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Winter 2002/2003
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Ontario, Canada, Municipality Deploys Enterprise GIS

Chatham-Kent--Community at the Touch of a Button

  click to see enlargement
A Web portal user interface.

"Map It!" could well become the watchword of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent in Ontario, Canada, within a very short period of time.

In 1998, the municipality was formed by the amalgamation of 23 independent communities with a mandate from the provincial government of Ontario to cut costs and streamline local government procedures.

The municipality is largely rural and comprises an area of approximately 2,500 square kilometers that includes several small towns interspersed between large areas of agricultural land. The population of the municipality is approximately 110,000 with 40 percent living in Chatham.

Comments Chris Masterson, general manager of Engineering Water and Wastewater for the municipality, "The amalgamation of the 23 communities under a central municipality was really the driving force for implementing an enterprise GIS. For reasons of efficiency, politics, and economics, it became necessary."

He went on to say, "A two-stage project was launched by the Municipal Engineering Department. Initially an automated mapping/facilities management (AM/FM) project was implemented that collected all utility information for Chatham-Kent, bringing together diverse bits of information from the former municipalities into one common electronic format. The experience gained from the initial AM/FM project clearly indicated that an enterprisewide GIS implemented by the municipality could provide a true societal GIS for the community. This would allow its citizens easy interaction with the municipality and access to information about topics ranging from the location of the nearest public high school to the availability and cost of commercial properties within the municipality."

Jeff Ham, manager of Chatham-Kent's AM/FM/GIS, adds, "The concept of our data warehouse was not to go and change the existing systems that the utility company and our tax department use; it was to allow everyone to continue using the same systems that they had been using. We built tools to basically extract information from that existing data and bring it into the enterprise data warehouse."

Having seen OnPoint, a Web GIS product by Esri Business Partner Orion Technology Inc., and based on Orion's track record of successfully implementing enterprise GIS at various municipalities, Chatham-Kent turned to the Canadian-based company for advice. Orion performed a careful needs analysis before recommending that the municipality create a Center for GIS to provide direction and oversight, as well as a data warehouse for central spatial data management, in preparation for implementing its enterprise GIS.

Commenting on the municipality's Center for GIS, Masterson says, "The center coordinates all of the activities that are geographically referenced, whether it's for the utility company, police, fire service, or customer billing systems in our tax department."

The End Result

The Web portal has more than 98 directories. In this example, the entire health directory is available to the user. This directory is served through a geodatabase.

The result of all this coordinated effort was the "Map It" tool, which provides an easy method to display and print maps of locations found throughout the municipality's Community Web Portal. Orion's OnPoint software is the user interface to the Chatham-Kent database, providing fast, intuitive access to the "Map It" tool, thereby helping to illustrate the municipality's motto, "Building a Community Through Participation."

The OnPoint application was built using Java technology and Esri's ArcIMS. Chatham-Kent's Web portal uses ArcIMS for corporate viewing across the Internet, ArcSDE for warehousing the data, and geodatabase technology for formatting the data.

Diane Gagner, mayor of Chatham-Kent, explains why the municipality decided to use mapping as the backbone of its Community Web Portal. "The GIS is used to drive all of our community directories on the site. There are nearly 100 directories, and they include such things as local health services, financial institutions, recreation activities, and education facilities."

A list of all the available facilities within the directory can be displayed along with a "Map It" button. Everything in the municipality that can be associated with a location or address has a "Map It" link that brings the user to a fully interactive map of the area where the facility is located. Throughout the Chatham-Kent Community Web Portal (, there are more than 3,000 "Map It" buttons or points of entry into the GIS.

The GIS application has the capability of mapping a location and then finding services nearby such as schools, hospitals, golf courses, etc. A community calendar program is also available, which allows residents to check the location and availability of public facilities for events, thereby avoiding conflicts. Two methods of displaying maps are available, a simple point-and-click or a more advanced method that allows map customization.

On a displayed map, the user can measure linear distances by simply dragging a line between the two points of interest or calculate the size of an area by tracing around it. Locations can be highlighted on the map and labeled, providing some capability to customize a map. In addition, as users zoom in on an area of interest, the display automatically changes from cartographic to aerial photography, which is visually interesting and very useful.

Mayor Gagner believes that local Businesses will use "Map It" to "establish where their customers are and how far they will have to travel to carry out their Business. The ability to view and measure distances and areas from our digital mapping and aerial photography will cut down on travel requirements and save on 'windshield' time for both Businesses and customers, and time is money. Local Businesses will be able to provide a direct link to interactive mapping from their Web site and highlight their location within the community by using a Generate URL tool. This tool enables embedding a 'Map It' button within the Web site of the local Business. Before long, 'Map It' will proliferate not only in Web sites of local Businesses but also e-mails among friends, as it is equally easy to embed a 'Map It' button in e-mails."

"The Chatham-Kent 'Map It' concept and tool provide a true societal GIS," comments Jack Dangermond, president of Esri. "It promotes the exchange of information between the municipality and its residents through a simple, yet powerful user interface and provides us with a view of the future of GIS technology."

For more information, contact Jeff Ham, manager of the Center for AM/FM/GIS (tel.: 519-360-1998, e-mail:, or Shafik Jiwani, Orion Technology Inc. (tel.: 905-508-6900, ext. 222; e-mail:; Web:

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