Geospatial Business Spotlight: MRB Group

Company Name:        MRB Group

 Locations:                  New York: Rochester, Syracuse, Elmira, Seneca Falls
                                     Texas: Austin, Temple

Website:                      www.mrbgroup.com

Employees:                55

Established:              1927

For many New York State local governments, GIS is not just a flashy map or application. It is a tool to manage vital records focusing on real property, development, and infrastructure.

MRB Group has been helping local governments implement GIS solutions for almost two decades.  Across the Empire State and learning from the experience in working with over 120 communities, MRB professional staff understand that the help of a GIS consultant can often be the difference between GIS becoming an indispensable management and decision-making tool versus a burden on staff.

The GIS team at MRB Group works alongside in-house engineers, architects, and planners to turn completed utility construction projects into permanent records in an enterprise and sustainable GIS program.   Once automated, local government managers can track the age, maintenance, and condition of utility infrastructure assets. Recent geospatial focus has been assisting local governments in leveraging smart device (phone) technology and expanding mobile GIS applications.  Municipal workers achieve a high level of efficiency when given the ability to view utility and assets on these devices and create/track inspections and work history in the field or in the office.   Additional MRB Group geospatial services include, tax map maintenance, ArcGIS.com account administration, contracted GIS support services, pavement management, EPA Municipal Separate Storm Water Systems (MS4) compliance, fire department pre-plan mapping, comprehensive plan mapping, and integration of survey GPS, 3D laser scanning, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and drone technologies.

Products and Services

City of Auburn

The City of Auburn is using the ArcGIS Collector app on Apple iPads to send multiple crews in the field for annual inspection and testing of 1,200 fire hydrants. The Fire Chief uses a desktop map viewer built with ArcGIS Web AppBuilder to monitor the status of field crews. When each inspection is finished, the hydrant symbol changes color on the map to indicate to all crews and the Fire Chief of its completion. (Figures 1 & 2).

Figure 1:  MRB ArcGIS Collector apps support fire hydrant inspection in City of Aubur

Figure 2:  Auburn fire hydrant inspections being conducted by fire department personnel.

Village of Avon

The Village of Avon is using the ArcGIS Collector app on mobile devices to actively mark and track the location of water pipe leaks and breaks. Over time, this will provide village officials with critical information to spot trends and to plan for necessary capital project improvements. The application also enables staff to enter notes about the repairs completed and attach pictures (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Village of Avon uses a MRB mobile app to assist in managing water system infrastructure assets.

Town of Ontario

The Town of Ontario was an early adopter of mobile GIS technology for managing its MS4 storm outfall inspections. Since 2013, the town has used the ArcGIS Collector app to visit each of the Town’s outfalls to monitor for illicit discharges, verify structural condition, and note maintenance requirements (Figure 4).

Figure 4:  The Town of Ontario deploys MRB developed apps to support MS4 regulatory programs.

Town of Penfield

Having seen significant growth in recent years, the Town of Penfield contracted with MRB to build a web and mobile-friendly application which would provide a public-facing GIS viewer for residents, businesses, and developers. The viewer includes information relating to zoning districts, agricultural districts, environmental protection areas, and purchased development rights, among other spatial datasets (Figure 5).

Figure 5: MRB develops apps for publishing geospatial data for the general public, business, and developers

Town of Canandaigua

The Town of Canandaigua is in the process of completing a Parks and Recreation Master Plan. An ESRI Story Map template was selected to create a GIS map of all the parks and recreation opportunities in the City and Town of Canandaigua. The application enables residents to click on points of interest on the map, see facility information, and generate driving directions.

MRB web apps create easy-to-use web viewers for identifying local government parks and recreation facilities

Summary

With a principal focus on municipal services, MRB Group provides local governments with professional engineering support for day-to-day operations focusing on water and wastewater treatment, and public works services. The GIS team at MRB Group is committed to creating solutions to help implement modern mapping technology into an understandable and useful tool for municipal workers across the Empire State.

For more information on MRB Group geospatial products and services:

Contact:
                             
Daniel Allen, GISP
MRB Group
585-381-9250
dallen@mrbgroup.com

 

 

GPS Telematics for Fleet and Mobile Workforce Management

Several of my posts over past 18 months have focused on a core set of applications which I have seen evolve over the past three decades that serve as the cornerstones for many New York State local and county government geospatial programs.  Increasingly and central to many of these geospatial program areas is the “mobile” component albeit much of the attention to date has been on “field/handheld” hardware and software components for both spatial data collection and updates.

Increasingly  it is becoming recognized  another mobile collection technology can add value to  an organization’s work force and business systems productivity.  Originally referred to as Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) systems, this technology got its start decades ago focusing on the capture (mapping) of a vehicle’s location and display in a GIS or similar digital mapping system. These early systems were expensive and not widely used outside of business and industry.

