GIS in the municipal world

GIS is one of several tools local governments use on a daily basis, and the Town of Fort Frances is no exception.
The town’s GIS system was implemented nearly 10 years ago and as such, we currently are in the process of updating not only the technology being used, but also the municipal data contained within the database.
Currently, GIS is used mainly in the Public Works and Planning departments. As the updates progress, future plans include the integration of GIS with other town departments, an interactive web-based GIS system, and new aerial photography.
GIS primarily is used in the engineering office at Public Works. The town’s GIS expert is responsible for imputing, updating, and maintaining of the database with field-collected information regarding the location and condition of municipal services, such as the water distribution, sanitary sewer, and storm water systems.
Since the beginning of June, 2005, GIS has been used in the daily operations at Public Works as maps are generated to assist maintenance crews locate services for water breaks, plugged sewers, and repairs.
This past summer, you may have noticed two students in your front yard with a GPS unit, spray paint, and a shovel.
Their job was to collect the necessary information to complete a survey of all water shutoffs and sewer cleanouts located within the town.
This data has been used to update the existing database and the survey will continue next summer.
The Planning department also uses GIS frequently to assist with a multitude of tasks.
Whether used to respond to inquiries on a specific piece of property or on a property with specific criteria, GIS is relied on to provide the information in a timely manner.
The creation of custom maps for council, committee, or other departments for a lane or road closure, property disposition, or public hearing is made easier with GIS.
The ability to export information from the GIS system to a database, Excel spreadsheet, or specific type of graphic format assists in reducing the response time for long-distance inquiries by enabling information to be sent electronically.
For even greater efficiency, the GIS is linked to assessment and ownership information to further facilitate access to a number of features on specific properties.
Much of the information produced and used by local governments has a geographic component. As such, GIS can play an important role for local governments.
As a central computer database of map data, it is consistently and immediately available to all users—providing better organization and security.
It increases efficiency by eliminating redundant data while consolidating data and providing greater flexibility to produce maps in any combination of themes.
This is the second in a series of four articles about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in recognition of GIS Day coming up on Wednesday, Nov. 15.
An open house for GIS Day is scheduled from noon-6 p.m. at the Fort Frances High School to showcase how GIS is used by local businesses and other organizations.
Admission is free and open to the public.
This event is being co-ordinated and sponsored by the Rainy River District School Board, the Town of Fort Frances, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Abitibi-Consolidated, and Rainy River First Nations, with co-operation from the Fort Frances Times.
For more information on GIS Day, contact Jordan Shannon at 482-2489 ext. 250 or Trish Law at 274-9893.

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