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.

Private Community Sign Ordinance Support

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. 

Adopt a Hydrant Seeks A Flood of Interest

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.

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.

Using GIS to Keep Unwanted Urban Critters in Check

Rodents, and rats in particular, are a persistent nuisance and potential health hazard in any urban area. If left uncontrolled, these critters multiply rapidly and wreak havoc on the environment they share with the larger human population. Communities must be proactive in keeping the rat population low.

The City of Park Ridge, IL sought an effective way to combat their growing population of rats. They called on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help with their efforts. GIS evaluated the locations in the city with the greatest number of rat complaints and sightings and the relation to paved/unpaved alleys. Using data collected over the past six years, numbers were mapped and a hot-spot analysis was performed. This analysis depicts locations on the city map in varying shades of color to show how dense or sparse rat populations are in a particular area based on the number of complaints received.

Drawing on this key data, the city’s health department determined which neighborhoods are most heavily affected by rats, and where and what number of bait boxes should be placed in sewers this spring. Due to GIS’s involvement in the project, the City of Park Ridge is confident they are targeting sectors with the greatest amount of rat activity and controlling the rising rodent population.

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 Streamlines Asset Management, in the Field and on the Fly

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is helping mobile workers capture and update information with ease. The public works department in the Village of Glen Ellyn, IL recently purchased Cartegraph OMS, a work order and asset management system. This new web-based system will enhance daily workflow in a number of ways. Now Public Works employees can quickly access inventories for different village assets – such as trees, street signs, and sign supports – and add to or edit them in the field. 

How did GIS assist with the development, quality control, and deployment of these inventories? First, existing GIS inventories were added into the Cartegraph OMS program. Then, users accessed an asset geographically within Cartegraph using the familiar MapOffice™ base map. They can look at it at a desk in the office or on a tablet in the field. In addition to viewing the asset, they can edit information about it add a new asset. 

Let’s say a forester sees a tree and discovers its location and diameter are wrong. Now he or she can correct it in the field using Cartegraph. The forester can also add a new tree based on a physical planting location plus any relevant attributes. Currently, trees, street signs, and sign supports can be edited in Cartegraph. Sewer, water utilities, and streetlights will be added in the next few months.

An employee’s ability to revise and add information right in the field makes a significant difference in asset management. It accelerates and improves the accuracy of inventories and enables data to be updated simultaneously in both Cartegraph and the GIS system. The result is timely information that can be easily accessed for quick fixes to maps and other data analyses.

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.