Over the last five or more years,  fleet managers have increasingly adopted “AVL” technology to assist in the management of  fleet assets especially with availability of lower cost hardware components which connect  to vehicle On Board Diagnostic (OBD) ports.  This capability supports fleet managers with a wide range of metrics  providing  odometer/mileage readings, engine idling, vehicle usage and a variety of other vehicle related information.  Now recognized as “GPS Telematics”, this technology has become more affordable and accessible to a larger range of government agencies and organizations.  This modern use of the technology centers around the use of M2M (machine to machine) and telematics technologies.

Benefits of GPS Telematics

To date, much of the work focusing on capturing and analyzing data associated with field resources has been done the “old way”, i.e., capturing and recording the data by human fingers.  Historically, this method is fraught with inconsistencies. Machine-to-machine (M2M) data capture on average is far more accurate and consistent.

Fleet telematics monitor the location, movement, status and behavior of a vehicle and associated field resources.  This is achieved through a combination of the  GPS telematics device which is installed in each vehicle transmitting  location based data via wireless networks to web servers for near real time availability.  Users access location, movement and status information and metrics of vehicles via special web-based software applications or through existing in-house “vehicle tracking enabled”  business applications.  In essence, GPS telematics systems become platforms to collection and transport valuable mobile resource field information and activities.  In addition to locational data,  fleet telematics solutions provide the status of each vehicle and by extension the corresponding crew an inference of  ongoing work accomplishments and assignments to field resources.  Managers know how each vehicle is being used as well as mileage, idling status, location and speed.  Such systems can be extended to be connected to onboard systems and sensors which log activities such as street sweeping, plowing, spreading, and spraying – workflows which are particularly challenging to capture and document by hand during the normal course of business.  While Return-on-Investments (ROI) can and will vary greatly, calculating the benefits of investing in fleet telematics technology can now be  based on factual metrics such as improved routing and dispatching, reducing labor costs, improved fuel and vehicle usage, and newer more cost-effective system architecture (Cloud). Continue reading

2017 NYS Spring GIS Conference Specials

The last couple weeks I’ve been engaged in the following cutting-edge enterprise geospatial issues:  (1) staring at the sky on a daily basis,  (2) monitoring the temperature, and (3)  hoping the remaining snow to melt and the leaves to hold off in budding – both at the same time.  After nearly 33 years in County government and its boiled down to this! Why?  So we can get our aerial photography flown over the next 10-days to support our 2017 countywide base map update.  The heavy snow March 14th really set us back and the window to capture the photography is closing quickly.

So at any rate, its been easy to lose track of upcoming Spring 2017 regional one-day GIS conferences and meetings over the next 4-6 weeks.  Most of the Spring 2017 shows are held in locations accessible via a maximum 2-4 hour drive from furthermost parts of the Empire State, offer a wide range of geospatial topics and presentations, provide excellent networking opportunities among colleagues and industry representatives, and are generally light on the wallet.    For those unable to make or justify the big lift of getting to the uber ESRI conference in San Diego later on in the summer and/or chasing GISP certification credits these venues are for you.

Sounds sweet, right? So consider the following and get your travel approvals in order:

GIS-SIG 26rd Annual Conference, April 11th, Burgundy Basin, Pittsford, NY.  Unfortunately I cannot make GIS-SIG this year as it is one of my most favorite statewide one-day shows.  GIS/SIG provides the premier geospatial professional forum in the Rochester/Genesee Finger Lakes/Western New York region for GIS practitioners focusing on trends and policies relating to new geospatial technologies and current projects.  With a loyal following, the size and content of the GIS/SIG conference is broad enough to often substitute as an annual state conference for many GIS practitioners in the western half of the state. This year’s conference again includes vendor displays and an agenda covering topics such as mobile data collection, drones, 3D GIS, and ESRI software updates, as well as a keynote address from Dr. John R. Schott, founder of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).  Corporate sponsorship keeps the price tag of an individual registration at under $100 for the day which also includes lunch. Online registration is still available and while you are at the GIS/SIG website you can also see the many resources and links GIS/SIG provides to its user community.  This is a great show and if you have the opportunity to attend. Highly recommended.

Long Island GIS (LIGIS)  2017 Spring User Conference, April 26th, SUNY Farmingdale, Farmingdale, NY.  LIGIS meetings and conferences have grown in structure and content over the last few years and this spring’s April 26th meeting will continue to illustrate the improvement among the Long Island GIS stakeholder user community.  Scheduled presentations from government, academia, and industry are on the agenda including topics covering mobile applications, MS4 data collection, 2020 Census Bureau update, and GIS & hydrofracking among others. Located in central Long Island on the SUNY Farmingdale campus, this is a not-to-miss conference on “the Island” for those with limited travel budgets.  Make plans to attend.  Those interested in attending can monitor conference specifics at the LIGIS homepage.

