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Winter 2003/2004
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Municipal Government Agencies Benefit From Shared Network

Westerville, Ohio, Enjoys the Rewards of Enterprise GIS

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Police officers enter incidents into a database by clicking at the desired location on the map and typing the incident ID into a custom Active Server Pages (ASP) form. Coordinate fields, patrol district, and more appear at the mouse click.

A fundamental role of any government is to provide optimized service to its constituents-from economic development to planning and zoning, law enforcement, schools, public works, and other public services. Municipalities today are leveraging technology and its many benefits to automate, streamline, and maximize service delivery. GIS is playing a key role in this government evolution, and forward-thinking cities such as Westerville, Ohio, are using true enterprise GIS networks to connect all areas of its local government infrastructure, ensuring the best service possible for its constituents.

For nearly 200 years, the city of Westerville has maintained a rich tradition of friendliness and quality of life. As central Ohio's largest suburb, Westerville today has a population of 36,000. These citizens benefit from Westerville's many city services—the most of any central Ohio suburb. The city has more than 150 trained full-time police officers and firefighters, an Electric Division that serves all of Westerville, a Water Division recognized as one of the state's finest, and a state-of-the-art community center.

In 1995, the city's information systems manager began researching automated software packages that would replace more time-consuming manual methods for producing paper maps of city infrastructure.

In 1999, Todd Jackson was hired to manage the city's GIS. Jackson started by analyzing the current system configuration and software. "When we began looking at current GIS packages," says Jackson, "we interviewed different department staff to see what they wanted and how we could best serve their needs."

The city originally acquired GIS to automate maps and map production in the Planning Department. But afterwards, they saw the real value in the analysis capabilities of GIS to manage a wealth of information in an enterprise database environment that facilitated advanced query, analysis, and visualization.

"By 2000, we'd changed software, changed our approach to data sharing, and began to appreciate the value of Esri's enterprise approach," says Jackson. "We liked the future direction of the technology, and now we've grown from a GIS in one or two departments to a full enterprise GIS. We've evolved from departmental GIS to enterprise GIS, and now it's extending to the community. We've done a lot in the past four years, and there's potential still to be realized."

The city runs the full gamut of Esri tools: ArcView, ArcEditor, ArcInfo, ArcSDE, ArcIMS, ArcReader, ArcGIS Publisher, and ArcPad. It maintains approximately 60 spatial data layers, not counting those maintained by the Electric Division. Ten departments now use GIS, with approximately 300 city staff members connected to the system via the city's Intranet. Over the last year, between the internal and external Web sites, an average of 20,000 map requests were made each month.

"For the size of the community we have, we're getting a lot of map requests," says Jackson. "People like the functionality of the software and the accessibility to different data sets. With the intuitive interface, both public users and internal city staff are using more information than ever for decision making."

GIS had an immediate impact on law enforcement. Information on burglaries, robberies, sex crimes, and other major incidents is input into the GIS database. Crime analyst Lieutenant Al Kolp uses GIS for discovering crime patterns, which recently resulted in the breakup of a burglary spree.

"We were getting hit terribly at doctors' offices, pharmacies, day care centers, and other similar business locations," says Kolp. "We performed detailed spatial analysis with ArcView and ArcView Spatial Analyst and were able to determine the time frame and locations of criminal activities. We notified personnel when and where to pay particular attention and included a detailed map. A task force was then created, and the second week after we set it up we caught the perpetrators. This is just one example in which the analysis and display capabilities helped us do our jobs more effectively."

The city's Electric Division uses the enterprise GIS data set containing data prepared and maintained by eight departments throughout the city in all aspects of its operations. Formerly a CAD-only shop, the division today manages approximately 25 intelligent spatial data layers integrated with volumes of tabular information.

Work order management, facilities management, and construction planning are performed using GIS. The division implemented Esri Business Partner Miner & Miner's ArcFM Energy in conjunction with ArcView and ArcInfo for tabular and vector data creation, maintenance, manipulation, and viewing. ArcPad is used to perform in-field asset management that is uploaded into the enterprise GIS. Linemen use GIS data for trouble call analysis. From customer billing and load information, phone operators can quickly scan information for service calls. In addition, map books for the entire city's electric system have been produced using the ArcFM map book tool, which provides more detailed information and data updates.

"We're always adding new facilities, and GIS gives us a better way to manage and update information and perform analysis," says Guy Precht, electric GIS/CAD technician, Electric Division. "The technology foundation is especially appealing. It's like building a house. You're always looking for ways to improve. As new functionality is added, we're able to do more and better things with the software."

The Westerville City School District is the ninth largest in the state, with more than 14,000 students. For school redistricting, not only were city staff members better able to reformat school zones using a number of different data analyses and visualization techniques, but they were also able to better communicate why the new school zones were created. Data analysis techniques such as geocoding, spatial join, shortest path, density, buffer, and the various geoprocessing functions were used.

"Currently we are working with Esri Business Information Solutions (Esri BIS) to integrate its new economic development reporting Web services," says Jackson. "Initially, we are using a version of Business Analyst Online that has been customized for Westerville to obtain reports and maps for properties in Westerville."

As a real world example, the service was used to provide demographic reports at the request of a developer on behalf of a potential company moving into Westar Center of Business, a mixed use commercial district in northwest Westerville. The request would typically have taken Shannon Hamons, City Economic Development coordinator, one or two days to respond using traditional business processes and resources available. Using the new service, demographic reports and a map were generated using driving times from a specific property of interest. The elapsed time from the instant Hamons requested the reports to the time they were delivered via e-mail was five minutes. The service will allow the city to respond to information requests efficiently, demonstrating interest, technological capabilities, and the level of service companies or businesses can expect from the city of Westerville if they were to choose to locate within the city.

"We are very excited about the resource and benefits that economic development reporting Web services will provide the city of Westerville, our customers (residents as well as business), and the Westerville Community Partnership," says Jackson. "We anticipate the service will enable us to serve the community more effectively and provide the city of Westerville with a competitive edge in the highly competitive central Ohio economic development market."

Base information is maintained by the GIS Division—parcels, centerlines, and other data are acquired from Delaware and Franklin Counties and merged together to create a seamless basemap for the city. Other departments then build their information on top of the basemap. The GIS Division's responsibilities include developing policies and procedures for GIS system use and updates and providing support, maintenance, integration, and implementation of the enterprise GIS.

For more information, contact Todd Jackson, GIS manager, city of Westerville, Ohio (tel.: 614-901-6693, e-mail: or visit

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