GIS Flushes Out Imperfect Water Quality

Hydrant flushing is an annual task that usually takes place in early spring and lasts approximately one month. Many may view this as a wasteful act or an inconvenience for commuters. However, it ensures the quality of water in village homes is free of discoloration, unpleasant taste and odor.

The build-up of sediment and deposits in the water distribution system causes these negative aspects. The most effective way to purge debris is through unidirectional flushing. This can be very taxing on Public Works departments because the locations of system valves, hydrants and pressurized mains must be identified prior to flushing. The Village of Wheeling, IL relies on unidirectional flushing and maps their entire water distribution system in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The GIS department in Wheeling created hydrant flushing map books to streamline the process for Public Works. (The image below shows a page in the map book.) Each page displays a specific flow boundary that isolates hydrants to their associated water main. Flushing empties the entire water main.

GIS also included the exact order each hydrant should be opened to maximize efficiency. (The red letters in the image below are the sequence for opening hydrants.) Utility map books are not uncommon in Public Works, but GIS provides the necessary customization so local government can more effectively serve the community.

Special thanks to Dustin Chernoff and Jeff Wolfgram in the Village of Wheeling Public Works for providing the necessary information.

Locate Your Polling Station

It is election season once again, and the frequency of residents contacting their community leaders for polling place locations will undoubtedly increase.  Generally this information is made available to the public in a static format, such as a paper document or map. The document will notify the voter of where polling stations are located and perhaps the precinct boundaries, but which is the nearest voting station and what precinct do you reside in? All of these questions can be answered in one application; Community Portal.

Community Portal is a user friendly GIS powered application that presents useful information that every resident within a community would find useful. When you search for an address within a community it will identify all of property information unique to that address. If a resident is intending to educate themselves before the election, Community Portal will provide information on all of their state and federal representatives along with the address of the nearest polling station. This information is dynamic, current and can always be relied on for its accuracy. The Village of Wheeling is discovering this is an easy way to conserve time and educate their community.

GIS Assists with Dispatch Expansion


The Board of Trustees in the Village of Wheeling recently approved a five-year agreement to take over emergency police dispatch services for the City of Des Plaines. Both parties are excited stepping forward, especially since both communities are members of GIS Consortium. The GIS Consortium is a group of local communities working together to develop geographic information systems (GIS) solutions that effectively reduce cost and risk.

GIS is currently assisting dispatch and police in both communities by supplying address ranges, jurisdiction information, and mapping incident locations. This GIS information is being shared with Wheeling’s Police Department to make their dispatchers and first responders more familiar with the City of Des Plaines. Familiarizing dispatch with an entire new community can be a daunting task, but the tools provided by GIS aid in the transition. Custom GIS layers were created for Wheeling’s Police Department that are displaying police beats, road ownership information, parolee and sex offender locations within Des Plaines. Information that would once take days or months to become familiar with is available instantaneously through GIS.

The use of GIS technology has allowed the Police Departments in both communities to continue their obligation to assist residents, all while making the service more affordable and less of a burden to maintain.

GIS Assists in TIF Redevelopment

The Village of Wheeling is in the process or reevaluating two TIF districts.  A TIF district is described to be an “instrument created by the State of Illinois to promote the economic development or redevelopment of high priority areas within a community.”1  There are many factors and variables that come into play when creating or adjusting a TIF district.  The GISC was able to assist the redevelopment process by performing a thorough analysis of parcels, PINs, and addresses that fall within the redevelopment boundaries.


Analysis was performed on Wheeling’s address data allowing us to select addresses that fell within the TIF boundaries and also addresses that fell within a specific buffer.  The GIS department was then able to export the addresses into an Excel worksheet for use in legal documents, public notices, and even labels for mailings.  This is another example of how GIS can provide an impact in a community by streamlining workflows and eliminating duplication of work. You can find more information about Wheeling’s TIF districts on their website.

GIS as a Tool for State Legislation Compliance


In compliance with the Medical Cannabis Act (MCA) that was passed in August 2013, in the state of Illinois, municipalities would like to identify areas of potential impact.  The MCA legislation outlines strict requirements for the licensing of medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers.  The state passes the enforcement and regulation of these businesses onto the municipalities.  

*The state guidelines are as follows:

Cultivation Centers– Cannot be located within 2,500 feet of a pre-existing public or private preschool, elementary school, secondary school, day care center, daycare home, group day care home, part day child care facility, or in an area zone for residential use.

Dispensaries– May not be within 1,000 feet of a pre-existing public or private preschool, elementary school, secondary school, day care center, daycare home, group day care home, or part day child care facility, or in an area zoned for residential use.

