Entries by Mitch Greenan

GIS Audits Electric Use Tax and Uncovers Billing Errors

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Billing the right address seems like an easy endeavor, particularly when you have buildings that have been located on a property for decades. Yet minor errors in a database can make a sizeable difference in tax collection and village revenue. Take the case of Elk Grove Village, IL which imposed a municipal electric use tax back in 2011. 

Today, Elk Grove Village is in the process of verifying that tax data to make sure all the properties within its boundaries are being billed correctly. The local electric company, ComEd, gave the village a spreadsheet of the address billing records to be verified.

After mapping all of the address points in the spreadsheet data, the staff at Geographic Information Systems (GIS) discovered that the records provided by ComEd had errors in the database. Thanks to an intersect tool in GIS, staff were able to quickly identify all the addresses in the village that were not correctly billed. 

Some errors in the database are buildings that have no billing address on the property. Other billing records were combined for companies or owners that control multiple properties. These addresses must be manually reviewed to determine the appropriate billing. Without the benefit of GIS, staff would have to rely solely on billing data supplied by ComEd to manually review each address – a time-consuming and inefficient process.

Published: 3/5/2015 10:55 AM
Title: GIS Audits Electric Use Tax and Uncovers Billing Errors

Accessing Open Permit Information Using GIS

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In 2013, the City of Park Ridge, IL successfully connected its local permitting database to the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) environment through a browser-based mapping application called MapOffice™ Web Access. This connection allowed a city employee the ability to see all permits issued since 2000 for a given property by simply clicking an address on the map. This worked great when only being concerned with one address at a time, but what if a user wanted to view permits that related to multiple variables rather than just one across multiple properties? One such example of this was the inability to look at only permits that were issued and never closed for an entire neighborhood. The city’s Community Development and Preservation department requested an enhancement to the permit lookup functionality to allow for more flexibility with the queries that could be displayed in the MapOffice™ Web Access application.

Using the Business Intelligence feature in MapOffice™, a user can now query any open permits around the city by a custom date search. For example, any open permits can be queried by day, week, month, or any period of time in between. This allows members of the building department to quickly visualize spatially the location of all open permits and gives them the information to contact all necessary parties to begin the closing process. Without this upgrade, the user would have to sift through countless open permit database records making it much more challenging to manage and track the progress of closing out those permits.

Published: 1/16/2015 1:32 PM
Title: Accessing Open Permit Information Using GIS

GIS Informs Public of Neighborhood Speed Surveys

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The speed at which vehicles travel can have a dramatic effect on a residential neighborhood. If there are particular streets or neighborhoods that vehicles have a tendency of driving too fast through, the public well-being is in jeopardy. The City of Park Ridge, IL Police department conducts a number of speed surveys throughout the year to measure the average speed on a given block over a period of time, generally in the week to ten day range. Using data from these surveys, decisions can be made to add additional signs, barriers, or traffic devices to decrease speeding if the statistics warrants it. However, the Police department wanted a method of having all of this speed survey information available to the public, without having the resident have to sift through a lengthy list to find information on their street. To accomplish this, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was chosen as the optimal way to display this information to the public.

A custom layer was created for the village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™, a property information search program, showing all the speed survey locations completed in the city dating back to 2008. A direct link to this layer was posted on the Park Ridge Police website where a resident could search for a speed survey location by just typing in an address along the survey route. All relevant speed survey statistics could then be accessed by clicking on the survey line along the particular street. By having this information available to the public, residents can now be more aware of the speed survey program as a whole, along with seeing survey statistics for areas that they may have originally been inquiring about.

Published: 1/16/2015 1:28 PM
Title: GIS Informs Public of Neighborhood Speed Surveys

Tracking Progress in the City’s Police/Resident Interaction Program

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​The City of Park Ridge, IL Police department has begun an outreach program for the city’s residents. The purpose of this program is to improve the relationship between the public and the department to potentially improve the overall service the department can provide. The program involves a police officer making personal contact with every address in the city. During each encounter, questions or concerns of the resident can be addressed by the officer. Tracking the progress can be daunting, however, with over 17,000 different addresses in the city. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was chosen as the best way to track the progression of this program.