Northeast Arc User Group (NEARC) Meeting, May 15th, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.  Spring NEARC meetings are conveniently located in Amherst, MA which is easily accessible to the Albany Capital District and GIS professionals in eastern New York State.  Unlike GIS – SIG, which is software vendor independent, this show is very much ESRI centric and packed with high quality user presentations. Even though only one day, the show has grown to be so popular that it now competes with the larger multi-day GIS shows and conferences across New England.   Price tag for attending:  $65 which includes lunch.  If you can afford an overnight, activities the evening before downtown Amherst and a hotel room at the UMass conference center make it even more worth your while. (As of the day of this blog post 4/4 the May 15th agenda was still in development; I did submit an abstract!).  Registration will open mid-April.  If your organization is an ESRI shop – this is a Spring show not to miss.

Westchester GIS User Group Meeting, May 11th, Purchase College, Purchase New York. As one of the largest geospatial meetings in New York State, the Westchester GIS User Group Meeting is a free one-day conference held at Purchase College. Made possible by financial support from exhibiting vendors and conference facilities provided by the college, the draft 2017 agenda  features user presentations from County government,  Westchester County municipalities, nonprofits including the Goodlands Project, and ESRI. There is also free conference training: At lunch “Leveraging Suvey123 for Mobile Data Collection” with instructor Larry Spraker and post-conference “Getting Started with How to Build Great Web Apps” with ESRI’s Mark Scott.   Also, sponsors get to present 5-minute “Lightning” talks over the course of the day.  The Purchase College location provides easy one-day access across the metropolitan NYC area, as well as the broader lower Hudson River Valley and southeastern Connecticut. Agenda and other meeting  specifics – including registration – are available from the Westchester County GIS website.

Other Venues:  If you are in the Metro NYC area don’t forget to check the GeoNYC Meetup calendar for ongoing meetings across the city. Subject matter and participation is pretty amazing.  And/or the many other geospatial related Meetups in the region covering big data, data visualization, agriculture mapping, and everything inbetween including drones. A little further removed geographically from the Empire State is the Northeast Geographic Information Society (NEGIS) conference on April 27th in Ashland, MA. You can follow and learn more about NEGIS via their blog.

The entire Empire State GIS community is fortunate enough to be close enough to a range of regional geospatial meetings and conferences which are accessible from most areas of the state and provide many of the same benefits of larger shows and not nearly as expensive.

Safe travels!

GIS Common Core Part 3: Health and Human Services (HHS)

Through a sequence of articles posted in eSpatiallyNewYork, I have proposed a series of GIS applications which provide a framework for establishing and maintaining  GIS/geospatial programs in local  governments (villages, towns, cities, and counties) across  New York State.  These applications areas are referred to as the Geospatial Common Core, many of which are integrated with local government office and administrative business systems.  Others are utilized in the support of regulatory reporting programs.    Together, the Geospatial Common Core contribute towards building sustainable geospatial capacity for local governments.   This is the third installment of the series.

“GIS Common Core” application areas in New York State local governments

The first article entitled Part 1:  Infrastructure and Asset Management focused on the growing and critical role local government GIS geospatial programs continue to serve in rehabilitating and maintaining the decaying and outdated New York State – and national – public infrastructure.  The second article Part 2:  Work Orders, Permitting, and Inspections (WOPI) published in March 2016 focused on geocentric software packages which are ubiquitous in government programs supporting work flows in areas such public works, health, planning, clerk, assessment, buildings/code enforcement and inspections.  Organizations investing and integrating WOPI systems with GIS will continue to help build long-term sustainable geospatial programs in local governments.

Part 3:  Health and Human Services (HHS)

Health and human services can often be broadly defined from one location to another but for the purposes of this article it includes a wide-range of government programs including, but limited to, public health services, social services, public assistance, youth and veterans programs, disability programs, housing and homeless services, child protection services, as well as the important network of contracted service providers governments rely upon in providing counseling and related support services.  I have long been an advocate of building geospatial capacity in these local government program areas.

Why?

