Franklin County, Pa., Approves Fees for GIS Uses

Commissioners set up a fee schedule for those who want to layer their own maps with GIS information compiled by the county.

by Jim Hook, Public Opinion / April 8, 2015

(TNS) -- Franklin County, Pa., Commissioners are setting up guidelines to cash in on data mining the county's month-old geographical information system.

Commissioners set up a fee schedule for those who want to layer their own maps with GIS information compiled by the county. Engineers and surveyors typically seek the information, according to Sean Crager, the county's chief technology information officer.

Commissioners are planning over the next 10 years to use the fees to reimburse the county for the $1.2 million startup cost of GIS.

Fees range from $15 for rights of way in a municipality to $4,200 for a countywide tax-parcel overlay with property information.

Everyday users can access much of the information for free at the county Website.

The county will charge for complex data sets, the files created in a form specifically for county use, according to Crager. Municipalities will not be charged to use the data in hopes of fostering a free exchange of data with municipalities.

Municipal information can include water and sewer lines, fire hydrants, transportation impact fee areas and zoning boundaries.

Southampton Township sees no problem with the county's data-share agreement, according to Samuel Cressler, a supervisor with one of the first municipalities in Franklin County to initiate its own GIS.

Countywide information packages available to the private sector include building footprints ($500), property addresses without owner information ($300), railroad rights of way ($25), election districts ($20), polling locations ($20), parks and recreation areas ($75), farmland preservation properties ($30), cemeteries ($75) and religious facilities ($75).

The fees are comparable to the fees charged by surrounding counties, according to county Administrator John Hart.

"We want to be good neighbors with other counties, and we want to be sure the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law is adhered to," county solicitor Mary Beth Shank said.

The 2008 law states that a government agency can charge fees for "complex and extensive data sets, including geographic information systems or integrated property assessment lists." Copying fees "may be based on the reasonable market value of the same or closely related data sets."

The fee does not apply to a nonprofit doing educational research or to the media, but a "reasonable" and "prevailing" fee applies, according to the Right to Know Law.

Crager said the county will not charge nonprofit organizations as defined by the federal tax identification status.

Under the municipal agreement, a municipality may access the county's GIS information without limit, but should direct right-to-know requests made to the municipality for GIS information to the county.

Southampton Township has not been cashing in on its GIS data.

"It is a planning tool," Cressler said. "We're not selling to any third parties. (Answering) Any right-to-know request costs more than we are legally allowed to charge the people. They (the county) actually own the data. As long as somebody is following the law, we're OK."

Southampton supervisors are prepared on Tuesday to sign an agreement to share GIS data with the county, Cressler said.

Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the county guidelines on Thursday.

The county has been offering training sessions on the use of the GIS to municipal, police and human service agencies.

©2015 the Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC