GIS Consortium Membership Proves Valuable for City of College Place
The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) and FLO partner to run the GIS Consortium, an AWC program that helps Washington cities and non-city entities (conservation districts, utility districts, and more) implement or improve the use of GIS. Read the interview below to learn how GIS Consortium membership is helping City of College Place to increase internal efficiency, boost citizen engagement, and improve the delivery of services.
The following interview between Andy Meyer, AWC special projects coordinator, and Mike Rizzitiello, City of College Place city manager, was originally published on AWC’s Web site. Visit wacities.org to learn more about the GIS Consortium and how to join.
Tell us about College Place. What’s the city like?
College Place is a growing community in Eastern Washington. The city was founded in the late 1800s as a Seventh Day Adventist enclave. Today, for all intents and purposes, we’re a lower-cost alternative to Walla Walla, which is adjacent to us, where a lot of many people travel for vacation. Because Walla Walla has become more popular to travel to recently, the cost of housing has exploded, but in College Place, it’s cheaper. But we’re growing and developing, too. Our population has grown quite a bit, from 7,600 people in 2000 up to today, where it’s about 9,400 folks. We just reconstructed our main street, where we spent $15 million to completely rebuild it, making it more pedestrian-oriented and walkable.
What is College Place getting accomplished through the GIS Consortium?
College Place is changing quickly. Especially in terms of development, we really feel that to get the most out of GIS, we have to have the ability to update our own data and offer online data viewers both for internal staff and the public. Eventually, we really want to get all city functions tied in with a GIS. We want to grow our GIS and eventually have internal staff take over ownership and be able to use it to answer a lot of different questions across the whole city. The GIS Consortium is helping us get there.
How is your community benefiting from the work of the GIS Consortium?
We’re in our second year as members of the GIS Consortium. When we joined, the GIS Consortium helped us clean up the data we had, understand where the data gaps are, and then move forward. Really, the GIS needs assessment that came with our GIS Consortium membership, where FLO Analytics sat down with our staff and worked to do an assessment of GIS at College Place, did a lot to help us understand what the gaps are with what we have, and what work needed to be accomplished to meet our goals and create sustainable systems that will help us in the future.
What we’re doing this year, now that we have all of our data organized, is that we are creating online data viewers to make it easier for everyone to use GIS at the city. Before, only a core group of folks used it. Our goal is to essentially have a suite of online data viewers, so a variety of city staff can easily consume data and run basic analyses to help them with their day-to-day work, and the public can have easier access to information.
For example, one of the viewers that’s being developed using our GIS Consortium service hours is a public works and engineering viewer that has measurements and dimensions of utility assets, so that staff can easily track that information. We’re also getting a planning viewer where staff will be able to easily access land use zoning footprints and see the details of specific tax parcels. An emergency response viewer and heat map will help police and fire staff see trends of where crime is in the city. And then we’re also creating a simple public viewer that’s user-friendly, so folks that don’t know GIS easily query data about their community.
Is the work being completed through the GIS Consortium creating value (financial or otherwise) for College Place residents?
I feel it is. We have a lot of development in this community and developers want to know information quickly, in a split second, so they can say what their development is and what the financial impact is to the city. Right now, the system we work with only lets you look up rudimentary parcel data, and it has limited use. I feel once we get these data viewers up, like the one specifically for planners, it’s really going to help solidify our development review process and make it easier to attract even more development to College Place. I feel there’s a big financial value there.
Has the GIS Consortium created value for College Place city staff?
An ability to analyze trends is going to be of great value for city staff once the data viewers are complete. While we know where our infrastructure health is at right now, and what crime is like right now, we lack the ability to easily establish historical trends. Are our water mains and sewer mains maybe deteriorating and will need to be replaced in the future? Are we sending police to the right areas where crime is trending? We’ll be able to answer these questions with the data viewers. I really see that as our GIS gets beefed up, it’s really going to help deploy our resources here efficiently and effectively. Although we are a full-service community, we only have 35 staff people. That’s very slim for a full-service community of around 9,400 people that’s full service. So we need to be as efficient and effective as possible.