Street and basement flooding is no stranger to many cities and towns. Today, in West Hartford, Connecticut, with its hilly terrain, around 10% of the homes experience some level of flooding. But, West Hartford Town Engineer Duane Martin is on the case. “We got a drainage complaint from a resident on Harvest Lane whose basement flooded during a recent rain storm. Using MapGeo we were able to print out a screen shot, which showed the resident the topography and drainage system as it related to his property.” It’s Martin’s plan to work up a complete topographical survey of trouble spots. In the meantime, he can use MapGeo to create a small-scale “snap shot” map to explain to residents their particular problem and possible solutions.
“My staff and I use MapGeo daily as a research tool. The recently added features and enhancements make the application, MapGeo, even more useful and save my staff research time, especially in preparation for a field visit.” He explained that MapGeo gives his Engineering Department immediate access to a wealth of property specific information, which makes it easier to discuss issues with residents over the phone.
MapGeo is AppGeo’s mapping platform, with data layers (themes) designed to connect civic departments, like fire departments, assessors’ offices and the DPW, with residents and local businesses. It gives communities the ability to share customized, local data widely for everyone’s benefit.
Jared W. Morin, West Hartford Director of Information Technology, is taking full advantage of MapGeo’s connectivity and enriching map data. “Some notable West Hartford projects using MapGeo include: building our own fiber infrastructure and mapping it out in the GIS system for all municipal locations; town-wide storm-water system mapping to support MS4 requirements; and traffic signal mapping. Future projects may include street sign inventory, school interior mapping, NENA (National Emergency Number Association) roads and address data compliance, to name a few,” said Morin. Data from a given project can become a unique theme in MapGeo, making local geographic knowledge and annotations into a common resource.
West Hartford, with a population of over 60,000, lies five miles from Hartford. Its emergence as suburb can be traced to the introduction of horse-drawn trolley cars in 1845. West Hartford’s first foray into electric transportation occurred in 1889 with the introduction of electric trolleys that carried day-trippers from West Hartford into Hartford and back again. It is no surprise that the West Hartford town government is using MapGeo to some of the same pioneering ends – vehicle tracking, traffic signal mapping, and storm-water mapping to name just a very few applications.
More recently West Hartford has become a unique destination itself. In 2008, Blue Back Square opened in West Hartford and was considered a pioneer in mixed-use development. This novel mix of commercial and residential space was named for the innovative output of West Hartford’s most famous son, Noah Webster. Webster was a lexicographer, textbook pioneer, spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author. He has been called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education.” His Blue-Backed Speller taught five generations of American children how to spell and read.
Coincidentally, users can even study the history of West Hartford via MapGeo. One map theme highlights historic districts and National Register sites such as the Noah Webster Memorial Library and Noah Webster’s birthplace. Hovering a cursor over the designated buildings and sites reveals basic information. Other themes such as the assessor’s map, topography, voting districts, refuge pick up zones and plow routes may be accessed via a sidebar.
“The feedback has been very positive,” said Director of IT Morin. “Various stakeholders access the MapGeo site to view parcel data or themes. Users find MapGeo user-friendly and intuitive.”
“MapGeo is a very handy tool to look up information for residents,” said Kim Holden, West Hartford DPW Business Operations Manager. Phone calls can be more productive since the residents and the Town employees can look at the same screen at the same time. “When they call, we can bring up the information [like lot lines] and quickly come to a common understanding with our residents. It’s mainly a map viewer; geographic information is at your fingertips. I like the ability to measure and mark-up maps with the tools provided.” Her annotated notes can then become part of the “shared knowledge” inside the Town departments. She said that MapGeo makes her job easier because, “MapGeo is one-stop shopping for accessing data.”
Holden added, “I know that many departments within the Town access information via MapGeo. Plus, it is viewed by people, such as realtors and appraisers, who are accessing the property information from the Assessor’s database. Our calls are largely about waste services or pertain to potholes, lights out, or vegetation management.”
Director of IT Morin concedes that one of MapGeo’s most useful abilities relies on the themes and search capabilities and the integration with Google Street View. He also appreciates that MapGeo is so easy to use. “MapGeo gives residents the ability for self service. And, that does help decrease the amount of calls for support.”
West Hartford’s MapGeo site averages over 2,600 visits a month. In a 22-day work month that works out to be almost 120 views a day. MapGeo lets West Hartford residents avoid long lines at town hall or long hold times on the phone. MapGeo is 24/7. And with MapGeo, residents have the ability to access information, at their convenience, evenings and weekends when town offices are closed.