27 Mar Merging Data and Maps Sets Butler on Proactive Path
In 2003, the City of Butler began to implement preventive maintenance for wastewater treatment and collections. Preparing for the task was challenging because the sewer system records were mapped across multiple internal systems, making it difficult to have a comprehensive—and updated—view of the system.
“None of the sources included detailed information about more recent improvements and modifications,” says Jim Otis, GIS/IT Coordinator, “so we didn’t really have a reliable record of the location and number of manholes, size of sewers or other pertinent data to analyze and make good decisions about what actions to take.”
The city sought a robust solution: a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database. GIS was ideal because it could capture and store location coordinates for things like manholes, catch basins, the wastewater treatment facilities, pipes and even sidewalks. This spatial data could then be associated with additional information, including maintenance dates, service demands, run-off amounts and more. Together, this provided a complete picture of Butler’s sewer system. In fact, the database completely revolutionized how the wastewater treatment department operated, from writing work orders and documenting maintenance, to keeping inventory and monitoring operations.
Leveraging GIS for Every City Asset
At that time, GIS was still a fairly new concept. Butler initially pursued GIS for the sewer system but soon recognized that other departments could also benefit from what they were doing. Eventually, all department functions were integrated into GIS and, today, Butler utilizes this advanced custom GIS platform for practically all of its departmental functions.
Butler’s use of GIS is considered unusual for a city of its size. Every asset the city is responsible for is monitored via GIS. It tracks whatever the city wants to know about a specific place on the map—from sewers, water mains, wastewater plants, parks and streets, to city-managed areas like the cemetery.
Countywide Collaborative GIS Effort
Back in 1999, the City of Auburn and DeKalb County formed a GIS alliance called County-City Geographic Information System, or CoCiGIS. Butler joined CoGiGIS the following year and the City of Garrett after that. In an effort to be more efficient and effective, these government entities collaborated to develop a singular GIS storehouse—a shared resource that has become a truly powerful community data asset. Through CoCiGIS, the cities and county share costs and spatial data that allow them all to operate more efficiently and improve economic development opportunities.
Participating in CoCiGIS offers Butler the purchasing power it doesn’t have on its own. As part of an even larger government entity, Butler is now able to purchase contour maps, digital elevation maps on drainage, as well as view outlines for buildings, street surfaces, waterways and more.
Powerful Tool More Than Pays for Itself
At regional or national GIS seminars, city representatives have been repeatedly asked how a city the size of Butler can afford GIS.
“My response is always the same: How can we afford not to? Every service we provide as a city government can be displayed spatially on a map,” Otis says. “GIS has saved us money, made us more efficient and allowed us to manage the city’s assets more effectively. And thanks to our partnership with CoCiGIS, we’re able to leverage GIS even more.”