Statewide local government HHS budgets typically dwarf other local government operational program areas with regard to annual appropriations.  While I am not a budget analyst and admittedly it’s sometimes difficult to follow the money trail of appropriations vs. revenues vs. actual tax payer costs in county budgets, here are a few examples to illustrate the size and magnitude of HHS programs in a selected 2017 NYS county budgets (Data/information from County webpages as noted):

  1. Stuben County 2017 Budget. (Page 3).  Pie chart indicates nearly 47% of the appropriated budget dedicated to Health and  Economic Assistance/Opportunity (includes Social Service disciplines) program areas
  2. Ulster County 2017 Budget. (Pages 1 & 2). Table and pie chart indicate nearly 42% of the appropriated budget dedicated to Public Health and Economic Assistance/Opportunity program areas
  3. Erie County 2017 Budget. (Pages 93, 159, and 174). Appropriations (rounded in millions) in Health ($86M), Mental Health ($47M) and Social Services ($591M) account for almost 50% of the $1,455,000,000 recommended general fund budget.  (Note:  There are other references to the 2017 budget being closer to $1.7B). Either way, HHS budgets are a significant portion of the overall county budget
  4. Albany County 2017 Budget. (Page 34). Employee Count table lists 657 of 2,535 County employees (26%) are in the Child, Youth, and Family Services (170), Social Services (308), Mental Health (90), and Dept. of Health (89)
  5. Suffolk County 2017 Budget. (Pages 101 and 366).   Appropriations (rounded in millions) in Health Services ($249M) and Social Services ($628M) account for nearly 30% of a recommended $2.9B budget
  6. Monroe County 2017 Budget. (Pages 157 and 275).  Appropriations (rounded in millions) in Human Services ($536M) and Public Health ($62M) account for nearly 50% of an adopted $1.2B budget
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2017 GeoCon Wish List: Part 1

I first wanted to publish this article initially as a wish list to the GIS Santa Claus in early December, but the holidays came and went so I am now submitting it as a New Year’s wish list (Part 1) for the 2017 GeoCon  in Lake Placid.  There will  be other suggestions over the next several months and I’ll remain cognizant  what I wish for as I may be submitting an abstract to present myself.  Maybe.

So to start the discussion, here is an initial list of  ten geospatial mapping applications and program areas I’d like to send a speaker invite to for the 2017 GeoCon – and why.

NYS Office of the Attorney General:  New York Crime Gun Analysis https://targettrafficking.ag.ny.gov/tool/

While mapping continues to be one of the primary end products of GIS analysis, geospatial data is increasingly being used in a wide range of data visualization platforms such as Tableau.    I’d welcome the opportunity to attend a presentation by the Office of the Attorney on the Crime Gun Analysis report outlining data collection, data analysis, and the rendering of the data through maps, tables, and charts.  Not the normal GIS menu.

New York State Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/

In context of geospatial, this program reference isn’t so much about “what it is”, as opposed to more about “what it isn’t”.  Or at least I think.  From my level, the REDC framework has always been somewhat of a mystery since current state administration created the 10 Regional Councils in 2011.  And even more confusing that the geography of the REDCs do not coincide with the statewide Regional Planning Commission boundaries. That said, there is an incredible amount of geospatial information and analysis in the Council’s underlying mission.  Everything happens somewhere.  And there is a ton of money coming through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process which I believe the GIS community should be more engaged and recipients of to some degree. Uber opportunities for web mapping applications, Story Maps, and GIS-produced maps for publications though one would be hard pressed to see any real evidence of a professional GIS touch in any of the Council products and services.   I looked through four regional 2016 “progress” reports (Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes, Capital Region and Southern Tier and found very limited reference to GIS/geospatial technologies.   Some kind of presentation by one of the REDCs and/or regional GIS personnel involved in this program would be most informative for the statewide GIS community.  Otherwise I doubt we’re going to hear anything through the state GIS program office on this.

511NY
https://www.511ny.org/

This is more of a selfish request than anything because I really don’t fully understand the makings and how 511NY operates in context of GIS/geospatial data collection, sources, work flows, or even development of their applications including the online mapping stuff.  I do know it’s big, visible, seemingly growing in functionality, supported by a mess of New York State transportation agencies -even though it has its own .org web address.  It also creates a lot of data which would be useful to consume and use in local government web mapping applications.   I’d be the first one to sign up to hear how it all comes together, funding, sources of the data (including what is being taken from and/or generated at the local level), opportunities for collaboration with local GIS programs, and what’s next.  How long before we see an Uber icon on the 511NY homepage to help support trip planning?

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NYS 2016 Geospatial Legislation: The Beat Goes On

Have been a little remiss in the blog content space of late and now trying to play catch up with a couple articles and stories in the works albeit nothing finalized.  With August typically being one of the slower months across the board, it’s always a good time to take a step back and see how the geospatial/GIS profession is growing across the state in context of making its presence known  or at least recognized and referenced in the legislative arena.   This year’s summary provides a little more fodder for discussion and content than in the past couple years – even to the point of dulling the urge to write in that very special way about one of my other favorite New York summertime geospatial topics:  The Geospatial Advisory Committee. The GAC.

