November 27, 2014

GIS project nearing finish of Phase I

Web site to be fully functional in March

By John Fischer|Staff writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — Arenac County received a $90,000 grant from the Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe in May 2008 to install a countywide Geographical Information System (GIS) and Phase I of the system, which includes data on roads, waterways, school districts, political boundaries, etc., is nearly complete.

The purpose of the project is to provide government units easier access to compiled information through the use of advanced-layered mapping, says Tim Inman of the Saginaw-based Spicer Group, which was hired to survey for and install the system.

According to Inman, GIS is combination of hardware, software and personnel designed to bring the efforts of a community together to work as one and make access to information more readily-available for local units of government.

Arenac County District V Commissioner/GIS project manager Joseph Sancimino says Phase I also includes parcels and labels; lots and labels; hyperlinks to scanned maps; and equalization data for Standish Township and installation of the program on county computers with staff training.

Inman says the fieldwork for the project went better than planned and more information than expected was collected.

“(The commissioners) budgeted certain money for (12 public land survey system) corners; we were able to survey more than expected,” Inman said.

He also says many people in counties with GIS use it to better manage tax assessments as it’s a technical organization method that provides the ability to view parcels more in-depth, find previously untaxed parcels and in a few minutes time can show any tax discrepancies. In addition, he says, the program will help assessors integrate right-of-ways and view layers of information in an assortment of ways.

“With the info at hand, we can see some areas previously not mapped,” Inman said, adding this assists in managing parcel discrepancies.

Sancimino says the GIS program is currently being installed on county computers and a trial Web site is available at http://arenac.spicergroup.net for citizens to get an idea of what information will be fully available in March.

“You can go on there and see a demonstration and play around with some maps,” Sancimino said. “This is just a draft though, and more maps will be available when we get everything installed.

“Even if you just want to see what your house looks like from above, that’s something you can see with GIS.”

He also says the program will make Arenac County equal to other counties and everyone will benefit in the long run.

“We’re (Arenac County) getting our money’s worth out of it,” Sancimino said. “It’ll (GIS) help a lot with our economic development.”

Inman says it’s important to recognize this is will be the first year having the system in-place; and as the right people become familiar with the system, work practices will develop and they’ll be able to determine what amount of GIS is necessary for the county.

“An appropriate amount of GIS is enough to improve safety, the ability of county and local government to improve services and the ability to implement zoning/county plans,” Inman said, alluding that decisions must still be made regarding which information will be available to the general public or kept private.

“There’s not enough (available data) yet but I can’t say how much more is needed. I can say, just enough is the right amount. Too much (collected data) is a waste of money,” Inman said.

He says the Arenac County Board of Commissioners and the community must decide what amount they believe is necessary – a process that will span over the next few years as GIS is phased-in incrementally.

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