County GIS effort garners award

LIHU‘E — The County of Kaua‘i was recognized for its recent work building technological sytems that improve public safety efforts. The geospatial projects are expected to help firefighters and police officers, but also tax appraisers and planning inspectors.

Some 140 organizations from around the world were recently honored at the 2011 Esri International User Conference in San Diego, Calif., a county news release states. The county was selected from thousands of nominations that were submitted this year.

“The SAG (special achievement in GIS, geographic information system) awards highlight extraordinary achievements and efforts to improve our world,” said Esri President Jack Dangermond. “Each year, I look forward to being part of this ceremony. It is a tradition that means a great deal to Esri and GIS professionals.”

The County of Kaua‘i received a SAG award for its innovative and exceptional applications of geospatial technology, and was the only Hawai‘i organization to be recognized at the conference.

A team of county employees who use GIS in their daily work flew to San Diego to accept the award and attend various training seminars. The team includes: Garrett Johnson, IT Division; Leanora Kaiaokamalie, Planning Department; Kim Hester and Curtis Bedwell, Real Property Assessment; and Sean Smith, Kaua‘i Fire Department.

“Receiving the SAG award was totally unexpected as the use of GIS is relatively new to the county,” said Johnson. “In talking to Esri representatives, we were told that they were impressed with the quality of our projects and the progress we’ve made in just a few years.”

As the county’s only GIS analyst, Johnson serves as the lead in all GIS projects.

One of his top priorities is to support the efforts of the public safety departments including police, fire and civil defense. 

Currently, Johnson is working on a project for the fire department that involves the set-up of GIS and GPS (global positioning system) on mobile data terminals (MDTs) that are installed in 20 fire and rescue trucks.

Expected to be completed early next year, the MDTs will link the county’s records management and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems, making it easier for firefighters in the field to quickly assess emergency situations and make decisions.

Soon after the testing phase of the fire department’s MDTs, a similar roll-out will occur with the police department’s vehicles.

Another major GIS project that’s in the works is the conversion of software for the Kaua‘i Online Hazard Assessment (KOHA) tool from the older IMS Technologies to the new ArcGIS Server. This project is being developed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Although the conversion hasn’t been completed yet, the Kaua‘i Civil Defense Agency (KCDA) is already benefitting from the changes that have been made. Recently, the KCDA staff utilized the KOHA tool to identify the properties that could be in danger from a reservoir breach and created evacuation zones from this data.

Hester, a supervisor in the Real Property Assessment Division, is very excited about the many ways in which GIS applications are facilitating real property valuations.

“Having Pictometry and GIS tools to work with has greatly enhanced all areas of our operation,” said Hester. “Going forward, I envision a more comprehensive use of GIS applications that will greatly benefit the entire county.”

One of the GIS tools utilized by the real property assessment staff enables them to establish market trends in annual assessed values, and visualize how parcels are being grouped, identify anomalies and make corrections.

The same tool also makes it possible for the staff to obtain better uniformity in real property valuations.

Bedwell, a commercial real property appraiser, uses GIS to identify parcel boundaries, determine the characteristics of each parcel such as whether it is located in a flood zone or wetlands, as well as find out what zoning a parcel has.

Additionally, Bedwell utilizes GIS to facilitate his field work through the creation of color-coded maps of commercial and industrial parcels on the island.

Bedwell’s future plans include incorporating GIS maps in the tax appeal process. This will enable him to expeditiously convey to the Board of Review the relationships between a property under appeal, along with current assessments and comparable sales in the area.

The Planning Department utilizes GIS and Pictometry extensively in its daily operations, including the processing of permits and land-use analysis. Many of the planners, technicians, inspectors and managers in the department have been trained in this technology and are integrating it in their projects.

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