State of the State

Always appropriate to start at the beginning of the year with the Governor’s State of the State “Built to Lead” themed speech (January 13th) which did offer some optimism – albeit indirectly – for investment and growth opportunities in geospatial technologies across the state.  Most notably with references in the areas of infrastructure development.  Even though many of the investments itemized in the speech are for major public facilities such as LaGuardia, the Jacob Javitz Center, and Penn Station – btw to the tune of $100 billion –  there is still room for enthusiasm in the GIS community hoping that even small portions of the $100 billion investment can trickle down to local government geospatial  programs to  support bridge and road management initiatives, public water/storm/sanitary systems rehabilitation projects, evolving resiliency projects, and many other infrastructure related efforts.  And best of all, providing funding opportunities for the many deserving GIS and civil engineering businesses which continue to support and help build statewide geospatial capacity. While it’s almost certain that the $100B funding is spread out over many appropriation bills, one can see the magnitude of the statewide infrastructure focus and priority by performing a keyword search on “infrastructure” in the New York State Bill Search form. Results? Fifty-seven bills match the search criteria.  Granted, not every bill is specific to geospatial & infrastructure – but it’s a damn good starting point for the statewide geospatial community.  And you can be well assured our brethren in the engineering, surveying, public works and aligned disciplines are already well engaged in tracking down the funding.  And btw, if you’re really interested and by comparison, do a similar search on keywords such as geospatial, mapping, geography, or GIS – and make note of the search results.  I’m by no means an expert in using the form, but by using it only casually, one can get a sense of the potential funding sources.

As in past State of State speech agendas, the governor makes reference to other should be GIS staple disciplines such as economic development (REDCs: Regional Economic Development Councils) and tourism – two very high level and visible government programs which the statewide GIS community has yet to make broad and sustaining inroads with.  Granted the current state administration’s REDC organizational chart is problematic in that these boundaries do not coincide with the existing NYS Association of Regional Councils boundaries, GIS-based economic development and tourism websites should continue to be a top priority for every county and/or regional planning commission across the state.

 2016 Bill Search

Certainly not an exhaustive list, but the following does provide a general flavor of the types of  geospatial/GIS-related bills which were either newly introduced or carried over from previous years.  Search results included:
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10 Questions: Dale Morris

Dale Morris is one of New York State’s most recognized and senior GIS statesmen.  With a distinguished civil service career spanning 38 years, he has contributed significantly to the NYS GIS community in many capacities to say the least of directing one of the most established GIS programs in the state at Erie County – and its far reaching influence in western New York.  Ten questions seemed like a slight to an individual with such a body of professional work, so the eSpatiallyNewYork editorial team gave him permission to push it to 15 questions. Or something like that.  Enjoy.

eSpatiallynewyork:  How long have you been with Erie County?

Morris:  I’ve been in the Department of Environment and Planning since 1981. Prior to this I worked as a Planner for the Town of Amherst, NY and before that the Erie and Niagara Counties Regional Planning Board. I graduated from Cornell University with a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning in 1977.

eSpatiallynewyork:  When did you start doing GIS work?

Morris:   Working initially as a Planner for Erie County presented  many opportunities for making and using maps. In the 1980s we were still using Mylar, zipatone, and Leroy Lettering Sets for making maps, which is tedious, time consuming, and not easy to change. I began to investigate the world of digital mapping, which was still in its beginnings as a desktop product. I started with the DOS version of MapInfo. I recall how amazed we all were that we could do something as simple as draw the County and municipal boundaries on-screen. Looking back on it now it all seems so rudimentary!  Regardless of how basic it was, my Division became known for our ability to make computer drawn maps. At that time there wasn’t much concern about the database behind the maps- it was enough to be able to draw and edit maps digitally rather than by hand.

As desktop mapping grew in popularity through the 1990s a number of County departments began independently looking into it. This usually resulted in them calling me to ask for advice or data. Of course, this also meant that everyone was using different systems, and at that time it made exchanging data between systems very difficult or impossible. It was a classic case of disjointed silos of data and applications.

A change in County administration in the late 1990s brought new management in our department, and I was challenged to prepare a white paper for moving the County further forward into the digital mapping world. I proposed creating a new County Division that would be empowered to centralize decisions relating to geospatial technology (by then we could use terms like “geospatial” without getting blank stares!). The Office of Geographic Information Services (OGIS) was born in 2001, and I have been the Director since then. So for me personally, my career started with both feet in the urban planning field, then a gradual shift to one foot in planning and one in digital mapping, and then finally both feet in GIS. I do very little “typical” planning anymore, even though OGIS is part of the Planning Division.

