Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2007

County tables request for new GIS planner

April 25, 2007

What started as a request to add a new position to the Leavenworth County Geographic Information Systems Department turned into a full-fledged discussion of what steps the county commission is willing to take to make its online mapping content up-to-par and competitive with surrounding areas.

Commissioners met Thursday with GIS director Jeff Culbertson, Planning and Zoning director Chris Dunn, Information Systems director Larry Malbrough and County counselor-at-large Keyta Kelly to determine whether a level-7 position in the GIS department was necessary.

The technical cartographer would be under GIS but would be responsible for a lot of planning and zoning work as well as historical mapping, such as plotting cemeteries. A yearly salary of $34,000 was requested for the planner.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber questioned why the position was necessary.

"What do you need that you currently don't have?" Graeber asked Culbertson.

Culbertson said the planner would help the overburdened GIS department put up-to-date maps online for public use and for developers looking to set up shop in Leavenworth. The sixth largest county in Kansas, Leavenworth is falling behind what other counties offer on their Web sites, he said.

"I think this job is directly related to the growth that has occurred in the county," Culbertson said. "There were 7,000 map changes last year because of subdivisions and annexations ... we need a digital format of maps."

Malbrough said mapping information is currently available, but it is static and can't be changed at the pace the GIS department would like.

"I get asked at least 10 times a day from planners, surveyors and individuals, 'Where is your stuff on the Web,'" Culbertson said, "and I have to say, 'We don't have it yet.'"

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson expressed concern that companies looking for land in Leavenworth County are unable to, because of antiquated data on the county's Web site.

"What we're seeing is that with developers on a national scale, you get ruled out of a program if we don't have these capabilities," Tellefson said. "To me this is a way to get a department's needs met at a lower cost to the county."

The other two commissioners were more hesitant.

"I'm not going to sit here and vote for a hierarchy," Graeber said, expressing fears that by creating this position, another position would have to be created for someone in the field to gather the necessary information to be entered into the county's Web site.

Commissioner Dean Oroke questioned who would benefit.

"I see that this benefits Realtors and engineers, but how's it benefit us?" Oroke asked. "How do we recoup the money spent?"

Culbertson countered that taxpayers are requesting better online service, too, not just developers. Currently residents wanting layered maps of the nature that could be provided online must come to the courthouse and pay a fee for them.

"I say, 'Give it away. Let's bring in developers,'" Dunn said. "This is something that's going to allow us to be more accurate and, ultimately, allow us to give better customer service."

Commissioners decided to table the issue for up to 45 days for further discussion.

In other business Thursday, the commission:

  • Voted, 3-0, to allow the Sheriff's Office to conduct four sobriety checkpoints in the county this year. The cost of the checkpoints, aimed at catching drunken drivers, is reimbursable by the state.
  • Approved a request for Keyta Kelly to attend the 2007 Kansas Sampler Festival May 4-5 in Garden City. Kelly, Bob Topping, Sally Hatcher and Laura Phillippi will represent the county at the festival.

Kelly said she has used the $1,200 in budgeted funds to order 2,500 fans and to pay for a booth at the festival. Also Hallmark Cards donated 1,000 bags. Kelly and the rest of the Leavenworth County delegation will dress in historical costumes.

  • Heard a quarterly report by Information Systems Director Larry Malbrough, who discussed budget issues and department projects.
  • Conducted a department head meeting, where Tellefson spoke on organization and the upcoming budgetary process.
  • Met in executive session for five minutes to discuss possible litigation.

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