To start this project, GIS created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with every city address broken down by police beat that could be used by the department to track the progress of the officers throughout the city.  A member of the Police department then fills in a status within the spreadsheet as an officer makes contact with that address. If contact was made with the resident, a “made contact” status is entered. If contact was not made, an “attempted” status is entered. These statues are then linked to GIS, where they are mapped automatically on a daily basis to the city’s browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™. Once the data is displayed in MapOffice™, department staff can visually see the progress made on a map and the statuses of each encounter. Staff also uses the map to determine the next city block scheduled for this project. Without GIS, all the tedious tracking by the Police department would have to be limited to just a spreadsheet or plotted out manually by hand from online map printouts.

Published: 1/16/2015 1:21 PM
Title: Tracking Progress in the City’s Police/Resident Interaction Program

Integrating the City’s Permit Program with GIS

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Every community looks for ways to streamline operations to improve its productivity when serving the public. One way of doing this is to incorporate other application programs a community uses with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). For the City of Park Ridge, IL Community, Preservation, and Development department this involved looking to GIS to access information from their permits program through the city’s browser-based GIS program, MapOffice™. 

To start this process, a connection was created between the permits program and MapOffice™. Once the connection was made, the relevant data fields that would be displayed had to be decided on by community staff. In the end, only a small percentage of the available fields were chosen showing only basic information such as permit number, type of permit, important dates, and owner information. Once this was all setup, it was ready to be accessed by community staff. In order to use this tool, staff would use the Business Intelligence by Address task in MapOffice™ to select an address on the map. Once the address was selected, a popup window with all permitting information related to that address would be displayed, and the user could get the information that he or she was looking for.

By having this new connection between GIS and the permits program, a village staff member can now locate pertinent information regarding permits without actually having to open up the permits program. This increases customer response time either on the phone or in person when a resident is going through the permitting process. Another advantage with this setup is that additional information can be added or removed quickly and easily, based on a request from a user.  The hope around the city is that this is the first of many programs that GIS can integrate with to make staff more efficient.

Published: 1/16/2015 1:16 PM
Title: Integrating the City’s Permit Program with GIS

Aggregating Data and Analyzing Localized Flooding

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Locating and addressing storm water and flooding issues are an important responsibility of any community and their Public Works Department.  The Village of Northbrook, IL Public Works Department began to look at localized flooding by aggregating multiple sources of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data into a single platform.

GIS was asked to compile multiple sources of data including known flooding areas, current building footprints, historic aerial photography, FEMA floodways, and residential construction permits.  The village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOfficeTM, is the perfect interactive mapping application in which to hold all of these data sets using already accessible tools, such as historic aerial photography dating back to 1998 and a tool to display the FEMA floodways, and the ability to create custom layers for display.

With the aggregated data, Public Works looks for trends that might correlate residential construction with known localized flooding.  Residential construction permit data dating back to 1998 was collected from the Planning department’s databases and added as a custom layer in MapOfficeTM, along with known flooding areas provided by Public Works and building footprints data held in GIS.  Now, Public Works staff can compare current building footprints to historic building footprints using aerial photography and see when and what type of residential construction took place.  Staff can now look for trends in residential construction and increases in building footprint square footage to see if those might be contributing factors to local flooding issues.  Trends in residential construction can also help Public Works to plan future storm water projects to prevent flooding.

Aggregating this information in MapOfficeTM has been a crucial and effective tool in assisting the village with identifying potential problem areas for flooding and developing strategies to mitigate flooding in the future.

Published: 1/16/2015 12:50 PM
Title: Aggregating Data and Analyzing Localized Flooding

Using Business Intelligence to Track Home Foreclosures

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In the past the Village of Northbrook, IL has worked with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to setup a process to help better record and track properties as they move through the foreclosure process.  This process involves a monthly review of mailed foreclosure documents and entry of dates into an excel spreadsheet correlating to when a lis pendens or pre-foreclosure notice is filed, when the property is found to be in foreclosure, and finally when the court approves the sale of that property and it is no longer in foreclosure.  Previously a static map was created from this information and sent to the Community Development and Planning Department and Police for use in their workflows.  With the new capabilities provided by Business Intelligence connections in the village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™ Web Access, this process has been streamlined and provides increased access to the associated foreclosure information. 