The GIS Department of Wheeling put together visual aids identifying how Wheeling is affected by the MCA legislation.  The process consisted of collecting the location data for all private and public schools and daycares within the village and neighboring communities as well as the zoning information.  A buffer was applied to each of them based on the distance outlined in the legislation.  With the buffered zones placed over parcels, the village was able to identify if and where cultivation centers or dispensaries were allowed to apply for licenses within the Village of Wheeling.

This is just the first step in identifying how the Medical Cannabis Act will affect the Village of Wheeling. The initial study by the GIS Department provides a starting point for this very complex process.

*This is a simplified explanation of the “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act” 

Sign Inventory Collection


The Village of Wheeling is currently in the process of collecting
data for a village wide sign inventory. Village workers are going out
in the field and marking the location of each sign and sign post along
village owned streets. The signs are then catalogued in a database with
any accompanying information and attributes. Eventually, the Village
will have a complete inventory that will then be accessible via
MapOffice™ Advanced, its online mapping software. This will allow
Public Works and Engineering employees to see the locations of signs in
the field and use that information for any current project. The GIS
Department was asked to help get the inventory collection off the

The GIS Department provided the Public Works Department with a series
of field maps broken down by each subdivision. Public Works employees
then went out into the field and used the maps to mark down the location
of each sign post and sign. These maps are detailed enough to allow
the field crews to place the exact location of each sign post within the
right-of-way along the streets. Each sign post then gets listed with a
number that corresponds with the sign type in a table provided by
Public Works. The sign posts and signs are then mapped out and
assigned an ID numbers that correspond allow the signs to be linked to a
post and to its attributes in an Excel table. Eventually the sign data
will be loaded into MapOffice™ Advanced, and village employees will be
able to click on each sign post to find out what signs are located there
and the accompanying attribute information. Without GIS, The Village
of Wheeling would have a more difficult time collecting the sign
information and would not have an intuitive way of viewing the
information going forward.

Comcast Address Review


In the past, The Village of Wheeling has helped utility companies,
such as NiCOR and ComEd, with their customer address data. They provide
the Village with a list of addresses that they have in their databases,
and those are then reviewed by the Village to determine whether the
addresses are valid or not. The addresses are then sent back to the
utility company with various notes on the addresses status of validity.
Last year, Comcast sent in its address database to be reviewed, and was
provided with a typical reviewed database in return. This summer,
Comcast sent a follow-up list with addresses that were not returned in
the original delivery, but had been listed as Wheeling addresses in
their databases. Also included in the delivery was a list of addresses
that may or may not have been annexed in the past 5 years. The
annexation date could have an effect on who received fees from Comcast:
Wheeling, a neighboring community, or Cook County.

The GIS Department used its existing address database to compare to
the one provided by Comcast. First, the Comcast addresses were mapped
out against the Wheeling database, and any discrepancies were noted.
Then, the addresses that did not match any known Wheeling addresses were
mapped out against the Village’s street address range, to determine if
they could be an address in the future or possibly a typo in the address
number. Finally, a detailed list was sent back to Comcast broken down
into three categories: Matched Address, Matched Street Range, and
Unmatched. For the annexation data, the addresses were mapped out and
compared to the Village’s annexation history data. The annexation year
for each area that addresses fell in was attached to the data. None of
the addresses provided by Comcast fell within the 5 year annexation time
frame. By using GIS, the Village of Wheeling is able to help Comcast
and other utility companies with cleaning up their address data and
ensuring that fees are paid to the correct authority.

Smart phone data field collection

​One of the features of Apple’s iPhone™, is the ability to set GPS
coordinates to any picture taken with the device. This option can be
activated in the phone’s privacy settings. This option allows photos
that are uploaded to sites such as Google Maps, to be placed in its
geographic location. A secondary aspect of this feature is that the GPS
coordinates from the photos can be uploaded into a GIS program using
the same concept of providing a point representing the image. The
Village of Wheeling Capital Projects Department is interested in using
the iPhone to tag pictures of various projects out in the field, and
then import the photo locations into GIS to then create maps of the

The GIS Department and a few members of the Capital Projects
department went to a neighborhood in the village to begin testing out
the GPS photo tagging functionality. Various pictures were taken of a
sidewalk project. The pictures were then taken back to the office and
uploaded onto the village computer system. A script was then run to
extract the GPS coordinates from each photo and place them into a
spreadsheet that could be then mapped using GIS. The results showed the
photo locations to be +/- 10’ from its exact location, giving them a
close, but not an exact accuracy level. The level of geographic
precision on the iPhone™ is usually lower due to its normal functions,
but the level works for the projects the Village plans on using the
device for. By using the GPS coordinates in the iPhone™, the Village is
able to map out photo locations and then display them online for
village staff.