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How can GIS can help your community?

If a street sign is absent or placed in the wrong location, the Town would be liable if there was an accident. By using GIS, the Town can prove that the sign was in the correct location and also show its condition of specific dates

By examining the coverage of fire hydrants and their flow rates, a municipality can demonstrate the adequacy of fire protection services. They can see where new infrastructure should be located and be able to direct the fire fighters to adequate hydrants

When issuing a building permit, the Officer must be aware of the proposed site and the potential impacts of the site. The Town needs to know if there are any wetlands that will be impacted; if the business fits within the zoning code; if there are floodplains; etc. GIS can show all this at once and allow the Town to analyze the permit application and make an educated decision on granting it. Without GIS it is difficult at best, and costly, to examine each of these elements and decide the potential impact. One mistake and the Town is in trouble

Police protection is something that we rely on every day. If 911 is dialed, we expect results . . fast GIS can accent the police department and allow them to be more efficient in their jobs. They can examine crime incident data to plan patrol routes; they can look at traffic accident data to alert the DPW to potential problems, such as an inappropriate speed limit. GIS can increase safety and help eliminate liability issues

The mid-1980's saw the emergence of GIS software that allowed municipalities, counties, businesses, and other organizations to view their data in new, spatial ways. Early software was limited in its capabilities, and price-prohibitive. The last twenty years have been kind to the GIS market. The capabilities of the software have increased dramatically. The popularity is widespread and more and more organizations are implementing the technology.

Closely related to expertise is data. All municipalities have data. The question is whether the data is in a format suitable to GIS, and if the municipalities know how to maintain the data. Geographic data is complex because it has several components. Not only does GIS data include the visual (roads for example), but it also contains attributes of the feature (street name, addresses, pavement type, etc.), as well as data about the geography of that feature.

Data Collection
outhern Tier West will provide access to sophisticated Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment that can be used for data collection.  This GPS system is capable of providing locational accuracies of less that one meter of error instantly.   This GPS system is an efficient way of collecting points (fire hydrants, DI), lines (water, street), and polygon data (parcels, building footprints).  These units are available to Community GIS members on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Through a CAP Membership, you can receive 16 hours of technical assistance by STW-trained staff  for data collection.  If you don't have technical assistance hours, STW staff can perform GIS data collection at a rate of $40 per hour.  If you are considering a membership, please fill out our GPS/Data Collection/Inventory Application.  This will aid us in identifying how we can best serve new members needs.

GIS software is readily available and can be purchased from several vendors. The software is relatively expensive and requires training and/or experience to use. Again, it is difficult to find this expertise, and the costs of GIS software can add up quickly. Each department in a municipality that would like to utilize GIS would require a licensed copy of the software. Any additional software (extensions, etc.) would be a similar situation.

Today, the typical desktop computer can house and run user-level GIS software. Professional GIS software does require additional considerations; although this level of software is not necessary. Desktop personal computers can be "beefed up" to include additional hard drive space as well as RAM.

These pieces create the barrier for local governments. Even if the municipality can overcome the financial burden of purchasing hardware, software, and data, they still must address the lack of expertise. These barriers will remain for the foreseeable future. This is especially true in very small, rural municipalities. In governments where clerks, supervisors, and others are part-time employees, it is difficult to overcome these barriers. The costs alone would be too stifling, not to mention the needed expertise and management that comes along with GIS.

It is not impossible for municipalities to overcome these barriers on their own. Some local governments do utilize GIS to some extent. Each of the three counties in the region are at different stages of GIS systems development. While the data is being developed by the counties and is available to the municipalities, they are on their own to use it. Although the counties would like to see municipalities use the data, they themselves have no capacity to help them do so.

Beyond liability, the uses of GIS are extensive in local government. GIS can be used to assist in community planning efforts, zoning, GASB-34 compliance, facilities maintenance, and public awareness. Accurate maps that are readily available can save time and money for a local government. Governments are expected to provide their constituents with the best services possible without the burden of high taxes; GIS can help them accomplish that. Today citizens are concerned with efficiency, more services, and lower taxes. That means municipalities must become more efficient in delivery of these services. GIS is a tool to help them accomplish that.

The uses and need for GIS in local government are obvious. Unfortunately, the same is true for the barriers. Municipalities are beginning to recognize the need for GIS, but have no way to overcome the barriers. Community GIS can help them by lowering the barriers and offering GIS capacity at the municipal level.

Southern Tier West has developed tremendous GIS capacity over the past several years. This capacity is in the form of data, software, hardware, partnerships, and experience. Community GIS utilizes this capacity and extends it to local governments.

The software used to create the interactive mapping portion of Community GIS has the ability of serving GIS datasets over the Internet to an end user. This means that Southern Tier West can maintain and house the GIS data it currently has, and others can use it without developing, maintaining, or storing it themselves. Community GIS will serve this data to the local governments for their use; thereby eliminating their need to develop, maintain, and store large datasets.

Southern Tier West has developed an expertise on staff for Internet GIS and related issues. The foundation for Community GIS was laid as a by-product of past projects. Community GIS takes advantage of that foundation and creates a new tool for local governments throughout the Southern Tier West region.