Communities to produce regional GIS
A GIS project in Kent County, Mich., has linked more than 20 cities, townships and municipal government organizations to achieve one of the largest, most comprehensive enterprise GIS implementations ever undertaken. The Regional Geographic Information System (REGIS) project will share the costs of developing a GIS, allowing cities, villages and townships to use GIS inexpensively in their daily operations. Owned and operated by the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (a consortium of 21 communities in seven counties in western Michigan), the REGIS Agency was founded in 1997 to allow for the collective management and ownership of the system.
REGIS will go beyond the mapping, data storage and engineering functions typically associated with GIS technology, says Keith Snarey, Kent County GIS coordinator. It will provide analytical capabilities that will aid business decision processes and improve coordination between overlapping jurisdictions.
For example, Kent County plans to use the system to measure the relationship between public works and public health. “REGIS will be instrumental in evaluating land surface and subsurface characteristics like groundwater, location of underground storage tanks and radon sites by showing the relationship of these characteristics with disease outbreaks,” Snarey says.
Because REGIS centralizes regional information, local businesses also will benefit, according to Grand Rapids City Manager Kurt Kimball. “Projects like REGIS will give us a competitive advantage for the future relative to other areas of the country,” he says. “Businesses relocating to a community don’t always concern themselves with municipal boundaries. Because of this multi-participant entity, we will have data instantaneously available for businesses wanting to relocate to western Michigan.”
The database contains 800 individual data layers over 1,000 square miles. It contains land records and cadastral data for utilities (water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and electric), assessors, public safety, parks and recreation, engineering, zoning and streets. In eight months, more than 500 digital documents and 2,100 paper source maps were converted and integrated.
During the first year of the REGIS effort, application development is focusing on data maintenance. Once those applications are in place, the agency will turn its attention to a variety of other functions that local government users have demanded: incident analysis (including permits and crime analysis); land-use and demographic analyses; mass appraisal system interfaces; floodplain mapping; code enforcement; infrastructure management; zoning assessment; and work order generation.
Software products from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI serve as the basis for REGIS. Denver-based Convergent Group is serving as project manager. Analytical Surveys, Indianapolis, and Miner and Miner, Fort Collins, Colo., also are involved in the project. “We are destined to be more responsive with REGIS,” Kimball says. “It will give us the ability to query and solve problems more efficiently, and let’s not forget the paper savings. REGIS will be the foremost arrow in our quiver to provide our citizens with much more information at less cost.”