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Improving Data Management & Analysis through GIS

The Town of Vienna in Dane County, Wisconsin recently incorporated a Geographic Information System (GIS) for use by Town employees.

An image of Scott Anderson, PE, Civil Engineer for Snyder & Associates Madison.

 

“Town officials wanted a way to better manage important data from multiple sources, and GIS provided the right solution,” shares Scott Anderson, PE, of Snyder & Associates and Town of Vienna Engineer.

 

 

Using a GIS database and corresponding map is a way to visually represent feature points, lines, or shapes and associated data. If you can assign a physical location to the data, it can be represented using GIS. The data is collected and stored in one centralized location that replaces and enhances the fragmented use of maps, county websites, files, and employee knowledge. Data commonly stored in a GIS database includes:

  • Storm or sanitary sewer pipes and manholes, plus their size, material, and inspection dates
  • Water mains, hydrants, and valve locations, connections, and conditions
  • Locations, species, and size of trees in a park
  • Sign locations, reflectivity, and maintenance schedules
  • Lots in a cemetery

GIS can store a large number of features and multiple aspects of data for each feature using little storage space, so it’s an excellent tool for centralized data storage because it allows users to view as much or as little information as necessary when needed. With all the data stored in the same location, users can also analyze relationships between multiple data sets. For example, when creating a capital improvement plan, municipalities can utilize GIS  to compare condition data for storm sewers, sanitary sewers, water mains, roadways, and sidewalks, in addition to crash data and routes to schools, to determine the intersections that are the highest priority for redesign or reconstruction.

In addition to municipalities, GIS is helpful for other types of users and platforms such as counties, DOTs, parks departments, hospitals, construction companies, retailers, and factories. For example, a retailer that wishes to build a new store can use features such as streets, neighborhoods, and parcels when analyzing properties for sale. GIS data will help the retailer understand a parcel’s proximity to major roadways, other retailers, residential neighborhoods, and office parks.

GIS is useful for more than just viewing and sorting data. It’s possible to generate project-specific tables and aesthetically-pleasing graphics for internal reporting, publications, presentations, marketing, or fundraising purposes. In addition, our client’s report that having access to this type of data makes their jobs easier when it comes to scheduling maintenance, ordering supplies, analyzing current and future potential, providing services, and more.

User-friendly GIS Training Experience

To help the Town of Vienna get started with GIS, we assisted with data collection and created a database for the Town using ArcGIS’s web-based application, ArcGIS Online. Snyder employees worked with Town staff to ensure the application met their needs and that they were able to use it with ease.

Using ArcGIS online, the Collector Application for ArcGIS, and a Trimble R1 connected to an iPad, town staff learned to operate the GIS data collection equipment, input information into the system, and edit or add more data as necessary. Once collected data was combined with background data supplied by Dane County, the application was launched for use by town employees. It was the first time Snyder & Associates provided GIS equipment and system training, but the process went smoothly and helped reduce project costs for the Town of Vienna.

 

“Training took just a couple hours with our system,” shares Geoffrey Barnes, Engineering Technician for Snyder & Associates. “It’s very user-friendly with no background in mapping or survey required. Year after year, the database will become more robust as new information is added.”

 

Reflecting on the experience, Kathy Clark had only good things to say. “As the Town of Vienna Clerk, I am very excited to use our new GIS system developed by Snyder & Associates. In the past, I would have to look in manual files and use the county website when dealing with questions regarding land use, zoning, and territorial boundary agreements. With the GIS, all the information I need is in one application. In addition, our sanitary district is completely accessible for instant repairs, along with road culverts and signs. It’s a great resource, and I would recommend it to any other municipality.”

Use of the cloud-based, GIS system will help the town efficiently respond to queries from residents, permit applications, and streamline its ability to reach information-based decisions.

How To Get Started with GIS

Many people benefit from GIS, and data formats are based on what’s best for each client, such as PDF maps, GIS raw data, AutoCAD files, or ArcGIS Online. GIS is a great way to organize data in a way that’s meaningful and easy to understand. Users of all skill levels can benefit from the centralized system and analysis potential of GIS. All that’s needed is a desire for organized, easily accessible data.

Whether you have lots of data or no data at all, Snyder & Associates can help get you started with a GIS database that meets your needs long-term, and we’re prepared to guide you during every step. Each client’s needs and experience is different, so we’ll work with you to create a right-sized GIS solution.

To learn more about how a GIS system could benefit your municipality or business, contact Scott Anderson.