Fast Forward to Better Service, Delivery, and Performance!

In October 2015, the city and village managers in the GIS Consortium approved a recommendation made by leaders from their communities, to negotiate with Accela for the purchase of their Customer Relationship Management solution (formerly PublicStuff). Prior to this recommendation, the communities engaged in this project were using a variety of methods to track requests for service. The common challenge was that they were unable to easily share the information with each other or with the public, and this wasted valuable staff time. This is a short explanation of key accomplishments the Citizen Service Request Workgroup made in just 1 years’ time, which is really something to celebrate! 


Negotiating a Win-Win Agreement with Accela 

By the end of January 2016, the communities approached Accela as a group to create a one-of-a-kind agreement. This agreement assists communities with receiving discounts on the annual subscription cost of the software, the cost per integration, the cost for add-on features, and a reduction in the percentage for future price increases. As a result of creating this unique agreementAccela benefits by onboarding many new clients at once, establishing stronger presence in Illinois, and lowering their cost of sales. 


Standards and Governance 

By the end of February 2016, the communities standardized a list of service request types and definitions. The group that spearheaded this effort worked diligently to ensure the standards mirrored what a typical resident would requestSome examples of these include: Fallen Tree Limb, Construction Concern, Graffiti, Tall Grass and Weeds, Street Light Out, and Water Quality Concern.  The solution offers communities the best of both worlds: structure and flexibility with the administration of the system  


8 Communities Launch Initiative in the First Year! 

A short six months into the initiative, four communities have already gone live with the system: Lincolnwood, Downers Grove, Riverside, and Des Plaines!  Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove, and Norridge are set to launch before the end of 2016Here is what a couple of them have to say since their implementation: 


Doug Petroshius, Assistant Village Manager in Lincolnwood says, “In Lincolnwood the CRM is enhancing communication by providing residents updates on service requests, by making it easy to access the village staff directory, and by receiving priority information from the village through push notifications. The Village of Lincolnwood app has also been well received by the Board members and other community leaders.” 


Megan Miles, Downers Grove Management Analyst says, Our staff found the system easy to learn and use, and that benefits our residents because we have a good tool that allows us to quickly find and relay information to them.” 


Planning for the Future 

Only a year ago, this project collaboration was merely an idea to solve two prevalent pain points: to enhance communication and service to residents, and to provide a more robust, user friendly tool for community staff. The leaders of this GIS Consortium initiative made these outcomes possible and we congratulate all of them for this tremendous accomplishment. The year 2016 produced robust advancementsand we can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!  

Take the Lead 

Discover, innovate, and collaborate with the GIS Consortium today! Contact your community’s GIS Specialist to discuss project opportunities, Consortium services, and GIS.  

If you would like to learn more about this initiative or if you have questions, please contact 


Author: Maria Storm, MGP Client Experience Manager

Mapping the Way to Easy Dining

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.

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.

Integrating Police Calls for Service into MapOffice™

​The Police Department in the Village of Morton Grove, IL is interested in seeing their crime data on a map for use in squad cars and at the station to inform their staff of what activities to watch out for as they conduct their operations. These activates are generated by any call for service made and then added to a database within their dispatch software. Due to the nature of this kind of data, the Police Department needed the map to be live, accurate, confidential, and user-friendly. A Business Intelligence connection was the best way to connect their dispatch software to the village’s internet browser based mapping application, MapOffice™ Web Access, so that the locations of activity are updated instantly. Further, a connection to MapOffice™ Web Access meant that police officers can view this data in their squad cars during and at the beginning of their shift to keep them updated on what’s going on in the community without needing to leave their patrols.

This direct connection required collaboration between Glenview Police, who dispatches for Morton Grove, Morton Grove Police Department, and the Morton Grove Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team to make the connection. The challenges in creating this connection were overcome by the dedication and willingness to work together to find solutions.

Now that the connection is made, there is no requirement by the GIS Specialist to perform any maintenance on the data, since the Business Intelligence connection reads directly from Glenview’s Dispatch. The Morton Grove Police Department sees everything they put into the database without a middleman. Also, since this operates under a MapOffice™ Web Access environment, it can be locked to only specific users, such as the Police Staff and won’t risk the public or other village staff accessing sensitive data. The Morton Grove Police Department is now capable of seeing the calls for service in their community at a glance and their patrol staff is now better and more quickly informed in the field.

Tree Asset Management Support

The Village of Morton Grove, IL recently undertook the challenge of creating a database of tree assets in their village, locating them and attributing these locations with size and species. Doing this allows for the village to conduct better asset management, including predicting more accurate maintenance times and creating a budget for tree operations. For this project, the Morton Grove Public Works staff recognized the value in collecting this data in a form that could easily be consumed by the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for display and analysis in a spatial environment.

The project started with department staff collecting an inventory of trees currently in the field, marking down information such as closest address, species, and canopy cover diameter, while also keeping these fields consistent with their internal department needs as well as with what was required for integration with a GIS database. This effectively doubled the efficiency of their collection efforts and allowed for a quick turnaround of the data being available in GIS for mapping and other analysis.  Now that they have a complete inventory of trees in a spatially enabled environment, Morton Grove is able to accurately predict and plan out projects involving trees more effectively using the actual location of the tree in the field.

Using the tree location information stored in GIS, staff can now view a tree inventory layer in the village’s web-based mapping application, MapOffice™, represented by species, size, or any other information that was collected in the field.  This saves staff time by preventing unnecessary trips into the field to identify this information, as well as providing information to assist with things like developmental permit reviews and other village processes. By taking a planned data collection process and integrating it early into a GIS environment, the Village of Morton Grove was able to increase the efficiency of their tree management efforts and ultimately gain a complete picture of their tree assets within the village.

Residential Impervious Surface Analysis

The Village of Morton Grove, IL has a regulation in place that allows the Village to govern impervious surfaces, which accounts for everything that is not grass, for residential rear yards, with only 50% coverage being the regulated limitation.  The village Zoning Administrator requested that the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department assist them with understanding the existing total impervious surface coverage for all parcels in the residential zoning districts.  The Department of Community and Economic Development would like to use this information to better understand the amount of residential impervious surfaces village wide and to use this information to craft regulations, public notices, and gain a better understanding of land use in the community.

Currently, the village does not require residents to record the type and amount of impervious surface in the rear yard of a property. To help determine what type and how much impervious surface exists, the GIS staff leveraged the existing buildings, driveway, and sidewalk data layers that exist for the village to determine what was present on each residential parcel. This provided a good base for an average impervious surface percentage to be calculated. The total area of buildings, driveways, and sidewalks per residential parcel was calculated and divided by the total area of the residential parcels to yield the percentage of impervious surface.

By leveraging existing GIS data to calculate this information, the village Zoning Administrator was able to get an approximate percentage of impervious surface per parcel in all residential zoning districts.  Without GIS, this type of analysis would have been very time consuming and most likely would have involved paying for a costly survey of the village.

Intelligent Utility System Asset Labeling

In the field, Public Works staff benefit from being able to locate utilities quickly and efficiently. Arbitrary utility asset labels on map, such as sequential east-to-west methods, may work well on paper, but are ineffective when it comes to identifying the actual location of a utility element in the field, such as a manhole or catch basin.  Leveraging the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the Village of Morton Grove, IL began labeling manholes on their utility system maps based on type, address range, and distance from major roads. Unlike traditional labeling methods, GIS can create a labeling system that delivers accurate location information within the asset ID itself that makes sense to those using those IDs in the field.

An example of this type of label is S8860-46-204.  Using this number, the user immediately understands that S stands for Sewer, 88 and 60 are the 8800 and 6600 address blocks for the surrounding streets, and 46-204 indicates that the manhole cover is located 46 feet from one street, and 204 feet from another.  This formula may be refined or altered to suit the needs of specific departments and may apply to most single location assets.  

Even without the complexity of the distance measures, this method is an excellent way to generate procedural numbers throughout a village or segmented by a grid.  Not only does this method eliminate the need to manually number each asset, it also means that new additions to the network can be added seamlessly.   Beyond utilities, this methodology can be useful for other village inventories with numerous features such as trees, street lights, fire hydrants and much more

Using GIS to Create Fire Hydrant Maps


One of the key qualities of a fire department’s staff is situational
awareness. When out on an emergency call they must work fast, effective,
and smart to ensure the safety of everyone around them. Part of that
comes from having the right tools in place to do the job well. The
Village of Morton Grove’s Fire Department recently called upon its
Geographic Information System (GIS) Department to assist them in
creating an updated fire hydrant map book to be used in the emergency
vehicles during calls.

Knowing in advance where the closest fire hydrant is located near an
emergency event saves staff critical time. By providing detailed maps,
which include addresses, the decision maker can quickly find the exact
location of a hydrant near where an emergency response vehicle is headed
and proactively create a plan of action. Without having these detailed
fire hydrant maps the Fire Department staff would have to visually
search the area around the event as they approached its location to
locate the nearest hydrant. By utilizing these hydrant maps, the
department is able to remove the need to visually locate hydrants and
focus their attention on effectively responding to the emergency event.

Using MapOffice to Retrieve Scanned Documents


Anyone would agree it is much easier to find what they are looking
for with a search on the computer rather than having to dig through
mounds of paper to find that elusive document. To combat the headache of
searching through old boxes or drawers to find a document, the Village
of Morton Grove purchased a document management application called
Laserfiche to electronically store paper documents for every department
in the Village. Documents can be scanned into folders for easier
retrieval and better organization than the old ways of stashing
documents in drawers and boxes. To expedite the document retrieval
process even more, the Village called upon its geographic information
system (GIS) to integrate a solution into their mapping application,

Since address based information is so predominant in local government
it was obvious integrating the two applications would be valuable not
only to save staff time but to break down the silos of information that
are stored within each application. Now that Laserfiche has been
integrated into MapOffice, a user can search an address and retrieve
that properties zoning and garbage pick-up day and with the click of a
button search Laserfiche for any documents stored in the system that
relate to that particular address. This empowers the user with more
information at their finger tips in one application rather than having
to perform multiple searches in multiple applications.