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GIS Mapping Considered in Borough in Sandy's Wake

Shared service with county would include unlimited customization capabilities and could help in storm recovery, engineer says.

Two Morris County employees appeared before the Chatham Borough Council Monday to offer a formal shared service in GIS mapping.

The service would include a three-year contract for a GIS baseline map placed online, an electronic and printed copy of the borough's tax map, maintenance and support for the tax map and special map requests, which would open the door to potentially unlimited customized maps for borough projects.

Borough Engineer Vincent J. DeNave said, "We've been [trying] to determine how to best set up our GIS system, and I think we're pretty much there" with the shared service offer from the county.

Steve Rice and Bill DiBartolo, who work as GIS manager and Planning Department surveyor respectively, told the Chatham Borough Council with the digital data GIS maps could provide, "it will make all decision-making processes easier," in DiBartolo's words.

If the borough agrees to the shared service with the county, different departments within the borough could order their own individual maps showing customized information which could be shared in layers with other departments, and even with the public.

"It's getting everyone on the same page, updating all the same data," DiBartolo said.

Electronic maps could also be placed online for the public to view and even edit. With a username and password, members of the public could add details to a public map—which could be useful after a regional weather event such as the recent Tropical Storm Sandy, which brought down so many trees, poles and wires it was difficult to create a comprehensive list.

Mayor Bruce A. Harris said, "During Sandy, we created our own map," which was often released to the public in the form of a list of streets with closures, downed wires or trees rather than as an aerial map.

With the county's GIS mapping, such a map could be placed on the borough website for the duration of a storm and recovery, DiBartolo said.

Maps could also be done for tree inventories, walking paths, trash collection, recycling collection, brush and leaf collection, sidewalks or almost anything else. "There's almost limitless customization," DiBartolo said.

Councilman John Holman asked if there would be a way to connect a borough map to the electric grid through JCP&L so residents could see street-by-street where the power outages were.

Since JCP&L is a separate company, DeNave and DiBartolo said, such interconnection would not be possible. "They need to get there at some point, but on our end, we want to be ready," DeNave said.

Updates to the tax map would also be included in the shared service agreement. "We have to have a borough surveyor of record who really certifies our tax map. We haven't made any changes to our tax map in the last couple of years, although we should be," DeNave said.

Ongoing borough projects, including the Explore Chatham hiking trails and tree inventory, mean "we're going to have a tremendous amount of mapping requests," DeNave said. "We provide the data, they can provide the map."

DiBartolo said the county had already offered this service to one other town in the county, and Chatham Borough was the second town they approached.

The shared service offer includes a 3-year contract, and the council agreed to consider the agreement. No decision has yet been made, and a price for the contract was not discussed in the meeting.

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