St. Augustine, Fla., Maps the Expansion of Its GIS Program

City officials are hopeful that a bolstered geographic information system will improve service delivery. The technology is already being used to support real-time applications for the fire department.

by Sheldon Gardner, The St. Augustine Record / January 4, 2019
Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

(TNS) — City of St. Augustine, Fla., officials plan to expand the city's mapping technology this year and beyond, which means more data will be in the public's hands.

Analysts are creating new tools for the city using geographic information system software, also called GIS. Goals of the project include expanding the city's use of GIS to make city operations more efficient and providing more information for the public, officials said.

GIS has been a tool at city hall for a long time and helps with map making and planning, City Manager John Regan said, but there are now bigger plans.

"We're already doing some real-time applications in the fire department. ... We are working to expand the use of our program," Regan said.

Among other efforts, the city's GIS analysts and public works officials have mapped "every water main, valve and fire hydrant in the city with designations as to how many gallons per minute of water is available at every location," according to a city news release. That means firefighters can access information via laptop or cellphone to find out which fire hydrants have the best water flow.

After a recent water main break near San Marco Avenue and May Street, city fire Chief Carlos Aviles could see via the GIS tool that the broken water line only served one building. Because of that, he knew the department could fight a fire effectively at surrounding properties had one happened during the water main repair.

Jeremy Berg, one of two GIS analysts, will work in a similar way with other city departments to make new tools with spatial data, he said.

Plans include having up-to-date maps that show land use and zoning designations for properties. The GIS crew also plans create "story maps," such as historic sites around the city, Berg said.

The content will be similar to what Los Angeles has done with data at http://geohub.lacity.org/datasets, according to Berg. The site has a vast array of data on things like infrastructure, health and natural resources.

"A lot's going to be changing, and hopefully we're going to have this year a lot more of the city's data exposed for the public to consume and use," Berg said.

Part of the city's website, citystaug.com, will be dedicated to the GIS work. For now, some information, such as the location of city fire hydrants and manholes, are already posted in a map at https://bit.ly/2QkKgFU.

The GIS team plans to publish as much city data as possible and make it available for download, including data on city boundaries, infrastructure, planning and zoning and transportation projects. More data should be available for the public by the end of January, according to Berg.

The salaries for the GIS team are more than $102,189 a year combined, according to city budget director Meredith Breidenstein. City officials did not provide information by Thursday evening about the cost of the GIS software.

©2019 The St. Augustine Record, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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