To allow for this connection to occur, GIS created a database connection that allows Village Staff to query the information stored in the foreclosure spreadsheet in MapOffice™ by property status and date.  These query results are then displayed by location in MapOffice™ Web Access.  Using Business Intelligence, community staff has increased access to the information being tracked within the excel spreadsheet, where before they could only see the latest date and status for a specific property.  They also able to view the individual dates and gain a better understanding of the history behind a property.  Also, because the legal documents are scanned and stored by address within the village’s document management environment, a custom hyperlink is included with each entry which staff is able to click on to directly find and view the specific documents associated with the dates displayed on the map for verification or more information.

Published: 1/16/2015 12:38 PM
Title: Using Business Intelligence to Track Home Foreclosures

GIS Shows Village Development with New Story Map

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The Village of Northbrook, IL Community Development and Planning Department approached the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department with the idea of using an online map application to help display and promote the development projects within the Village.  GIS chose to use a template called a Map Journal because it allowed for the integration of different multimedia formats such as text, images, map elements, and hyperlinks.  The interactive and media based template really draws in and engages the viewer.  This template serves as a great way to aggregate all the pertinent information related to a specific development project in one place and makes it easily consumable and accessible over the web or from a mobile device. 

The Map Journal template was also very useful for this project, because the builder allows for quick updates to be made when there are changes to a development project, or a new entry needs to be added.  Instead of having to upload entire datasets when a modification is made, GIS can easily work within the builder to make and save changes.  Finally, the map was customized to fit the look and feel of Northbrook’s website branding to create an elegant and useful website for the public to gain a better understanding of the major residential and commercial development projects within their community.   

Published: 1/16/2015 12:32 PM
Title: GIS Shows Village Development with New Story Map

GIS Helps with Pre-Plan Linking and Updates in Compass Respond

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​The Village of Northbrook, IL Fire Department has always prided itself on providing custom solutions and innovations to aid their staff and deliver the best possible service to their community.  One such example is their adoption and use of the custom Compass Respond software which allows them to link building plans and oblique imagery to locations on a map.  This is extremely useful to staff responding to an emergency by helping them to plan and prepare what they will encounter before reaching the scene.  However, the usefulness of this tool is only as good as the data behind it and it’s important to keep that data up to date.  When the Village receives new building footprints there are two important steps that the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was asked to help with in incorporating these into the Compass Respond software. 

The first step was to make sure that the existing photos and building plans that were linked to the old building data by square footage could be transferred to the new data.  GIS was able to work within the Access database that houses these records and, by altering the linking mechanism to be a unique feature ID instead of the square footage, were able to add the new building footprints without losing any of the pre-made connections.  The second step was to work within the mapping component in Compass Respond to help make the review and linking of the plans and images easier for staff.  GIS was able to symbolize the buildings within Compass Respond by their zoning information which allows Village Staff to easily see and review the industrial and commercial buildings.  Address numbers were also added to the map to increase the ease of navigation and use through this process. 

Published: 1/16/2015 10:39 AM
Title: GIS Helps with Pre-Plan Linking and Updates in Compass Respond

GIS Aids Public Notification Systems

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Providing residents with notifications of emergencies and current events can be a difficult task for any community.  The Village of Northbrook, IL has deployed a public notification system using an online application called Everbridge.  Residents and businesses throughout Northbrook can sign up to receive notifications on a variety of topics.  Notifications can include emergencies or weather related disasters, hydrant flushing, road construction, or current events pertaining to the village. 

Everbridge has a mapping component to aid in selecting resident contacts for notifications.  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been involved with the village’s notification system workgroup to be sure Everbridge, specifically the mapping component, is used as effectively as possible.  GIS has been able to use existing data layers, such as the village boundary and the Public Works maintenance grids, and upload them to the Everbridge application.  Staff can use these layers to select and target residents to provide notifications that are pertinent to them.  For example, Public Works performs hydrant flushing in certain neighborhoods throughout the village based on their grid system.  Now, Public Works staff can use Everbridge and the layers provided by GIS to select and notify only the residents within grids that are being flushed that week. 

These preloaded layers can also be extremely useful in the case of severe weather and flooding.  Residents in specific areas can be notified of street flooding, downed trees or electrical wires by using Public Works grids or fire districts to target the residents affected.  In emergency situations, the preloaded layers can save valuable time in sending out notifications and limit the number of phone calls being placed to Public Works by providing accurate information to residents who need it.

Published: 1/16/2015 10:31 AM
Title: GIS Aids Public Notification Systems