While OGIS is an Office within the Department of Environment and Planning, only a portion of our work is related to this department. We work very closely with our IT shop to maintain and operate the County’s GIS technology infrastructure, and with other departments and outside agencies who either use our enterprise GIS technology or who need direct assistance with their mapping needs.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What’s the relationship between your office and Niagara County?

Morris:  We have a formal Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) with Niagara County for GIS Services. The agreement is for a five year period and we are well into the second of these five-year agreements. Erie County hosts Niagara County’s geospatial data and provides on-line mapping services to Niagara County. The two counties are connected by a high-speed microwave link, which operates very well. In essence, Niagara County is simply like any other Erie County department that taps into the Erie County enterprise GIS network. In addition to providing Niagara County this service for a fee, the IMA provides a framework for backup of GIS data between the two counties, and as well defines a GIS “mutual aid” protocol for sharing of GIS resources and staff in the event of an emergency.
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Queensbury Geospatial: A Model for NYS Town Government GIS

Northbound New York State Northway Exit 20 leads to the Town of Queensbury which is the seat of Warren County.  With a 2010 population of 27,901 the town covers nearly 65-square miles including shoreline along Lake George and lands within the Adirondack Park.  Further into town, several of the usual NYS town government program offices are located at 742 Bay Road including staff and resources which support the town’s geographic information system (GIS).

GIS Background

Prior to 2002, Queensbury officials had worked with consultants to establish initial GIS capacity including the creation of ArcIMS applications and investing in multiple ESRI desktop licenses.  In 2002, the town’s GIS initiative changed significantly with the hiring of George Hilton.  Hired as a GIS Specialist and planner, George was brought onboard to build and advance the town’s  GIS program.

Prior to arriving in Queensbury, George had honed his GIS skills while a student at Central Connecticut State University and later in government positions  in the Denver and Kansas City areas as well as three years with Westchester County.  Now, 15-years after his arrival, George oversees a program which can be considered an exemplary NYS municipal government GIS program.

Current Queensbury Geospatial Products and Infrastructure        

George designs, codes and maintains the Town’s Interactive Mapper (Firefox and IE only) and a host of other ArcGIS.com map viewers including Fire and EMS, Planning and Zoning, and Phase II Stormwater Infrastructure.    He also supports emerging mobile mapping and data collection efforts which includes Trimble GPS units with Trimble Positions to collect data and update feature services and Geodatabases in the field.  The town also collects data (hydrant inspections, site inspections) with ArcGIS Collector using feature services and make maps available through ArcGIS Online.

The Town of Queensbury Interactive Mapper includes many locally developed datasets as well as data from other authoritative sources including Warren County, NewYork State and the Adirondack Park Agency.

The Town of Queensbury Interactive Mapper includes many locally developed datasets as well as data from other authoritative sources including Warren County, NewYork State and the Adirondack Park Agency.

Other software components – much of which has been self-taught – George uses inlcludes Sybase (RPS) and SQL Server with ArcSDE as well as ArcGIS Server, ArcSDE, ArcGIS (Advanced), and Spatial Analyst.  The town is currently at ArcGIS Server 10.22 and are testing 10.4 with plans to upgrade very soon.  He also works with QGIS and Global Mapper from time to time.  Global Mapper has been particularly helpful in importing updated USGS topo quads (DRGs) in GeoPDF format into our GIS.

The Queensbury GIS program has grown from primarily providing support to the Planning Department to becoming a very important resource for many departments across town government.  Both the Town Board and Town Supervisor are very supportive of GIS and recognize how much of an important tool GIS has become to the Town.

Parts of the Town of Queensbury is actually within the Adirondack Park and therefore subject to stringent land use regulations. This image highlights zoning districts on the southeastern shore of Lake George – within the park boundaries.

Parts of the Town of Queensbury is actually within the Adirondack Park and therefore subject to stringent land use regulations. This image highlights zoning districts on the southeastern shore of Lake George – within the park boundaries.

George maintains an excellent working relationship with Warren County GIS which is under the direction of Sara Frankenfeld where he obtains  parcel data.  The town creates town-wide datasets (zoning, subdivisions, hydrants, infrastructure, environmental, street centerlines, address points, etc) which are then shared back with the County. Referencing her ongoing GIS work with Queensbury, Sara explains:

“George is great to work with and especially in a rural environment where we don’t have any other full-time GIS staff within our respective local governments, it’s so helpful to have a colleague to bounce things off.  He’s a very good sounding board and when I’m considering starting a new project, I often call to get his thoughts.

