said.
Flanagan explained a GIS goes beyond using Global Positioning System coordinates and adds various layers to digitalized maps.
“We are at a point of using technology that takes a digital map and for every parcel on the map, we can layer the water system infrastructure — every pipe from the streets to buildings to faucets inside buildings. Then we can add another layer, storms basins, and another layer, the sewer system and piping and so on,” said Flanagan. “Anything that is actually on the ground and below the ground, we can create in layers. We also can view topography of the land.”
Those layers can be pulled off individually to view a complete set of infrastructure or viewed together in any combination of layers.
GIS could be added to the digital maps and aerial photos already in use.
Flanagan said GIS can be used for city planning, economic development, and it would be useful to the sewer infrastructure updating Fairfield needs to do.
“Going forward, we are 10 years behind in technology,” said Flanagan. “With GIS, users can call up information on any device, such as a laptop or tablet in a vehicle and learn information about a particular area.
“All governmental entities such as cities, counties, states and federal agencies engaged in planning use GIS.
“It’s integral to development. The more time we wait to get this system the dumber we are. The city is talking with the county to share this system to be more cost effective, ” he said.
Flanagan said Fairfield would use the city engineer’s office for maintaining a GIS system and would work with the county and Sidwell on the big picture.
“My hope is we can come together to work on this,” he said.
Blough said GIS is a tool the county could use.
“I’ve asked for this system the past four or five years,” she said. “I’ve tried to get this before, but this is a first time I’ve had a partner.
“I know the county is slow and cautious on spending money,” said Blough. “The state department is getting ready to change the way farmland is assessed, and GIS would be very useful.
“Jefferson County taxpayers have already invested $800,000 throughout the past 20 years in our current system, which we would continue to use as the base for GIS at the county,” said Blough. “It took us 13 years to take step one, digitalizing aerial photos.”
Blough said other county departments also could use a GIS system; the county engineer could view drainage ditches, bridges, traffic signs, culverts and more. Law enforcement would benefit by being able to call up a property and viewing it in 3-D from all directions and angles before approaching to answer a call or serve a warrant.
“I’m comfortable saying you are wasting money in the county road department and don’t know it,” said Flanagan to supervisors. “GIS can be used for more efficiency, better safety. I’d advise us both to have this tool. Wouldn’t you like to know the location of each county vehicle at any moment?”
Supervisor Dick Reed said he heard before about the need for GIS.
“And that’s always included not just the system or software but a GIS coordinator, and we’ve discussed. ‘Could that person also do IT for the county?’” Reed said. “Then that coordinator soon needs an assistant, and we’re adding personnel expenses to use the system.
“So, we’re living in the Stone Age? Are we really doing that bad?” he asked.
Flanagan said not using GIS isn’t wrong.
“It’s just that updating will be a time and money saver,” he said.
Melanie Carlson, an engineer with French-Reneker-Associates Inc., who has worked with Fairfield and Jefferson County on projects, said the city and county would like to create a base map hosted by Sidwell.
“And for now, Sidwell is the county’s GIS partner and French-Reneker is the city’s partner,” she said.
“We don’t want to take away the relationship with Sidwell; updating parcels is not something we want to handle,” said Carlson.
Blough said Sidwell would be the assessor’s partner in GIS.
“In city planning and economic development, they can’t get their arms around it right now,” said Carlson. “We manage the sewer and water infrastructure.
“For instance, if [Fairfield Economic Development Association executive director] Tracy Vance calls and asks for a diagram of a parcel to submit to offer a property [for a business to locate in Fairfield], it’s about a two-hour project in our office to produce that diagram showing what a buyer would want to see. And that’s
just to be able to place an initial diagram on the table,” said Carlson.
French-Reneker technician rates to compile such a diagram are $65 per hour, said Carlson.
“I can go into Ottumwa’s GIS system and have that same information in five minutes,” said Carlson.
Supervisor Becky Schmitz asked if the city and county had discussed any percentages of sharing the costs.
“I have a budget hearing Friday,” said Blough. “I have information about our base system the taxpayers have already paid for and adding GIS is a way to make it grow. If it makes life easier, why not have it?
“I expect a decision by Friday.”
The supervisors are scheduled to attend the Jefferson County Conference Board meeting at 4 p.m. Friday in the third floor meeting room in the courthouse. The agenda for the conference board includes discussion and consideration of this proposed 28E Agreement and setting the county assessor’s fiscal year 2013-14 budget.
Flanagan said he’s hoping to bring a third partner into the use and costs of GIS, Jefferson County Health Center.
“The hospital could use it for statistics, analysis, and also the ambulance service could use it the same way law enforcement would,” he said.
“Each of us would have to agree on a base payment,” said Flanagan. “This meeting is to discuss setting up a 28E Agreement between the city and county to purchase and use GIS. To get it set up now is cheaper than waiting until later. You can choose to move ahead slowly or fall behind faster.”
Supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt asked if an agreement is signed to use GIS pictometry and if multi-users are involved, what happens if one user wants to go in a different direction than other users?
“That’s a good issue to discuss,” said Reed. “We’re having trouble with 28E Agreements now about how to leave or dissolve. This would be a good start for conversation for the conference board.”
Supervisors agreed language about leaving or dissolving a 28E Agreement would need to be written into the original agreement.
“I’m all for law enforcement and fire to be able to see beforehand what they’re getting into,” said Dimmitt. “I can see where it could save lives. I’m more than interested in looking at a partnership, but also keeping in mind our bottom line.
“The county has other significant increases coming, such as health insurance. I’ve heard talk about GIS saving us money, but I want to see how.”