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GIS Integrated with Document Imaging

Mapping System Provides Efficient Sewer Management

By Roger Cleveland, Highway Superintendent, New Hartford, New York, and Verne La Clair, Vice President, SDG

New Hartford is a picturesque town comprising approximately 11,000 tax parcels located in the Adirondack foothills of upstate New York. When challenged to improve management of the Town's sewer systems, the engineering staff envisioned several benefits that could be derived from a shared GIS augmented with document and photo images linked to sewer elements.

Engineering formed a needs analysis team and formulated primary objectives for the proposed digital mapping system including:

  • Convenient browsing of comprehensive information in a multiuser environment
  • Improved call dispatching for Engineering and other departments
  • Enhancement of analytical planning and management tools
  • Automated mailing list generation based on geography
  • Improvement of interdepartmental information sharing

Early in the project, the system was prototyped by SDG, an Esri Business Partner specializing in GIS and document imaging. The prototype system utilized real data and maps from a subarea of the Town and enabled hands-on evaluation by the New Hartford engineering team. They concentrated on critical review of the prototype system, and feedback based on this early testing provided the basis for configuring the system to comply with expectations.

To accomplish the goals, system implementation utilized the Esri software family linked with "industrial-strength" document imaging software. A seamless user interface capitalizing on the strengths of both types of software systems was provided to comply with all objectives. This quick-learn user interface, based on MapObjects, allows the typical user to efficiently query the system.

Kathy Delaney, a member of the New Hartford team who helped develop the interface, says, "A worker can be trained to access key information in a matter of minutes."

The Finished Product

The ArcView GIS application is used by the Engineering Department for trouble call response, landowner notifications, and status review of existing field conditions for new construction. Engineers and field technicians can quickly identify the site location, obtain GPS coordinates, and view/print all necessary documents and ownership information necessary to generate work order requests.

Day-to-day operations have been streamlined by reducing the time required to retrieve information used to locate and evaluate sewer system problems. By providing spatial point and click access to relevant GIS data and document information, what used to require a visit to the records room and a call to the Assessor's Office can now be obtained and printed from the engineer's desk within minutes. Typical data includes

  • Property owner information and photos from the Assessor's Office
  • As-built drawings for existing sewers
  • Elevation and flow data for upstream/downstream manholes
  • Sewer connection cards from the Facilities Maintenance Office
  • Maintenance records and field notes

The installed system operates on networked Windows PCs. Access to information is available to other departments via a local area network. This provides simultaneous viewing of information by multiple users in several departments. The GIS is maintained with ArcInfo and ArcView GIS.

Another member of the team, John Meagher, says, "The value of consolidating relevant GIS and document information under a unified framework for convenient access cannot be overemphasized. This is especially useful in the network system wherein documents can be viewed simultaneously by multiple users. In other words, no documents are lost or misplaced. Interdepartmental information access is great; we reference data using the system on a daily basis."

Perhaps the most immediate benefit is realized by Anthony Decuffa, maintenance supervisor, who says, "I really appreciate the fast access to up-to-date and comprehensive information when responding to service requests. When reviewing a potential problem area or evaluating a site for new construction, having all the pertinent data at your fingertips makes us wonder how we ever manually managed drawings and project documents in the past."

The Layers

GIS layers were derived from existing New Hartford information and maps. Digital tax maps were available from the County Planning Department. They were combined and used to form the basemap utilized for registering other GIS layers. The sewer maps were scanned and "heads-up" digitized into seven layers. All layers were incorporated in Esri compatible shapefiles. The initial layers included basemaps of real property parcels, sewer lines, clean-outs, manholes, force mains, pumping stations, laterals, and County interceptor sewer lines.

Lateral attributes are linked to the real property parcels associated with their corresponding digital laterals. The shapefile database was then populated using standard data entry/verify procedures. This data included locations (addresses), elevations (up to four per feature), diameters, materials, slopes, and feature stationing. Also, map sheets corresponding to features were linked to the document imaging subsystem by entries in the database.

Conceptually, the document imaging software provides virtual folders, which provide for browsing of documents associated with a geographical feature. Also, a folder contains a variety of document types with various file formats. Activation of the folder browsing function is triggered by clicking on a significant geographical element; for example, clicking on

  • A manhole displays I.D. information and enables browsing of its folder.
  • A parcel brings up the tax map number and enables browsing of its folder.
  • A sewer line displays its corresponding map and enables folder browsing.
  • A pumping station displays its map sheet and enables folder browsing.

The system is configured to indicate a geographical index. When a system operator clicks on an indexed element, the imaging system is automatically brought to the foreground and the most recently filed document is displayed. A list of associated documents is then displayed to enable selection of the desired document (or photo).

The operator exits imaging to return to the GIS map at the exact point imaging was activated.

For more information, contact Verne La Clair (tel.: 315-798-1328, Web:

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