SAVINGS TO THE CITY: GIS improves department information accessibility, response time

COLUMBIA CITY — In order to improve communications between departments, the City of Columbia City will soon have the ability to access digitally organized information in a Geographic Information System (GIS) via computers, tablets or smartphones. “It’s time, efficiency and cost savings for the city as a whole,” said Mayor Ryan Daniel.Mayor Daniel said the system will allow for quicker access to information which will mainly benefit departments in their daily tasks. As a result, the system may prove to be beneficial to city residents.“In the event that a house is on fire, dispatch can tell the electrical department to shut off the electricity at the same time it tells firefighters where hydrants are located,” said Mayor Daniel.“The GIS touches basically every department,” said GIS Coordinator Dan Weigold. “Now it will all be available at the click of a button.”According to Drafting Technician Brad Smith, the GIS system integrates hardware, software and data for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.“For example, information can be attached to a feature, such as a hydrant or electrical pole, and all of its information can be easily accessed,” said Smith. “It’s an ongoing process. We’re always going to collect data so that part of it never ends.”Smith will be working to implement the new software, provide training, implement previously collected data and continue collecting data.According to Smith, the maps made with the GIS software have advantages compared to traditional mapping systems, including its ability to be shared among several users and its easy accessibility.“We also have a partnership with Whitley County that we can swap data instead of us both creating the same data twice,” said Smith.The City of Columbia City’s Board of Works and Safety recently approved $2,300 for software and server space to move the project forward. Additional maintenance fees will be added annually.“If it is being used by the different departments, I think that fee could be spread out,” said Mayor Ryan Daniel.Smith said some departments could have maps up and running in a matter of weeks, but it could be a year before everything is accurate on the maps.