A Rising Interest in Emergency Event Support

So, Here’s a Story (Map)

We Will Acccomplish More Together Than We Will On Our Own!

A forum of managers in local government in northern Illinois, the Leadership Roundtable, came together in early 2015 to generate a list of common problems they could solve together.  As the list of project ideas grew one of them quickly floated to the top of the list.  As a result, the managers prioritized a project that would enhance service by improving communication between residents and the municipality.

Next, the managers authored a charter document that outlined clear outcomes for the project, and then selected their top Thought Leaders to participate on an innovation team who would work together to achieve the desired outcome.

In 4 months’ time the team…

  • used the innovation process
  • wrote user stories
  • issued a Request for Information (RFI)
  • short-listed five vendors
  • conducted interviews and demonstration
  • created a presentation
  • presented their recommendation to the managers of the Leadership Roundtable. 


The team’s recommendation was to partner with a solution provider they found would achieve the outcomes of the charter best.  The recommendation to implement a Citizen Service Request system has been accepted by 14 communities and we expect that number to keep growing.  The communities are now in the process of negotiating collectively with the vendor of choice to obtain the best possible outcomes.  Implementation of the solution will begin in the first quarter of 2016. 

We will accomplish more together than we will on our own!

Shedding Light on Data Collection in the Field

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.

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.

Using GIS to Find Population Affecting Outfalls

The Village of Morton Grove, IL was required by the EPA to conduct an analysis of the population affecting the sewer outfalls in the village. The EPA needed to know how many people contributed to each outfall through the village sewer system. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a study was done to find the sewer system pipes that connect homes to each outfall and then compare this to the population of the village.

First, census data was used to find the population of Morton Grove by census block. Then, because the sewer system is connected throughout the village, desktop GIS software was used to derive which homes and areas were connected throughout this system to each outfall. Comparing these two yielded the population that contributed to the drainage from each outfall.

Morton Grove was able to accurately respond to the question posed by the EPA and deliver a map and analysis along with their report. Having an accurate and connected sewer system through GIS was an important aspect to allow this kind of analysis to take place.

Collecting Road Improvement Information in the Field

The City of Lake Forest, IL Engineering Department manages reported potholes on an annual basis. After the winter months, the streets become damaged from freezing and thawing and regular snow plowing efforts, resulting in potholes and other road repair issues. Historically, engineering staff would field survey reported pothole locations and pothole measurement and condition assessments would be made.  Those assessments would then be put into a spreadsheet with an associated address and that spreadsheet would be given to a village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist to map the pothole locations. These methods proved to be inefficient and commonly resulted in data lose. To help streamline this process and remove some of the steps involved, the pothole inventory is now performed using a mobile application called Collector.

With the use of the Collector application, staff can now perform their pothole assessments using just a tablet or smartphone in the field. This method eliminates the need to hand write pothole details and have a GIS Specialist manually plot the potholes locations. Using Collector, staff can create a point at a desired location, define attributes associated to that point, and capture a related photo. The captured pothole data is then extracted from the tablet or phone onto the engineering workstations. The data can now be exported in a spreadsheet form and the locations captured in the field are ready to be mapped.

The process introduced by using the Collector application can be replicated to field capture any location inventory. Utilizing a tablet or smartphone is a more convenient platform for use in the field. The intuitive functionality of the mobile application reduces training time and reduces the need to have multiple people working on one project. The ability to capture the inventory without having to manually plot the location later provides the city with the flexibility to replicate the process for collecting other asset information in the future.

Using Interactive Mapping to view Capital Improvements

The City of Lake Forest, IL has developed an intuitive application that allows the public to view ongoing capital improvement projects and related project information. The Engineering department requested a method for residents to be able to quickly view capital improvements throughout the city. With the assistance of staff from the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department, the Engineering department hosted a map application that displayed the location of each project. Each project will have a unique photo, as well as a comprehensive list of related information.

The first step was for GIS staff to acquire all of the project locations and information. The capital improvement projects were then mapped and the related information populated. The data was then loaded into an online map environment, called Story Maps, which is powered by Esri’s ArcGIS Online environment. The Story Maps interface provides a user the ability to host an interactive map showing localized data, in this case improvement projects. The end result of this project was a URL web link that is embedded on the city’s webpage. Once the Story Map was published, users could view the current construction projects. A user could select a property on the map and additional information, including a photo, is displayed in a pop-up dialog box.

Creating this interactive map provides residents with a streamlined source of information. Users can be able to browse city capital improvement projects without looking through a cumbersome word document or spreadsheet. Having this information in an intuitive format and in accessible location has proven to be a valuable and time saving resource.

Importing Data from CAD into GIS

The City of Des Plaines, IL is fortunate to have a talented in house engineering staff that designs and manages many of the city’s infrastructure projects.  As a part of the construction process the engineers create plans using CAD (Computer Aided Design).  These plans show what is being constructed and also details about the pipes and structures being installed.  In addition to these construction plans, the city’s utility system information is also inputted and tracked in the city’s robust Geographic Information System (GIS).  This allows all staff to view the utilities in a web-based mapping application called MapOffice™ and also be used for analysis in the GIS desktop software.  The current process of inputting data into GIS is slow and inefficient.  Once the engineer completes their plans they are given to the GIS Specialist, who then draws the data in GIS.  This current workflow has a duplication of efforts, and the turnaround time can be quite high. 

To alleviate this slow turnaround time, a city engineer and the GIS Specialist worked together to determine if there was a more efficient workflow that could be used to get the location information and data from CAD to GIS.  It was determined that that if the engineer was to use a pipe network, which is a component of the CAD software, when entering their plans that data could easily be moved from CAD to GIS with little to no manual effort needed on the GIS side.  Pipe networks allow engineers to utilize what’s called a part catalog, which stores more information about the features being installed than if they were simply drawn in.  Using the pipe network allowed the GIS staff to export the network using a process provided by the CAD environment and then import the data directly into GIS. 

This process saves a significant amount of time and also removes the duplication of effort since the utility information is only being drawn once.  To further improve this process GIS staff will collaborate with all the city’s engineers to build their pipe network catalog to contain as much useful information as possible, which will allow it to integrate seamlessly into the GIS database structure.