 We’ve worked closely together on a number of projects.  We recently worked together to streamline the way e-911 addresses are assigned, and this has been a huge improvement to workflows in both of our offices, as well as in the Real Property office, the zoning/building inspectors departments, and the assessors’ offices

 Our current cooperative project is a NYS Archives LGRMIF grant funded project to make the SAM data, along with information about truss roofed structures (as required by a NYS law that went into effect 1/1/2015), and other relevant data such as hydrant locations, available to first responders via an Android/iOS app”.

George also works closely with several state agencies including the Adirondack Park Agency, NYS Parks and Historic Preservation, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and NYS Information Technology Services (ITS).  Queensbury Town Supervisor John Strough adds:

“Like today’s computers, I do not know how we lived without him. His GIS services have helped us map the town’s infrastructure structures, trail systems, historic places and many other location details that we absolutely need to comply with the needs of today’s municipal world. I am in his office requesting his services almost as often as am in my budget officer’s office, that’s how important GIS services have become to the town.

Broad User Base

The town enjoys a wide user base including ESRI desktop clients in Planning, Water and Sewer, Assessor, and Parks departments though George is commonly called upon to assist in more detailed data creation, analysis, and cartographic products throughout town government.  He also provides training for users in many local, regional and statewide agencies including the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Champlain Watershed Improvement Coalition of New York, and the NY State Conservation District Association at their statewide conference in Auburn and Syracuse.

Additionally, George provides maps and data analysis for many community groups, nonprofits, schools, as well as for other municipalities and quasi-governmental agencies in the area.   Queensbury if one of the few municipalities in the area with a GIS program and is often asked to provide support throughout the area.

Creating More Queensbury GIS Programs

While George brought years of GIS experience to the town when accepting  the job, his ability to advance the town’s GIS program has certainly been augmented by ongoing political and administrative support.  Such combination of experience, competitive salary, technical skills and political support is often hard to replicate –   or even find for that matter –  in small town governments across the Empire State.

The Town of Queensbury GIS program speaks to the importance of educating elected officials in the benefits and  importance of investing – both financially and institutionally –  in the role of geospatial technologies in small town governance.  While the Queensbury GIS solution might be considered a typical for similar-sized communities across the state, it nonetheless can be a model for the GIS community to aspire to and replicate.

Visit the Town of Queensbury website at http://www.queensbury.net or George Hilton directly at GeorgeH@queensbury.net.

 

10 Questions: David Bubniak

I’ve been going back and forth with David Bubniak for several months on doing a piece on his geospatial work and efforts with the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board (STC) where he has worked for over a decade.  Covering three counties – Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben – David’s GIS work with STC covers many program areas. A lifelong Southern Tier resident, he and his wife and their two sons live in Waverly,  New York.  David can contacted at gisstc@stny.rr.com.

eSpatiallynewyork:  How long have you been with Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board (STC)?

Bubniak:  I   started at STC in 2005 and worked here for a year. I left and went to work for James Sewall in the Elmira office (formally Weiler Mapping). I then returned to STC in 2008 and have been here since. Prior to STC, I worked for the Chemung County Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO)  in the early 90’s as a transportation GIS analyst. I then became the General Manager of Chemung County Transit. I then went back to doing GIS in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania for Northern Tier Regional Planning.  A good friend of mine is a surveyor and I worked with him on the side periodically over the years doing property surveys, deed research and construction layouts.  Those experiences have helped me significantly over the years understanding how to assist people with GIS. I am the only designated GIS person in STC office though we do have planners that use it often.

eSpatiallynewyork:  When did you start doing GIS work?

Bubniak: I started using GIS in 1993. I attended Mansfield University and graduated with a Geography degree with an emphasis in Planning. We used Atlas GIS for projects. I worked part time at the Chemung County Planning department right after I graduated in December 1994.  My first project was mapping senior citizen migration from rural areas back into the City of Elmira for the Department of Aging. When I started at the Executive Transportation Committee for Chemung County (Chemung County MPO) in 1995 I used Unix based  pcARC/INFO and AutoCad. I taught myself how to use both just by studying the manuals and using them for projects. I then started to use ArcView when it was released.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What GIS products do you now use/promote? 

Bubniak:  I use both web and desktop applications. I use ArcGIS server as well as ArcGIS online for my web apps. I do promote both web and desktop apps. I have people using ArcView, ArcReader and ArcGIS Explorer.  I have the Elmira Water Board using ArcGIS desktop with several departments accessing data over their network using ArcGIS Explorer (desktop). The Chemung County Stormwater Coalition uses a combination of ArcGIS online, local data, and data through ArcGIS server.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What agencies/organizations do you work with most closely?

