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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Scott County using benefits of new GIS

Monday, January 22, 2007

(Photo)
Debbie Evans, mapper for Scott County Assessor's office, prepares a parcel split.
BENTON -- After years of preparation and setup, the Scott County Assessor's Office is beginning to reap the benefits of the county's geographic information system.

"How we started was the cities and the county paid for aerial photography, which was shot in March 2005," said Teresa Houchin, Scott County assessor.

To set up the GIS, the aerial photography was turned over to Midland GIS Solutions of Sunrise Beach which then built a base map of the county. "It was about a year and a half process," Houchin said.

Information overlays can now be displayed on a computer screen or printed out on a map over the aerial photography.

For example, the county clerk's office uses the GIS to determine whether a piece of property is in one of the county's flood plains while the sheriff's department is using the GIS to make sure convicted sex offenders are not living too close to schools.

Houchin said after several months of training which began in October, her staff is now using the system for one of its most useful purposes: mapping.

Debbie Evans, mapper for the assessor's office, said up until just recently county parcel information was tracked using paper maps and mylars, transparent plastic-type overlays placed over maps.

"That's they way they've always been done up until now," she said.

"Before we had the GIS, Debbie did everything by hand," Houchin said. Keeping track of parcels required 300 maps to cover the entire county.

If a property owner split a parcel to sell a potion of their land, for example, Evans would pull that map and mark the property split with a red ink pen on a mylar.

Then once a year, she would make a new set of maps. "She would spend six weeks in the summer inking the new maps," Houchin said.

Those maps would then be duplicated for use by the assessor's staff out in the field.

"With the new GIS system, there won't be any inking," Houchin said. "With the GIS system, maps are corrected daily."

And instead of dragging along a bunch of maps when they are out in the field doing assessments, the assessor's office staff now just use a laptop computer they bring with them, Houchin said.

"We don't have to make copies of those maps now," she said. "We can pull everything up on that laptop."

Evans said even though she had to be retrained in the use of the GIS after over 10 years of experience in inking maps and mylars, she is excited about the GIS and its capabilities.

"It's easier to find information now and the inking was very time consuming," she said.

Custom maps in a range of different sizes can be quickly and easily printed instead of being duplicated by hand.

"The color maps are impressive to the people when they see them," Evans said.

Houchin said they are still expanding their use of the GIS to make things even better for not only her office, but also other county and city officials.

"The cities can do things like mark where gas lines are, where fire hydrants are located -- they can do so many things for the cities as well as for the county," she said.

Houchin said she hopes to have assessor's office data available online for appraisers, surveyors and real estate agencies to access this summer instead of them having to make a trip to her office.

"Sometimes companies from out of state will call and want our records," she said.

And with advancements in digital photography having brought the cost down, Houchin said she would like to see updates to the county's aerial photography made more regularly for an even more accurate base map.

"What I would like to do is have the county flown every two or three years," she said. "Even in a two-year period things can change a lot."

Before the March 2005 aerial photography, the last time the aerial photography was updated was in 1989.