Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town to implement Geographic Information System

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
February 28, 2007

VERNON - Town officials say they are hoping to bring land records information to the next level this spring with a new staff position and database that, ultimately, could make photographs and pertinent information on all parcels available through the town Web site.

Known as GIS - computerized geographic information system - the data will improve upon the two-dimensional topographical maps and files of land records stored at town hall, providing digital imaging and statistical information at the click of a button, officials say.

GIS is a collection of computer hardware, software, and geographic data that is used for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.

The system, now employed by such towns as Tolland and South Windsor, responds to specific questions and supplies three-dimensional aerial photographs on every parcel in town layered with information such as location of wetlands, property lines, vacant lots, wildlife data, and assessment values.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark said Tuesday that he plans to interview 20 applicants over the next few weeks with the hope of hiring a GIS manager by mid-April.

The newly created position should not cost the town additional funds, Clark said, as an unfilled position from the assessor's office has been reclassified to the GIS manager job, with a comparable salary range of $41,678 to $53,016 annually.

And the town has set aside $60,000 to implement initial changes so "we can hit the ground running" once someone is hired, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said.

Of that amount $5,000 goes to a consultant who is now conducting an assessment of the town's database needs, while the remainder goes towards hardware and software, Clark said.

"This is something that the town has needed and surrounding towns have had for a long time," Marmer said. "It fills a large void in what we needed to do, and if people want to see an efficiency of their tax dollars, they'll see it here."

It now takes two or more hours for a developer and town staff member to search, find, print, and label, maps of properties surrounding a particular parcel they are interested in building on, Clark said. With the new system, that task will take five minutes, he said.

The databases will initially be used by town staff for tax assessments, land use planning, economic development, zoning, facility locating and mapping, pathway design, drainage, and road improvement projects, Clark said.

Layers of information that could be added to the database include utilities, stormwater drainage, snowplow routes, and fire hydrant mapping.

The ultimate vision is to have the information available to residents via the town Web site, Clark said. But that could take time, he added.

For now "there are some real practical implications here, and it's only limited by your imagination," he said.

©Journal Inquirer 2007