Ready, Aim, Scan with QR Codes

The City of Lake Forest, IL is harnessing the power of maps and mapping applications to share information with city staff and residents. Often maps refer users to another source for additional information. For example, a zoning map might direct people to the city’s Community Development website or a summer festival guide might feature website links of participating food vendors.

The downside is that referencing a website on a printed map forces the user to manually type a web address to access more information. An easy solution is to implement Quick Response (QR) codes on published maps. A QR code acts as a barcode that links to a specific website.  When the code is scanned with a smartphone or tablet, it takes the user directly to the site.

The first step is to determine the associated website. Then Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff creates a QR code using a QR code generator website. Creating a QR code has no cost, is saved as a JPEG and can be added to any publication or map. Once finalized, the user simply scans the QR code with a smart device to instantly access associated content.

QR codes are an intuitive and time-saving way to share content. They give Lake Forest residents a convenient source of information without the extra step of typing in web addresses.

Making Community Events More Interactive

The Village of Mundelein, IL holds a variety of activities throughout the year, which are promoted through traditional outlets, such as newsletters and online calendars.   While these outlets work to inform residents, the village sought a better way to increase public awareness and civic engagement. 

The village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department recommended an interactive, online map to showcase all the events.  This type of environment offers many benefits and is also very customizable to specific requirements and easy to update.  Most importantly, the map lists all the events so viewers can click on any one and instantly see more information.  As a viewer zooms into an area of Mundelein, the list shrinks to only include events which occur in that part of the map. The map can tell the whole story or a very specific story for a neighborhood.

By creating an interactive map, Mundelein gives residents and visitors an online tool to explore events. It represents the village’s continuing commitment to provide the community with easy access to timely information and increase public awareness and engagement.

Use Interactive Mapping to See Construction and Build Relationships

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.

Improving Census Boundary Information with Digital Mapping

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.

Using GIS to Audit Franchise Fee Addresses

The Village of Woodridge, IL is asked periodically by Comcast Corporation to verify customer addresses. This is done in accordance with the Municipal Franchise Fee Review, which helps municipalities confirm that they are receiving the proper franchise fees from Comcast. 

Working with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the Village of Woodridge quickly audited the address lists provided by Comcast rather than manually comparing each address to their enterprise management system. GIS compared the village’s address database against two customer address lists provided by Comcast, saving village staff numerous hours of manual review. 

Even though the first address list from Comcast included customers who live in Woodridge, annexation dates were missing. The second list of customers could not be identified as being in the village or not. Using GIS, these addresses were mapped and compared against existing locations and annexation information stored in the GIS environment. The results gave Comcast the accurate information they need and provided the village with greater certainty about the franchise fees they receive from Comcast.

GIS Paves the Way for Resurfacing Projects in Schiller Park

Despite bitter cold and abundant snow, the Village of Schiller Park, IL knew warmer weather can reappear virtually overnight in the Midwest. With spring and summer fast approaching, the village wanted to start planning for Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), such as road resurfacing or utility main replacement. Yet, they were relying on outdated maps that only showed when roadways were last resurfaced and do not provide a history of other work that was done.

How could the Village of Schiller Park update their map and plan ahead for resurfacing projects? With articles, marked-up maps, and other correspondence in hand, staff called upon Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to pave the way for an accurate accounting of the village’s CIP history.

GIS compiled all notes from previous years and tapped into the knowledge base of several village employees to visualize when roads were last resurfaced. This was accomplished by using existing road features and adding in the years when roads were last paved.  To best illustrate the age and history of road resurfacing, GIS created a map a range of color, with red indicating older roads and blue representing new ones. Now village staff can reference the map at-a-glance and focus on streets that need attention.

GIS Audits Electric Use Tax and Uncovers Billing Errors

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.

GIS Shows Village Development with New Story Map

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.   

GIS Aids Public Notification Systems

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.

A Breath of Fresh Air for Capital Improvement Project Planning

Each year many communities must review and re-evaluate their Capital Improvement Project (CIP) plan.  In the Village Northbrook, IL this is a long and detailed process which plans major projects for the next five years and, after the creation of the plan, it must then be presented to the Board of Trustees.  While preparing for this presentation, the Village Manager came to the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department looking for a way to present the information in a new, exciting, and engaging method which demonstrates GIS’s capabilities.

Before Northbrook joined the GIS Consortium, the CIP plan was presented using PowerPoint slides and printed maps in handbooks.  The year after Northbrook joined the GIS Consortium a custom layer was used to display the different CIP projects by planned year in the village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOfficeTM.  While this was a great improvement for presenting the CIP information to both the Board and the public, it had its limitations.

GIS was able to use leverage an online mapping application called ArcGIS Online to create a customized and an extremely interactive presentation experience called a Map Journal that is useful to both the Board and the public.  The Map Journal is able to combine the interactive map capabilities of MapOfficeTM with presentation styling’s of PowerPoint.  The Map Journal can include text explaining the CIP projects, charts or graphs outlining the finances, and pictures showing areas in need of improvements and the engineering plans and diagrams to fix them.  The Map Journal is even capable of embedding websites and videos for a truly interactive experience.  The Map Journal is a simple web application that will be available on the Village website for easy access by residents, thereby making the planning process more transparent to all impacted parties