GIS maps move East Texas governments into the future
Strength is found in numbers and innovation is found in collaboration.
This fundamental formula is behind a partnership in East Texas that is working to solve big problems while benefitting taxpayers with cost-efficient services.
Local governments in the East Texas GIS Consortium are partnering to build a geographic information system (GIS) infrastructure to improve public services, and you don’t need to look far to see the difference it is making.
The consortium operates under the direction of the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG), an already chummy and productive network of counties and other governmental entities with a shared commitment toward smart government. GIS encompasses the technology and analysis of electronic maps and the data they represent. It’s like your GPS, but with a brain and a hard drive, allowing officials and workers to spot geographic trends with satellite images without so much time in the field. The East Texas GIS Consortium’s goal is to share otherwise costly GIS systems, similar to a co-op, creating savings that ultimately benefit East Texas taxpayers.
The city of Rusk, for example, mapped its fire hydrants and analyzed the data to identify underserved areas. By spotting deficiencies in hydrant service, officials can preempt disasters and other emergencies.
“ETCOG’s GIS technology makes a big difference in our region”
— Kris Gandham,
East Texas Council of Governments
Similarly, Gladewater officials recently used GIS data to calculate the length and condition of street segments – a practice that traditionally requires a worker walking streets with a measuring wheel, costing several weeks of fieldwork and resources. GIS data allowed the distances to be calculated in a matter of minutes.
In Anderson County, the sheriff’s department uses GIS technology to access emergency response information from the field.
“ETCOG’s GIS technology makes a big difference in our region,” says Kris Gandham, who serves as associate director of transportation for the East Texas Council of Governments. “For about $5,000 for each entity, we can provide all of our members, irrespective of their size or tax base, access to a full-fledged GIS system.”
Gandham says the partnership has more big plans for the future, including expanded economic development planning that involves GIS data.
“GIS helps us answer a lot of difficult questions, including [showing how] tax values and jobs are distributed across a specified area,” he says. “GIS tools allow us to identify trends and examine the impact new businesses might have on a given area. The possibilities are limitless, and fortunately, cost-effective.” TR
Partnering for Better Benefits
The East Texas GIS Consortium is a network of local governments in 14 counties that strives to make government operations more innovative and efficient. By partnering, governments benefit and better serve taxpayers. Building the partnership involved communicating member benefits, says Kris Gandham, associate director of transportation for the East Texas Council of Governments. Consortium members enjoy a variety of benefits, including:
- Shared Costs: The $100,000 GIS system cost is greatly offset by members that each pay $5,000, but enjoy full use of the technology.
- GIS and GPS Training: Consortium members have access to training in basic to advanced use of digital mapping and analysis, and training in the use of mapping devices.
- Web Hosting: Access to online storage of GIS data and websites for officials, developers and community members.
Read more about the East Texas Council of Governments and other GIS projects.