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G Squared

Marion County, Fla., uses GIS for GASB 34 compliance.

by / June 3, 2004
With GASB 34's introduction in 1999, state and local governments had to inventory their infrastructure assets and assess their value. In Marion County, increasing growth and development over the past three years compounded the need for a comprehensive, up-to-date assessment for county authorities.

Marion County, Fla., deployed GIS and integrated asset management technology to improve financial reporting and management of infrastructure assets. The new system eliminated superfluous records, fostered intradepartmental communications and assisted with GASB 34 reporting and compliance.

Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement No. 34 -- or GASB 34 -- established financial reporting standards for state, local and special-purpose governments. Although counties are not required to use GASB 34, it has been adopted by Florida as a generally accepted accounting principle, and makes it easier for counties to pass their annual audits.

To comply with GASB 34 standards, the county must list all capital assets -- including infrastructure -- at historical cost, or estimated historical cost, and account for depreciation over their useful lives. The "modified approach" used by Marion County is an alternative to depreciation for infrastructure assets that requires state and local governments to demonstrate they are maintaining infrastructure at or above an established condition level. This approach allows the county to periodically assess the condition and functionality of its assets and budget maintenance activities.

Many state and local governments have discovered that GASB 34 cannot be implemented successfully with finance and accounting solutions alone. Input on infrastructure is needed from GIS, engineering, maintenance and operations personnel to accomplish the task.


Getting Started
In early 2002, the Marion County Engineering Department's road division issued an RFP to implement a centralized asset management system for roadway and storm water infrastructure. The road division maintains approximately 2,300 miles of paved road and 500 miles of unpaved road.

The contract was awarded to Space Imaging of Denver, which not only takes satellite images, but also offers ways to address diverse use of satellite and aerial imagery in GIS.

With Jones, Edmunds and Associates Inc., Space Imaging worked with the county Engineering Department to collect roadway asset data for incorporation into an integrated asset management system. More than 40,000 data points with full attribution were collected and placed in the county's asset management system in less than six months. This solution uses field data collection and image-based feature extraction to build the required asset databases.

The asset management system integrates new field data and legacy system data into a relational database management system, which allows the county to comprehensively track assets and costs associated with maintaining those assets at the minimum condition required by GASB 34.


Multiple Uses, Single System
In May 2002, Space Imaging's IKONOS satellite began taking one-meter resolution imagery, which allowed the Space Imaging/Marion County team to develop a cost-effective method to locate, map and inventory county road and storm water assets, as well as assess condition levels and determine value.

Satellite imagery also became the basis for new countywide maps of storm sewer facilities to satisfy the Environmental Protection Agency's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements. Satellite imagery, coupled with high-resolution aerial photographs, also allowed the team to determine pavement edges and obtain exact roadway measurements.

Short-term goals included implementation of a comprehensive asset management system and pavement management system for facilities maintained by the county road division. Over the long term, the county hopes to use the asset management data to generate accounting reports that comply with GASB 34 and the NPDES legislation.

Working closely with county staff, Space Imaging specialists conducted a user needs assessment to identify county departments that could benefit from the system. In the past, several county departments used the same data in different formats and databases. Attempting to comply with GASB 34 further exposed the redundancies.

As needs were defined and departments became actively involved in the process, it became apparent that the county needed an enterprise data model to accommodate each department's requirements.

Marion County adopted the philosophy that all development for the asset management system would follow an enterprise model, which allows data integration and sharing. The approach will ensure that future users and departments can efficiently integrate their operations into the system while adhering to GASB 34 infrastructure inventory requirements

Space Imaging provided a centralized asset management system based on underlying GIS, remote sensing and CAD data technologies that can be effectively used to manage public assets and facilities infrastructure. This system allowed for integrating, analyzing and reporting on various GASB 34 and transportation-related data sets. The system was tailored to meet the Engineering Department's current needs, as well as future data sharing and reporting needs for the entire county.

The asset management system was designed to facilitate a phased implementation approach capable of expansion to include assets maintained by other county departments. The Engineering Department is responsible for identifying reconstruction, resurfacing, intersection improvements and turn lane projects, and the new asset management system will support the county's Transportation Improvement Program, consisting of projects that may include either total reconstruction, resurfacing, intersection improvement, traffic signal, lane additions or a combination thereof.

Space Imaging devised both components to be compatible for fieldwork on PDAs so the system could be easily used and updated. ESRI's ArcPad software was used to make the necessary mobile maps with full GIS capabilities for field use.

Other county departments have deployed the system for various tasks. The property appraiser uses it to assess parcel correction and verify addresses. The road division utilizes the system for pavement management and centerline updates. The sign shop handles sign inspection and maintenance. The signal shop maintains and inspects traffic signals. The system also allows the drainage division to manage NPDES permitting and drainage master planning.


The Right Data
Space Imaging is analyzing pavement conditions for the entire county-maintained road network and the production of a GASB 34 policy document.

Using historical pavement behavior and subject matter expertise from the county Engineering Department, the company developed performance criteria, and created detailed models that estimate the performance and useful life of a pavement segment. Space Imaging also worked with pavement experts to develop pavement analysis models that predict maintenance costs for the county-maintained road network at a specific service level.

These models create scenarios that dictate when and where money will be spent to effectively manage the road network at a specific condition level. The Marion County Board of County Commissioners currently uses this information to determine funding options that may be used to generate the capital required to maintain its road network at the condition level defined in its GASB 34 policy document.

The county realized significant cost savings by developing an asset management system that employs an enterprisewide data model serving multiple county departments. Marion County's staff saved effort and time in collecting infrastructure asset data using ArcPad-based PDAs outfitted with GPS units.

Field staff now spends less time driving around to find assets and more time collecting detailed information about the life cycle and value of the assets.

Marion County got its money's worth with a cost-effective, user-friendly solution for asset management that satisfies GASB 34 principles, establishes an infrastructure inventory and supports regular maintenance evaluations of these assets.

Ken Wheeler is assistant county engineer for Marion County, Fla., and Jason Amadori is manager of Southeast Operations for Space Imaging.
Jason Amadori and Ken Wheeler Contributing Writers