An Address is to a Location as a Social Security Number is to a Person

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

Mobile GIS Makes its Debut in Riverside

The Village of Riverside, IL has over 1,700 street signs within its 2 square mile municipal boundary, which equates to one street sign every 10 feet.  Combine the number of signs in town with a small, full-time public works staff, and the result is the management and maintenance of the street sign inventory being a cumbersome undertaking.  To assist with managing this inventory, the Public Works staff asked the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to create a process that would allow the department to store and update the inventory in a digital environment. 

Recently, a mobile GIS data viewing and editing application, called Collector, was released by a GIS software company called Esri.  The Collector application is available for use on the Apple or Android tablets already owned by the village, so no additional hardware costs were needed.   The licensing for this application is included in a bundle with the GIS desktop software licensing the village already pays for, which adds further value to the program without the need to spend additional funds.   The Collector application allows Riverside’s Public Works staff to update a sign’s location, maintenance, and condition information in the field as part of their everyday workflow.  More importantly when the staff member updates the sign information, the changes are seen instantly on the device and are available to staff throughout the village within 48 hours as a layer in the village’s web-based mapping application, MapOffice™.  Having the ability to make changes to the inventory digitally removes the need of owning and operating large format printers that are typically used for printing paper maps for use in the field and reduces the turnaround time for making the most up-to-date information available to all village staff.

GIS Assists with Sidewalk Condition Survey

The Village of Riverside, IL recently conducted a condition survey of all the sidewalks in the village as part of a larger sidewalk management plan, aimed at keeping the village’s sidewalks in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The survey was conducted by a third party sidewalk survey contactor and the data was collected using mobile mapping software and mobile smart devices. The final survey was delivered to the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff as a formatted Excel table with latitude and longitude coordinate readings captured from the mobile smart devices for each sidewalk square that was surveyed.  Using these coordinates, the GIS staff was able to easily map the survey locations and create products that can be used by local village Public Works staff when spot checking the sidewalk survey results.  The map products were also very helpful in providing information to crews that were hired to repair sidewalk that was in poor condition, displaying exactly where and what type of work needed to be done throughout the village.

Village in the Forest Leverages the Value of Mobile GIS

The Village of Riverside, IL is also known as the "Village in the Forest" because of its over 10,000 mature trees and its designation as Tree City USA by the US Forestry Service.  Tracking the maintenance and replacement of village trees can be a sizable task for the limited staff that is available.  By leveraging the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), GPS technology, mobile GIS editing applications, and smart tablet technology, maintaining the village’s tree information has become a much easier task for staff, resulting in a more accurate and reliable tree asset inventory.    

The mobile GIS editing application used by the village is available for use on Apple or Android tablets, one of which the village already owned. The software licensing for this mobile application is included as part of the yearly GIS software maintenance the village already budgets for, resulting in the village being able to leverage this technology at no additional cost.  The mobile GIS editing application allows the village forester to assess tree condition, location, and size and make changes to individual tree asset information stored in GIS while in the field. This helps keep the inventory as current as possible and provide all village staff with a reliable asset inventory to reference when answering questions from residents or contractors. This asset update process also helps staff with budgeting and decision making as they are able to create reports using reliable and current information. 

Village in the Forest Uses GIS to Conduct a Public Tree Census


The Village of Riverside is known as the Village in the Forest and is a National Landmark known for its natural conservation design boasting more parks per capita than any community in America and is nicknamed the Village in the Forest. Tree and tree management are an integral part of the natural landscape design of the village. With the infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer; tree inventory management has become more important than ever for the village. In the summer of 2013, the village forestry department conducted a census of village managed trees. With the assistance of GIS this census was able to be completed using village forestry staff as opposed to having to hire a contractor at an additional cost to the village. GIS was able to provide staff in the field with mapping data of already inventoried trees as well as other base data such as buildings for locating new trees. Along with assisting with the collection process, GIS also is being used to store and manage changes to the inventory. Having the tree inventory managed by staff helps to save the village money and it also allows the village to take ownership over one of its most important assets, it’s trees.

GIS Assists First Responders in Mutual Aid Calls for Service


During a local emergency response call, for something such as a fire
or EMS emergency, a responding local government community may call upon
the resources and emergency equipment of its neighboring communities to
assist. The most common call for service usually comes in the role of a
"back up" unit that will sit at the empty public safety location should
anything go wrong or should another emergency in the area arise. This is
a common occurrence, but it is not so common that “backup” first
responders have local site knowledge committed to memory. Geographic
Information Systems (GIS) is helping to support first responders by
providing location and site information for responders pulling up to a
foreign support community location.

Using a map application called MapOffice™, a custom layer showing
important locations within the neighboring community can be added and,
with the click of the mouse, first responders can see both where they
are going and important information related to that place. This
important information can include things such as where to park
equipment, how to access a building, and who to contact for further
assistance. This is important to have when arriving at a scene because
many times the only other people who know this information are out
responding to another call.

Utility Service Address Verification


Redevelopment, annexations, new construction, and even remodeling
often changes the distribution of services and consequently introduces a
record management workflow that needs to be coordinated between utility
service providers and municipalities. Periodically villages are
contacted to verify service addresses for electric and natural gas
utility companies. Most recently Riverside, IL administrative staff was
tasked by Nicor to review their gas service address list to verify all
provided addresses are in The Village and identify addresses that Nicor
may have been missing. This information is integral for the tax
reimbursement processes related to the Village’s utility tax ordinance.

Riverside’s Geographic Information System (GIS) provided
efficiencies in fulfilling this request because a fundamental dataset in
the GIS is the address information for the entire community. There are
tools within the GIS that make comparing the provided list against
known addresses a relatively quick process. Those tools were used to
highlight not only service location errors but also missing ones.

Without GIS the staff would have had to use a resource such as
their utility billing database to manually compare service locations.
Doing so would have been much more time consuming than the information
system approach used.

Water Sample Sites Mapping

​Communities everywhere are tasked with providing water samples to the EPA to meet public health compliance standards.  There are various elements the water is tested for and some are tested for more frequently than others.  The
Riverside, IL Water Department has utilized its Geographic Information
System (GIS) to highlight the distribution of the sample sites
throughout the community with the water system shown in the background.   Alternative locations for each site are mapped as well to be used for additional samples or as a substitute when needed.  The samples provided are tested by the EPA and reports are distributed to the public every year.​

Tree trimming planning


​Riverside, IL has earned the moniker “Village in the Forest” thanks to
its planned design along the Des Plaines River with curvilinear streets,
expansive parkways, and forested areas. The beautiful landscape that
is Riverside does require maintenance, specifically tree trimming, in
order to maintain tree integrity, appearance, and maximize safety. The
Village’s Forestry personnel are using their Geographic Information
System (GIS) to manage their tree inventory and plan trimming efforts.
Tracking annual maintenance and their corresponding priority areas gives
staff precise records of past activities. Mapping future efforts in
the GIS allows staff to modify their plans if funding varies and
continue to manage the areas in most need. Maps are generated and
distributed when the time comes for the maintenance service company to
do the work as well. This gives Village staff confidence there will be
no misunderstandings of what trimming is expected and where.