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Electronic maps on horizon for county

August 27, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Imperial County is putting in place a system of electronic maps that will simplify each department's map services, making the maps available with the click of a computer's mouse.

The geographic information will be provided by a computer-based mapping system that allows building, storing, changing and display maps and information in multiple layers.

"It's a model of your county, like a train model in a computer, that changes over time," said Doug Mende, vice president of Information Systems Management Solutions of Redlands, which is working with the county on the project.

Right now each county department has its own paper maps. If the data is stored electronically, employees could get what they need all at once instead of going to each department to get the information, Mende said.

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The system is unique because it uses a base map on which layers of information can be added and updated as needed, Mende said.

Mende said, for example, once a base map is made, layers of information can be added, such as data on crime in neighborhoods, property values, tracking of road work, utility information, etc.

The base map is created when an aircraft takes a photo of the area to be mapped. Aerial photo targets, such as large X's that are painted along highways, are used as global positioning system control points.

Global positioning is a system originally developed by the U.S. military to identify specific points on Earth from satellites. It has a number of scientific uses and is sometimes used in high-end cars for computerized mapping.

"The base map's accuracy is all built around that control base," Mende said.

Once the base map is built, it will be maintained by the county Public Works Department, said Tim Jones, that department's director. The map will be adjusted as information changes, he added.

"The public works uses are unending," Jones said. "We can track data on where we last worked, changed roads and moved power lines."

Jones said a layer can be created so other government agencies and the public can access county data, possibly on the Internet.

The maps will particularly be useful for real estate agents and title companies, he added.

Maps with information on property values and parcel boundaries would be available to the county and for sale to businesses such as real estate companies, said county Assessor Jose M. Rodriguez Jr.

The assessor's office is responsible for those maps. Rodriguez is in the process of having the department's maps converted to electronic documents, which will be used to create the base GIS map.

"The cost of having the maps converted is $2 to $6 per parcel, depending on how accurate we want them to be," Rodriguez said, "and we want a high degree of accuracy."

He said the cost of converting the maps will be about $200,000 and the job is expected to be completed in eight months. The aerial photography will cost another $10,000.

Rodriguez said the rest of the costs for the GIS project will be budgeted in phases as county departments develop their sections of the map.

Staff writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or la_mitchel1@yahoo.com

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