After a lengthy discussion, the Crow Wing County Board agreed Tuesday to affirm its commitment to the process of developing a Geographic Information System.
GIS technology provides a more accurate and complete parcel information database. It can be used effectively to place topographic mapping, parcel mapping, parcel records and other information within the departments that need information.
The county has been working on the system for three years and in 1998 a GIS committee was established. In 1999, a recommendation was made to complete a countywide parcel specific mapping within a two-year time frame. Don Sigety, county surveyor, took the lead responsibility in GIS data construction with the coordinating effort.
Commissioner Terry Sluss said then the county decided to use the GIS technology as a managing tool, not just a mapping system. The county wanted to use the system fully for all the departments and decided to attempt to develop the system in-house. Short, Elliott, Hendrickson, an architectural firm in St. Cloud, was hired to help with processing the parcels into the GIS.
The commissioners affirmed their commitment to work on a mapping system.
Sluss said this is to determine other information which could be added to the parcel based maps which would be a benefit to the county and to citizens.
The board agreed to cut the amount of personnel from six to four to maintain the system. Two people will work on the GIS in the surveyor's office and the other two will be in the auditor's office.
Peter Herlofsky Jr., county administrator, said to keep the system maintained could cost about $250,000 a year and the cost would be ongoing.
"Is this worth it to taxpayers?" asked Commissioner Dewey Tautges. "Sure it's nice, but it's a lot of money."
Many county departments have used the GIS technology -- the small portions of the system that are currently digitized -- and it has proved to be useful. The highway department uses it for right-of-way negotiations. The system helps find all the owners names and addresses and determine property value, said Rod Hall, assistant highway engineer.
"This saves us a lot of time plus it is more accurate in legal descriptions," said Hall. "We could use it everyday if we could."
Sigety said when people purchase a map from the system usually they want the most accurate information they can get so the more information they have the better.
Commissioner Gil Dewes said once the GIS is up and running the county can always make changes, including deciding not hiring the extra staff in the future, who were budgeted, to work on the project.
The board made no budgetary decision on future budgets for the project.
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