Bubniak:  I do a lot of work for Chemung County departments and towns. I do get involved with the state from time to time. I function sort of as the GIS coordinator for Chemung County but not on formal basis. I work with the Stormwater Coalition, public works, Elmira Water Board, Real Property. I do work and assist several of the bigger towns in the county.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Tell us about the “Southern Tier Central Mapping Application for Local Governments”

Bubniak:  I have four basic parcel viewers. I have one for each county then one for the whole region. They all run the same data from a SQL database.  Chemung and Schuyler Counties connect their county sites to their SDG Imagemate Online application.  I have a Chemung County site tailored to soil and water, Public works and local code officials.  Many county departments and officials use it for their GIS. I have a bunch of project specific web apps I built using ArcGIS for Flash and Silverlight including one for the Keuka Lake Watershed,  a planning tool, and the Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan.  Those apps utilize other public services and data to cover the whole area. It really depends on the application and the need.

eSpatiallynewyork:  In your capacity with STC, what professions do you work with the most on a day-to-day basis? 

Bubniak:  In addition to my daily responsibilities with TC, I work with several other (government, county, local governments, nonprofits, what?) disciplines including engineering, public works, planning/economic development,  transportation, code enforcement and emergency services.   In many respects and functions I serve as a GIS consultant (though not paid as one) to many organizations and governments across the three county region.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Making maps anymore or is everything online now?

Bubniak:  Mostly everything has gone online, though I still make maps from time to time.  Well designed hard copy maps are always still needed for meetings and discussions.  There is no substitute.

eSpatiallynewyork: From your perspective and experience in the Southern Tier, do you think decision makers and elected officials value GIS technology as a necessity or a “nice to have”?

Bubniak:  For many years it was a “nice to have” and called a cool technology toy.   Though more recently the culture and understanding of geospatial technology has changed within government and among elected officials to considering it much more as a “necessary” tool.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Assuming money and administrative support were in place, what are a couple cost effective (and needed) geospatial applications which you feel STC could develop and available for the three county area?

I would like to have an application or applications similar to how the Town of Southampton, NY is making GIS services available on their website.  They have a fee-based viewer (ePortal).   for Land Manger GIS that was presented at the last New York State GIS Conference.

eSpatiallynewyork:  So what’s next?  What are you working on now?

Bubniak:  Chemung County has just purchased an ELA license from ESRI. I am going to be designing, building multi-user databases and setting up applications for the county. We are going to be implementing a true enterprise system and get away from our current departmentalized GIS systems.

I am currently working on an application to allow  Elmira City Council members to report issues they want resolved. This will be done on tablets and cut out a huge amount of paper work and will bring in a geospatial component at the same time.

Eventually we plan on getting social services involved.   Once we get this off the ground and get things going we are going to look how to improve services in this area of government.  While at Sewall we designed a web application for social services to locate day cares, employers, transit routes and client locations which I believe has potential for regional and county governments.

 eSpatiallynewyork:  So what are you doing when you are not working?

Bubniak:  For many years I competed in power lifting but hurt my shoulder and don’t participate anymore.   I enjoy the outdoors and hunt.    We bought a starter home  many years ago and since then I’ve completely redone the house doing all of the plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring, etc., myself.    It’s a great location on a dead end road and we own 40 acres.

Both of our boys – ages 9 and 14 – are involved in travel sports (baseball, track/cross country, Tae Kwon Do) so following them around to games and practices is one of our main “hobbies” now – which is all worth it.

NYS Local Government GIS Common Core: Part 1

At the 2015 NYGeoCon in Albany, I presented a paper focusing on several GIS applications which often support and justify GIS/geospatial development at the local level.  I refer to these applications and program areas as the “GIS Common Core” and it was my intent to use the presentation as a starting point to expand the discussion further as part of this blog.

While some of the GIS Common Core program areas are not new to the discussion, several factors have contributed to elevating these day-to-day GIS functional areas to the mainstay of local government geospatial efforts.  Though these factors and opportunities vary greatly across the state, some of the more obvious reasons why “GIS Common Core” applications are becoming the foundation of local government programs include:

  • Improved large-scale spatial data integration across key business applications (assessment-inspections-permitting-public safety-utilities)
  • Better address standardization as a result of E911 implementation
  • Significant improvements on the integration between GIS and AutoCAD technologies
  • Establishing capacity to fulfill ongoing/permanent regulatory and reporting requirements (MS4)
  • Broad deployment of software programs in which using/collecting/maintaining X,Y data is implicit and available by default; GIS/geospatial is often no longer considered an “optional” feature
  • Leveraging flexible, easy-to-use browser-based applications which are accessible in a wide range of environments, particularly in the growing government mobile work force.  A work force which expects maps anywhere anytime.
GIS Common Core application areas in local government

“GIS Common Core” application areas in New York State local governments

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