Entries by Ana Grahovac

A Bright Idea for Managing Streetlights

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The City of Lake Forest, IL is replacing all its streetlight bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs. With thousands of lights, data management can be challenging. Each location must be marked complete along with information related to wattage and voltage.

Historically, Streets department staff would capture maintenance information on paper or a laptop. Field notes were then transcribed to spreadsheets for future use. To streamline the process, staff is using a mobile asset collection application, Collector, to handle LED bulb management.

With the free Collector application, staff can perform streetlight maintenance using a tablet or smartphone. Streetlight locations are loaded into the app with predetermined fields that the user populates. These include bulb type, voltage, wattage and inventory number. Once a bulb is changed to LED, the location point changes color, indicating the action is complete. Data is extracted as a spreadsheet, eliminating the need for post-processing.

This process can be replicated to capture any inventory in the field on a tablet or smartphone. The mobile app is so intuitive, training time is reduced compared to advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. Capturing inventory without desktop GIS software saves money on licensing fees and gives the city the flexibility to reproduce the process for other assets.

Published: 5/8/2015 9:46 AM
Title: A Bright Idea for Managing Streetlights

Mapping the Way to Easy Dining

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Communities are hungry for revenue and one of the many venues that attract visitors and dollars are restaurants. Because restaurants regularly change in communities, guides must be modified. The Village of Morton Grove, IL has over 50 restaurants within its boundaries. To help them update their restaurant guide this spring, the Morton Grove Community Development department called upon Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create a restaurant map.  

Community Development gave GIS staff a list of restaurants in a sequential order that follows how they will be listed in the hand-out. Staff used those addresses to generate a map of each restaurant based on the numbering system that was provided.  By utilizing GIS, Community Development staff offered the public an easy, visual way to see the location of any restaurant in Morton Grove and better understand their dining options.

Published: 5/8/2015 9:38 AM
Title: Mapping the Way to Easy Dining

Branching Out with a Better Tree Planting Route

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Trees are one of the many assets that local municipalities manage on an annual or semi-annual basis. One of the ways to promote their vigor and longevity is to schedule plantings to replace damaged, diseased and dying trees. Often the Public Works or Forestry Department hires an outside contractor to handle the plantings. This spring, the Village of Schiller Park, IL called upon Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create a map of planting locations and an optimal route for their third party contractor.

Public Works provided GIS with a list of addresses adjacent to each tree planting location. After mapping trees to the closest address, staff created an optimized route using GIS software to generate a sequential numbering system. This sequence was used to mark tree plantings, in order, from start to finish. The map was given to Public Works to distribute to the contractor.

By coordinating efforts and generating a map for both the village and third party contractor, staff saved valuable time that can be put towards other projects.

Published: 5/8/2015 9:31 AM
Title: Branching Out with a Better Tree Planting Route

GIS Flushes Out Imperfect Water Quality

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Hydrant flushing is an annual task that usually takes place in early spring and lasts approximately one month. Many may view this as a wasteful act or an inconvenience for commuters. However, it ensures the quality of water in village homes is free of discoloration, unpleasant taste and odor.

The build-up of sediment and deposits in the water distribution system causes these negative aspects. The most effective way to purge debris is through unidirectional flushing. This can be very taxing on Public Works departments because the locations of system valves, hydrants and pressurized mains must be identified prior to flushing. The Village of Wheeling, IL relies on unidirectional flushing and maps their entire water distribution system in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The GIS department in Wheeling created hydrant flushing map books to streamline the process for Public Works. (The image below shows a page in the map book.) Each page displays a specific flow boundary that isolates hydrants to their associated water main. Flushing empties the entire water main.

GIS also included the exact order each hydrant should be opened to maximize efficiency. (The red letters in the image below are the sequence for opening hydrants.) Utility map books are not uncommon in Public Works, but GIS provides the necessary customization so local government can more effectively serve the community.

Special thanks to Dustin Chernoff and Jeff Wolfgram in the Village of Wheeling Public Works for providing the necessary information.

Published: 5/8/2015 9:17 AM
Title: GIS Flushes Out Imperfect Water Quality

GIS Keeps Water and Revenue Flowing

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Aging infrastructure affects not only water delivery, but the revenue stream in municipalities. When water mains leak or break, the Village of Tinley Park, IL responds quickly to assess the damage and fix the problem.

Over time, sections of the water main leak or break repeatedly, prompting replacement. To be more proactive in determining which pipes to replace, the village’s Public Works department turned to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to analyze incidents over location and time and determine which sections are high priority.

The analysis compared the age, location, and number of incidents on each pipe section throughout the village. By comparing the density of leaks and breaks within a 33-year period and a more recent 10-year period, those sections with the most incidents were identified and highlighted in maps.

Using these maps, Public Works easily prioritized which ones to replace in the upcoming year. The GIS analysis also gave staff insight into areas of town where leaks and breaks would likely occur in the future.

Published: 5/8/2015 9:11 AM
Title: GIS Keeps Water and Revenue Flowing

Shedding Light on Data Collection in the Field

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The Village of Mundelein, IL sought more cost-effective ways to gather utility information in the field. In the past, the village paid an outside engineering firm to collect GPS points for water, storm, and wastewater systems. These inventories were expensive and, as a result, conducted every three years.

