City of Hudson, Ohio, Implements Intranet-Based Enterprise GIS
Much like private businesses around the world, local government agencies are in a constant state of evolution, looking for new and improved ways to carry out services and better serve their customers. And while government has a long tradition of using GIS in various departments, a recent trend has been redefining how it's used organizationwide. Web-based GIS is now helping local government agencies of all sizes provide information to anyone who needs it quickly and easily. Indeed, the use of the Web is helping smaller agencies do more with less.
Bringing GIS to Hudson, Ohio
The city of Hudson, Ohio, covers 25 square miles with a population of approximately 23,000 people. It is located in Summit County in northeastern Ohio, north of the city of Akron and southeast of the city of Cleveland.
"The city had basic needs to automate data and began investigating options," says Paul Leedham, GIS manager, city of Hudson. "Through this process, city staff learned about GIS and how it could help. Our data efforts were a springboard for us."
After testing a few different implementation ideas, the city elected to implement an Intranet-based solution. The government offices were dispersed throughout the city, and each location had a combination of different operating systems. The Intranet-based solution provided access to as many users as possible with the least amount of training and easy maintenance.
According to the city, Esri was chosen as its GIS software vendor because of its wide range of products and product scalability, which provided the city with a number of options for how it could implement a citywide GIS program. In addition, the large existing Esri user community in and around Hudson, Ohio, was a compelling factor.
"We found it was an extremely cost-effective way to provide every user throughout our organization direct access to large amounts of GIS data," says Leedham.
The city acquired ArcInfo to begin building its GIS database. ArcPad software was brought in for field data collection. ArcSDE for SQL provides integrated spatial data within a relational database environment. A needs assessment was performed for the various city departments to find out exactly what end user staff needed in terms of customized tools and functionality via a Web-based GIS interface.
"The biggest selling point for ArcIMS was the ability to distribute functionality and data needed by city staff who weren't GIS experts but who really could benefit from GIS," says Leedham. "Distributing tools through the Internet versus stand-alone applications for our situation was clearly our best solution."
The implementation took approximately four months. As other departments learned about the Web GIS, requests were made to access the system, as well as to integrate their various disparate data sets. Soon, GIS was being used throughout the city for a number of purposes.
The agency now has in place a true enterprise GIS that serves nearly a dozen separate departments. Using ArcIMS as its GIS backbone, government employees with no previous GIS experience now use GIS as part of their everyday decision making.
Today's Enterprise Environment
Today's GIS environment touches all parts of Hudson, Ohio's city government. Public Works, Administration, Engineering, Community Development, Economic Development, Fire, Police, Emergency Medical Services, and other departments use GIS daily. City staff uses the customized ArcIMS applications to quickly find construction drawings; parcel information; water, sewer, and storm infrastructure; fire hydrants; tree locations; and any number of other city data sets in a matter of seconds instead of hours.
The city uses GIS to map its sanitary sewer system. Using a geometric network, users can run traces and other high-end analysis for system maintenance and expansion. GIS is also used to maintain the city's storm water system. GIS helps streamline records maintenance for environmental regulation and allows for speedy and efficient resident notifications of public works projects, such as street construction and water shutoffs. GIS analysis proved to be a key factor during the Community Development Department's revision of the city's comprehensive land use plan. This process allowed staff to experience the vast spatial analysis tools available through the ArcGIS ArcMap application. These tools were used to generate the city's potential development areas by selecting parcels meeting certain criteria, such as possessing minimal preexisting development; being zoned appropriately; and free from environmental constraints, such as steep slope, wetlands, and riparian corridors. By managing the GIS analysis in-house, the city was able to show considerable savings rather than pay consultant fees.
Fire and law enforcement use GIS to deploy resources for both emergency mitigation and response. Customer service staff answer residents' questions using digital maps and spatial information while on the phone instead of writing the question down, researching the question manually, and calling the customer back with a response.
"Applying an ArcIMS enterprise approach may be slightly unconventional but has proven to be a successful decision," says Leedham. "In the first two years of the GIS program, we progressed from being funded by three departments to being funded by all 16 departments throughout the city. And it's saving money. Just looking at internal data creation and maintenance efforts for the sanitary sewer, storm water, and tree inventory, the GIS Department has managed to save the city approximately $250,000. That's just one example."
GIS Helps During Flooding
In September 2003, the city of Hudson, Ohio, experienced one of the worst downpours of rain in its recent history, which resulted in terrible flooding. GIS proved invaluable for responding to these events and was used for a host of flood-related activities.
Immediately after the floods, GIS staff used ArcPad in the field to survey flood extents. Various rain, flood, and damage data was coalesced and uploaded into ArcGIS 3D Analyst to digitally re-create the floods and to create accurate two- and three-dimensional damage maps.
"We were invited to an emergency staff meeting with the city manager, city engineer, Public Works director, and fire chief," says Leedham. "With a laptop, we were able to show depictions of what exactly happened. They were able to see the exact extent of the floods and where the water was coming from. It was a great educational tool. For instance, some of the staff members were surprised that the water reached certain levels in the city."
GIS staff then met with cleanup crews and showed them various contoured damage assessment maps that were used to help devise cleanup and response strategies. The day would consist of field data collection in the morning, strategy planning meetings at lunch, and then deploying heavy equipment for damage removal in the afternoon.
"This was a real-life use of GIS that was unexpected," says Leedham. "We were able to more effectively view areas and resources and plan responses in an organized, integrated fashion."
The immense amount of debris and rubble caused by the floods also created drainage blocks. Staff performed surveys to locate blocked drainage ways and captured information about the cause and types of blockages. This data was brought back to plan large-scale clearing operations to get drainage infrastructure back in service.
Postevent analysis of flooding trends and resident complaints were also mapped to provide staff with an effective means to plan potential future flood mitigation and response. Finally, GIS maps were used during public presentations to educate the public as to the exact extent and nature of flood damage and the city's response.
The recent GIS success is spurring future projects. The city already is working on an external ArcIMS Internet rollout for public information access.
For more information, contact Paul Leedham, GIS coordinator, city of Hudson (tel.: 330-342-9541, fax: 330-342-7975).