December 26, 2006 By Merrill Douglas
GeoEngineers used the Microsoft.NET framework and ESRI's ArcIMS software to develop the Web-based application, said Blair Deaver, senior GIS analyst/programmer for the GeoEngineers applied technology team in Bend, Ore. "We're also using SQL Server to store the nonspatial data."
When the site goes live on the Web, any user will be able to query the database by name; date of birth, death or burial; or by section, lot or space number.
Not many governments have implemented similar applications, but the idea has attracted interest. Deaver put together a presentation on the Nampa project at a conference in 2006.
"There were a lot of GIS folks who said, 'We really want to do the same thing,'" he said, including people from city governments and Native American tribal governments.
Linda Bobbitt, vice president of GeoSpatial Experts, said the company has received inquiries from several other local governments.
The Medford Experience
In 2002, GeoEngineers developed a similar application for a cemetery managed by Medford, which at the time had no database for its gravesites.
"It was all handled in one person's head and the few notes he kept," said Keith Aeschliman, project manager in the city's Technology Services Department.
Medford had GeoEngineers develop a database and GIS system, linked to photos of the headstones for internal use. Staff use it for information they need to sell plots and to field genealogists' inquiries.
The city hasn't put the information on the Web, but that move could come soon. City programmers will probably rewrite the application within the next year, using newer software from ESRI, Aeschliman said. "When we do that, that's when we're likely to go public with it."
In Nampa, once the Web-based application goes live and word gets out to genealogists, that should reduce calls to the city clerk's department, although people are still welcome to call if they need extra help, Lambing said.
The city clerk's department could also use the Web site to show available gravesites to prospective buyers, she said. Funeral homes could use it to locate available spaces, and monument makers to find the right location when they need to place a stone. The city might give those professionals access to data that's not available to the general public, she said.
A side benefit of the project is that it gave the city clerk's department a good audit of gravesites in the cemetery, Collins said. "They found spaces that used to be unavailable, because of an old irrigation ditch that is no longer in use."
Linking geographic coordinates to photos might also prove useful in other corners of the city government, such as the Waterworks Division. When department staff install equipment, they may have to work around the facilities of numerous other utilities, Collins said, recalling a recent project.
"They said it would have been nice, when the trench was open, to take a picture of how all that was put in, so if they ever had to go back and do some work, they'd know what they were getting into," Collins said, noting that staff could link the photo in a database to that particular intersection and add data on the facilities they installed.
There has also been talk about using the software to inventory street signs, Collins said. "I'm sure there are lots of ideas we haven't even thought of."
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