With the recent purchase of enhanced mobile tablets and improved access to low-cost or free data collection applications, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) recommended a new approach.  After researching options, they encouraged the village to run a pilot project using a mobile data collection application, called Collector, on a tablet.  The Director of Public Works selected street light control cabinets for the test because they are limited in number and easy to locate. 

GIS set up the pilot using Collector, which enables data to be easily synchronized back to the master GIS data. Recently-collected points were made available to all village employees through the GIS Consortium’s interactive, browser-based application, MapOffice™. 

The application was field tested with three control cabinet locations. The Engineering staff were impressed by how easy it was to collect points and populate information and decided to complete the project by collecting the remaining cabinets. Based on the success of the pilot, Mundelein is looking at future uses for Collector, such as creating an inventory of street lights and signs.

Published: 3/9/2015 2:26 PM
Title: Shedding Light on Data Collection in the Field

Use Interactive Mapping to See Construction and Build Relationships

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The City of Lake Forest, IL developed an intuitive application that lets the public and staff see where construction projects are occurring throughout the year. With the assistance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the City Manager’s Office and Engineering departments created a map application that will display the location of all construction sites in the city. Each site has a short project summary, along with photos and site plans. Information will be updated on a weekly basis.

The first step for GIS staff was to acquire all locations and related information. Construction sites were mapped and project details and photos were populated. Data was loaded into an online map environment, called Story Maps, powered by Esri’s ArcGIS Online application.  Story Maps enable a user to host an inactive map showing localized data, such as construction sites. The end result is a URL web link embedded on the city’s webpage. Once the Story Map is published, users can view construction sites and related information. When a site is selected, additional details are displayed in the left-hand panel of the webpage. 

Creating an interactive map gives Lake Forest residents a convenient source of information. They can browse construction sites and consume the most current project updates. Delivering data like this in an intuitive format and streamlined fashion is a valuable resource for building community relations.

Published: 3/9/2015 2:05 PM
Title: Use Interactive Mapping to See Construction and Build Relationships

Private Community Sign Ordinance Support

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Enforcing a sign ordinance in a community can be taxing for any local government, but with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a single staff member can implement a policy for an entire municipality. The Village of Lincolnshire, IL recently began reviewing and classifying signs in the village as “compliant” or “non-compliant”, which allows them to be tracked and symbolized in a map environment so the status is easily viewed. 

A sign ordinance in a community promotes public health, safety, and welfare while also establishing aesthetics that distinguish it from other communities. Sign ordinances benefit the private sector and help them be more successful by ensuring their messages are clearly communicated to the public. 

The Village adopted these principles in their sign ordinance. In the image below, dots represent the exact location of signs in question, and are symbolized by their compliancy status. GIS built on past work by the village and integrated new information, such as their compliancy status.   Within the village’s interactive, browser-based map application, MapOffice™, each sign is represented by a dot, with the option to navigate the user to a Microsoft® Word document that tracks every private sign in the village. Whether to check compliance or update information, this efficient practice can be applied to many other environmental or zoning ordinances, thereby making the process of checking the status of these items easier for village staff to accomplish. 

Published: 3/9/2015 1:42 PM
Title: Private Community Sign Ordinance Support

Adopt a Hydrant Seeks A Flood of Interest

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Like many municipalities, the Village of Mundelein, IL Fire Department operates an “adopt a hydrant” program. This creative community concept lets residents select a hydrant of their choice and fill out a form to formally adopt it. By adopting the hydrant, the resident agrees to clear snow and shrubbery away from it – improving visibility and enhancing the safety of the neighborhood during a fire event.

The Mundelein fire department wanted to make it easy for residents to locate hydrants near their homes. They hoped that as hydrants are displayed online, more residents will be encouraged to adopt them. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) created a layer of hydrants that were added as a custom display layer in the village’s browser-based, interactive mapping application, MapOffice™.  The layer delineated which hydrants were adopted and which were available.  All residents had to do was click on a hydrant to see its address, and then click on a link to access the adoption form.

The interactive map dramatically improved access and status of village hydrants. Now residents simply type an address, see the available hydrant closest to their house, and fill out an adoption form online. With dozens of hydrants seeking a “residential caretaker”, the Village of Mundelein is hoping for a flood of interest this year.

Published: 3/5/2015 12:57 PM
Title: Adopt a Hydrant Seeks A Flood of Interest

Improving Census Boundary Information with Digital Mapping

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Each year the U.S. Census Bureau asks local governments to participate in the Boundary Annexation Survey (BAS).  This survey gives the U.S. Census Bureau the most current geographic boundaries of the area the municipality serves. For many, like the Village of Woodridge, IL, it is an excellent opportunity to improve population estimates.

In previous years, this review process was manual, and municipalities used paper and colored pencils to demarcate their boundaries and neighboring borders. They had to note down any annexations, de-annexations, or boundary changes that occurred since the last BAS was conducted. 

Today, the Census Bureau encourages digital submissions of BAS materials using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Instead of listing and drawing modifications by hand, GIS tools are used to quickly identify changes between village boundaries and census boundaries.  Using GIS for BAS submissions has benefitted the village in meaningful ways. It’s saved a great deal of staff time and effort, provided richer detail in identifying changes, and ultimately improved the population estimates provided by the Census Bureau.

Published: 3/5/2015 11:57 AM
Title: Improving Census Boundary Information with Digital Mapping