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New mapping system has big potential for county
[December 20, 2012]

New mapping system has big potential for county

JEFFERSON, Dec 20, 2012 (Star Beacon - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Commissioners want more elected officials, county departments and townships to tap into the potential of the county's new GIS maps.

The GIS, or Graphic Information Systems, software and hardware were purchased last year with a portion of the 9-1-1 parcel assessment. A primary use of the system is to guide first responders to addresses and give them pertinent information, such as the whereabouts of fire hydrants, for any given address. The county auditor's real estate department is caretaker of the mapping system and has a full-time GIS specialist, Tami Sulak, on staff.

Dennis DeCamillo, manager of that department, along with Auditor Roger Corlett and Sulak met with commissioners on Tuesday to discuss how the GIS maps could help other departments and Ashtabula County communities. For example, DeCamillo said he is working with the board of elections to provide an overlay, or layer, of information specific to voting precincts.

The layer, created from spreadsheet data, will help the board eventually develop booklets for precinct workers. DeCamillo said that is a pretty basic application, however. The real power of the system comes when turn-out data can be incorporated to show not just how many registered voters are in a precinct, but also predict what percentage of them are likely to vote. That kind of data can guide the board in re-districting of precincts.

Commissioner Dan Claypool said he wants other elected officials to tap into the power of GIS.

"We really need to let people know what is available and how to access it," Claypool said. "I suggest we send out an email and host a meeting. People don't understand, I believe, what is available to them." DeCamillo said the data available through the mapping system is public and his department can often provide it at no charge. However, creating a special map layer, to show the location of gas wells, for example, could necessitate charging for the service, DeCamillo said.

Janice Switzer, manager of the county's department of planning and community services, said her department is relying on Google maps when submitting grant applications. She said the department needs to tap into the county's map software, but the software the department uses is not compatible with the new GIS system.

Switzer said her department has some unused appropriations that could be used to start acquiring the hardware and software needed to tap into the data.

___ (c)2012 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio) Visit the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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