(Tribune News Service) -- Emergency services, municipal and development groups expect to reap the benefits of the county's new digital mapping system.
The geographic information system makes it easier to research information and view aerial images of the 70,000-plus tax parcels in Franklin County.
"I think the GIS initiative is one of the most significant investments the board of commissioners has made. It has brought Franklin County into the 21st century," said L. Michael Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corp. "The information that is available serves all facets of the county, from economic development to health care to emergency services."
Firefighters can know what to expect before they arrive on the scene. Businesses can make more informed decision on where to locate. The county can track where services are needed.
An early advocate of the system, FCADC secured a $60,000 grant in 2010 to help establish GIS in the county.
In 2011, commissioners approved a $744,720 contract with Sidwell Co. to develop the system. In conjunction with the project, commissioners last year approved a $402,656 contract with Pictometry International Corp. to collect aerial imagery data.
The county collects a fee on deeds and mortgages filed in the courthouse to offset the cost of technology upgrades.
"The UPI (Uniform Parcel Identifier) system will pay for it, if not the lion's share," said Commissioner Robert Ziobrowski. "I'm very pleased with the way it worked out."
Through a public website, users can look up public information on land parcels, such as the assessed value, sale price and date, and other details. The website includes the name of property owner, but web users cannot search by name.
The map shows property boundaries, municipal lines, flood zones and other features. Chief Information Officer Sean Crager said the resolution of the aerial imagery is not high enough to recognize people or license plates.
Partner agencies will have access to more advanced analysis tools. The county is finalizing data sharing agreements with groups who will get the most use out of the system, such as fire and police agencies, municipal entities, and economic development groups. There is no cost for these nonprofit groups to use the system.
Representatives of the groups spoke of the advantages Tuesday during a presentation to county commissioners.
• David Mackley, special projects and research coordinator for FCADC, said during a trip to Ireland, he was able to answer questions about a specific property in Franklin County on the spot.
• According to Dustin Ulrich, Chambersburg assistant emergency services chief, the system helps firefighters prepare for an incident and makes the process of fire safety inspections much more efficient.
• Chambersburg Police Chief David Arnold said distance measurement tools will benefit police and imagery tools will help during court presentations.
• The system could have saved the Washington Township Municipal Authority money during a sewer project three years ago, according to Manager Sean McFarland. The five-mile project involved more than 100 property owners, and the authority had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire a surveyor.
The county hired a GIS coordinator in 2013 and has held training events for municipalities, Drug Task Force, Pennsylvania State Police, Game Commission and ambulance and fire companies.
GIS coordinator Kevin Eaton said the county's first partnership was with Adams Electric Cooperative.
The public web-based system is available at http://gis.vgsi.com/franklincountypa/Map.aspx.
©2015 the Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC