Lee commissioners consider GIS mapping

LEESBURG -- County officials are having an initial look at a GIS, or Geographic Information System, for improved mapping and data analysis. If cost feasible, the system could yield a more comprehensive, accurate and efficient system for county management, officials say.

At a special meeting Wednesday at 102 Starksville Ave. North, county officials and agency heads met to discuss pros and cons of upgrading to the latest GIS mapping technology. The meeting was initiated by Rick Muggridge, chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners.

Also present was Heidi Penny with the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, a planning agency in Camilla that serves 14 counties in the region. Penny served as a reference for the GIS system, providing basic information on what could be expected.

According to commission's materials, GIS is a high-tech system that incorporates geographical features with tabular data to map, analyze and assess "real-world" problems. Implementing a series of map layers, or "overlays," the system is said to drill further into the data than what could be seen on the surface of a paper map or a map of computer-aided design (CAD). Officials say that all county functions, including tax appraisal, building and zoning, public works and public safety could be integrated into an upgraded system which would then be more efficient overall.

"As an example, we could quickly know how many storm drains are in the county and where they are," Muggridge said. "Or how many rooftops within a five-mile area. We would know where all the 911 calls are coming from and what times of the day. This type of visual information could show us how to deliver county services more efficiently."

Muggridge said benefits to the enhanced information system could include better flood control, more accurate tax collection and the lowering of fire insurance rates.

Interim Lee County Administrator Lynn Taylor said several considerations would be made before upgrading to a new system, including the system's compatibility with existing software, which may differ from one department to another, the county's perceived needs for the future and the total cost of the system.

Taylor said that Wednesday's meeting ended with no firm decisions on the considered GIS system. Department heads were encouraged to gather further information within their respective areas. According to Taylor, the GIS system is set to be discussed further at a second meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday.