Cooperative Effort

Using GIS, Jackson County, Mo., will improve its information integration, infrastructure planning and economic development; foster intergovernmental cooperation; and save money.

by / June 2, 2003
Jackson County, Mo., wants to improve service to its residents by increasing cooperation with its cities and making information available to citizens online. The county is using ESRI's ArcInfo, ArcView, ArcSDE and ArcIMS to build its GIS. Jackson County, which comprises most of Kansas City and 17 other cities and towns, chose the software, in part, because many of its cities were already using ESRI's software.

"It's just the smart thing to do, to share the data we all need to better serve our citizens, and choose to remove potential barriers that keep us from doing this seamlessly," said Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields.

Since many of the cities within the county already use ESRI's GIS software, seamlessly passing information between the county and cities will save time and help both parties serve citizens better, according to Stephen Marsh, director of the county's newly created GIS Department. "Take Lee's Summit as an example," he said. "They maintain some parceling, and if we can give them better service in getting our data to them more quickly, then their GIS people can focus on other priorities such as storm water or sanitary sewer issues. They in turn can get that data to us.

"The key is fostering cooperation between the county and the county's cities as well as providing better and more timely service for the citizens," Marsh continued. "That's the ultimate goal."

The county's first focus will be organizing the parcel database for the Assessment Department. Once the old map data has been converted, the department will manage parcel data with NovaLIS Parcel Editor, a mapping and addressing extension that works in conjunction with ESRI's software. While making a more efficient business process for the Assessment Department, which revalues the county's properties for tax purposes every other year, aggregating the department's 1,600 individual maps will also benefit the cities, which depend on the county for parcel updates, and the county's Public Works Department which needs the aggregated data for planning.

"It's all based on the individual parcel, and we don't have any boundaries say of the fire district, so they want to be able to aggregate up from a parcel to a group of parcels," said Marsh. "With the new seamless data set that we're creating, the geo-database of the entire county's parcel layer will enable us to do that."

Linking Public Works to the GIS will also help the county track road maintenance needs. "With the GIS we will now be tracking when and where to apply appropriate maintenance on our roads and bridges to keep them in good or excellent condition," said Shields.

In addition to using the GIS to manage county operations, the county will use ArcIMS -- an element of ArcGIS that allows Internet viewing and querying of the GIS -- to enable citizens to find needed information, such as property inquiries and public works issues. In addition to making inquiries easy for constituents, the use of the GIS for e-government will also save time for county employees who would otherwise be on the phone.

"Having a better system will save us in allowing us to improve our work flow," said Marsh. "One of the cost-savings will be when we have people allowed easier access to existing information through Internet sites or putting data out on the Internet, so people are answering the phone less."

Jackson County Parks and Recreation will soon use the GIS to provide park information via the Web as well, Marsh said. "We're hoping to develop layers for where all the campgrounds are and all the picnic shelters are, and have people be able to find those spatially and then find out information about those on the Internet."

The primary goal of the initiative, according to County Executive Shields, is to improve customer service, which creating online resources will accomplish.

"Our e-government motto has become 'working smarter, not just harder,'" she said. "We believe GIS is one very important tool to help us make that happen."
Emily Montandon Staff Writer/Copy Editor