Canton uses GIS data to map public works features

Canton Municipal Building. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — After months of data collection, the town is a step closer to compiling a comprehensive map of Canton’s public works features.

Last summer, Town Council approved an agreement with the Development Authority of the North Country to participate in DANC’s ongoing Geographic Information System program. The Canton Highway Department, with DANC Assistant Director of Engineering Star Carter, started documenting the town’s culverts, road signs and streetlights in August.

GIS, a framework of data collection, storage, visualization and analysis, organizes information into one system of map layers and images for convenient review.

For the last 11 years, DANC has partnered with communities to apply for funding and develop GIS mapping of infrastructure in towns and villages across the north country. The program, which now hosts and manages GIS data for nearly 80 communities, is designed as a partnership so local governments do not need their own GIS software or staff.

“Having that information all in one place, and having gone through the training and played around on the website quite a bit, the possibilities are infinite,” Town Councilor Robert J. Washo said during February’s regular council meeting Thursday night.

DANC Project Engineer Kari E. Tremper updated councilors on the town’s online GIS portal developed to house collected and visualized data. To date, 427 culverts, 649 road signs and 44 streetlights have been logged and entered into the system.

The Highway Department inspected and photographed the features, noting their condition. Ms. Tremper described the data layers as a “living map” with entry flexibility. Leaning signs, she said, have been physically adjusted, with data entries updated to reflect the fixes.

When the town first discussed the agreement in July, Mr. Washo said public works features were mapped out in longtime municipal staff memories, but not on paper. Trained by DANC this month to use the portal, Mr. Washo on Thursday said he can already envision other uses for the GIS layers across departments, including highway, code enforcement and economic development.

The town’s solar arrays and snowplow routes, he added, could be plotted, too.

In May last year, the Canton Village Board pledged its support — and roughly $900 — for widening the scope of its GIS agreement with DANC, which would similarly map locations of bridges and culverts, road signs, sidewalks, curbs, municipal-owned cemeteries and electric systems. That public works data would supplement the already logged water and sewer system data for the village.

Since the town did not have an existing partnership with DANC, its agreement incorporates an $8,000 initial cost, with an annual hosting service fee between $825 and $875 for four years.

Ms. Tremper said the town will need to decide if its portal is to be made public as part of St. Lawrence County’s portal, where GIS data from other municipalities can be viewed. Additional trainings for town officials and highway staff who will use and further develop map layers are anticipated this spring.

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