GIS/Public/private partnership builds online GIS
Citizens have grown to expect increased Internet access to their governments, but keeping pace with the demand poses a special challenge for local governments with limited budgets. For many years, that was the case in Burke County, N.C., but now the county is setting a new standard for the way governments make information public. With the help of the local Board of Realtors, the county is providing 24-hour, online access to tax and land records through a web-based GIS.
The county had been looking for a computerized public access system for nearly a decade but could not find an affordable solution. Last year, however, Bill Davis and Clint Lytle, Burke County appraisers and members of the local Board of Realtors, located a potential online GIS in WebGIS.net from Anderson & Associates, Blacksburg, Va.
To avoid putting a financial strain on the county and to satisfy the public’s need for the system, Davis and Lytle convinced the Board of Realtors to sponsor the county’s system for its first two years of implementation and then turn it over to the county. “One of the problems we face today is that everybody wants the government to pay for something they need,” Lytle says. “If you’ve got the money, work with the government, pay for it, and get it.”
The setup fee for getting the county’s records online was $5,400, and the monthly service charge for hosting the data is less than $500. Setup took about two months.
The program uses a browser interface to simplify database queries for users, who need only point and click to call up geographic data and view online maps. Search and zoom tools provide access to property attributes, spatial data, flood zones and specialized layers, such as voting districts and zoning.
The system was deployed in November 1999, and the site averages about 600 visitors per week. In addition, foot traffic through the county office has decreased by 50 percent, according to Burke County GIS Specialist Scott Black. “Our appraisal staff has noticed a big decrease in the number of regular users, like realtors and surveyors, which frees us up to spend more time with the average taxpayer,” Black says. “We used to spend a lot of time faxing property record cards and mailing maps to people and businesses. Now that the information is available online, we can refer people to the web site.”