By Travis Gulbrandson
The city of Vermillion is utilizing a computer program that promises to combine much of its infrastructure.
Using a geographic information system (GIS), data from the various city departments is being recorded on an electronic map that will provide easy access to its users.
“We can take all of the stuff that’s on paper now … and just put it all in one place for them to have,” said Todd Nordyke, GIS technician.
The water department is the first to have its information gathered.
Using a GPS pole equipped with a camera and antenna to collect data, city workers are creating an electronic map that indicates precisely where all they city’s fire hydrants, curb stops and water shut-off valves are located, as well as when they were installed.
“We put this map together so the water department could have it on their laptops in their trucks, especially if it’s a snowy day and they need to know where it’s at,” Nordyke said. “They can pull this out real quick and locate it with the aerial view, plus you have information underneath that they can pull up also that gives a description so they can pace off if they need to.”
City Engineer José Dominguez said the city started mapping for the water department first because the information was some of the most readily available.
“Everybody knows what a fire hydrant is, it’s easier to locate, it’s easier to identify, and all the information that we need, the water department already has, so we just have to move it from their Excel spreadsheets to this program,” he said. “What we’re learning here, we can apply to the other departments.”
Dominguez said the city is using a free download to complete the project.
“So, whoever in the city needs this for some reason, (they) can download this to (their) laptop and use it,” he said. “We just have to install the data.
“Eventually, our goal is for everybody in the city departments … to have either a laptop or something that they could utilize to find this information. It’s pretty user-friendly,” he said.
Nordyke said the city hopes to be able to do real-time updates in the future as the systems change.
“One of the useful things about GIS is you can keep putting on different layers, so you can have a water layer, a stormwater layer, a land layer with all the different land uses and zoning maps,” he said.
Dominguez said the utilities will be the primary focus of data collection at this stage, although the parks and trails could be incorporated at some point.
“Anything that might be relevant as far as zoning purposes, or the planning commission,” he said.
Vermillion residents may gain access to the maps, as well, Nordyke said.
“Eventually it would be neat to have a GIS map connected to the city Web site where we have parks, bike routes, zoning maps, points of interest in the city, restaurants and whatever things we want for tourism,” he said. “We can make (something like) a Google map, just a lot cooler and tailored toward what we have in the city.”