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Study looks at accessing mapping info via Internet

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by Paul Flemming

SBJ Staff

Public access to mapping information via the Internet would be useful to many in the business community particularly for real estate, architectural and engineering firms and will become more widely available in Greene County in the near future.

A study undertaken by Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. indicates that the technology to make Geographic Information System information available is desired and possible.

"Currently this type of information must be accessed by going to the various agencies and requesting copies of maps, property records, utility locations, aerial photos or other information," said Geoffrey H. Butler, a principal at Butler Rosenbury, in a cover letter to the study.

"Accessing the public agencies' GIS via the Internet would allow businesses the ability to retrieve this information from their own office. This would save time, money and reduce demands on the public agency staff," Butler wrote.

"The goal (of the study) was to find a way to receive geographic information from the city of Springfield and Greene County governments' closed databases, and open access to the public via the Internet," the study's summary said. "This GIS page, or Internet map server, would provide digital maps of the Springfield area to the private sector."

The study was performed by Butler Rosenbury with the assistance of faculty from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

It includes an assessment of available technology and a survey of 35 local architects, engineers, Realtors, contractors and home builders to determine the value of the information. Of those who responded to the survey, 96 percent said they would use such a service if available; 60 percent said they would be willing to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee.

The survey also looked at how other areas are using the technology and the costs of running a system.

"GISes are specialized data systems that preserve the locational identities of the information they record," said Dr. James D. Hipple, of the University of Missouri.

Such information includes maps maintained by Springfield's Planning and Development Department, Public Works, City Utilities and the county's Planning and Development staff. Some of those sources are available digitally, but not from a single source.

The separate sources "causes some redundancy between the databases" of the multiple departments, the study said.

"The ability to retrieve property lines, utility placements, contours, etc., would be an invaluable resource to the business community," Rob Murray, of R.B. Murray Co., was quoted to say in the study.

The study noted the importance of a $25,885 grant the Springfield-Greene County Library received from the Federal Library Services and Technology Act to fund just such a GIS system.

"After assessing the information the city and county had to offer, the Springfield-Greene County Library was asked if they would be willing to be the creators of the page because it would not be feasible for one city or county department to do all the work, or for all of them to collaborate," the study said.

David Knight, of Butler Rosenbury, said the library is considering its options and is now aware of the desires of the community, and the capabilities of the departments that have the information.

Though GIS accessibility is growing, the 20 cities considered for the study showed that none offers a model for Springfield to follow. The study said three of those cities now are working on an Internet map server.

"None of the studied web pages had all of the amenities that Springfield needs in its Internet map server," the study said. "Butler, Rosenbury & Partners recommends that Springfield not look at national trends when building its Internet map server, because there is not one on the Internet that contains all of the parts Springfield needs."

Knight said discussion of the study and the possibility of pursuing its recommendations is on the agenda of the Sept. 23 meeting of the Permit Processors Users Group. He said the study should help different areas of public agencies and private enterprise be aware of what each is doing and how to bring such a system into being.

INSET CAPTION:

A $25,885 grant the Springfield-Greene County Library received from the Federal Library Services and Technology Act will fund a GIS system.[[In-content Ad]]

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