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Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014

County assessor butts heads with GIS vendor

Friday, March 25, 2005

CHARLESTON - Mississippi County commissioners will contact the State Tax Commission in Jefferson City to discuss issues related to the expansion, operation and control of the county's geographic information system.

A letter to Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson requesting his presence during Thursday's regular County Commission to discuss issues related to the county's GIS was apparently disregarded.

Geographic information systems use computers and aerial photography in conjunction with selectable overlays to enable users to access, display and manipulate a wide variety of information with a "Sim City"-type interface.

County Clerk Junior DeLay said he had discussed the matter with representatives of GIS Midland Solutions, the vendor who set up the county's GIS and has been contracted to convert and add the county's E-911 files to the system.

"They had concerns with the assessor's office," he recalled. DeLay specified Midland reported "not getting any cooperation from the assessor's office."

DeLay continued: "The assessor has concerns with the use of maps for 911." Other concerns from Thompson include problems with the soil map layer generated by Midland, according to DeLay.

Midland representatives suggested they meet with Thompson and State Tax Commission officials, county commissioners, the county clerk, and county mapper Sarah Anderson to discuss the differences.

Thompson reportedly told Midland representatives he would not attend any such meeting, according to DeLay.

Midland responded with a letter to the assessor from John Teale, a managing partner for Midland, which was also sent to county commissioners and the county clerk.

Teale wrote in the letter that he has "made numerous attempts to visit" Thompson about his "comments and concerns regarding the GIS program created and installed by Midland GIS Solutions."

According to the letter, Thompson hung up on Teale several times when he called and then refused to accept further calls.

Teale said the GIS created for Mississippi County is identical to New Madrid County's "and was a fully functional program when installed."

A disjoined link between the CAMA data base and parcels Thompson has complained about could be linked again within a few minutes via remote access software, Teale advised.

Commissioners agreed New Madrid County officials seem to have had no problems with their identical system.

"They're not capable of running it over there," Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said of Thompson's office. He said Mississippi County's assessor is not doing his job and should attend meetings called to resolve issues.

Teale also referred to an argument about the ownership of the county's GIS in his letter. "How the county's GIS program was funded and who may have rights to that program are issues to be decided within the county," Teale wrote. "I can say, however, the most successful GIS programs are those that are shared with other departments."

Commissioner Homer Oliver said county commissioners funded the GIS project based on the belief the system would have multiple uses. Approximately $165,000 from the county's general revenue fund was spent to implement the GIS.

"We didn't do that just for the assessor's office," Blumenberg said. "He needs to realize he's a branch of Mississippi County government."

Commissioner Martin Lucas said $165,000 is too much money to spend for a single county office. "It belongs to the county," he said.

Teale also expressed concerns in his letter about a threat from Thompson to slander Midland GIS Solutions about "state and county budgeting issues ... that have nothing to do with us. ... You should also be advised that we have notified our attorney regarding your threat to both Matt (Sorenson) and myself to 'stir things up with other counties and the State Tax Commission.' Our attorney has advised us that your comments are 'an intent to slander Midland GIS Solutions and Don Hagan personally.' Your comment that 'Don Hagan is selling Mississippi County and other Missouri counties a bill of goods and promising things that can't be delivered' is totally wrong. ... If necessary, we are prepared to defend ourselves."

Sorenson is coordinating the 911 data conversion for Midland, according to DeLay.

Teale adds in his letter to Thompson that "we honestly like you and have offered to help each time we have called. We cannot begin to help you understand your system if you don't allow us to talk when we call, hang up when you don't like the facts, and refuse to meet."

The letter ends by advising Midland representatives will request a meeting with county commissioners, the county clerk, and possibly a STC representative in the near future to discuss the issues.

"We're going to use the equipment one way or another," Blumenberg said.