Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 33
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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Borough Council Renews Geographic Information Contract With Civil Solutions

Dilshanie Perera

“The future is all digitized,” said Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes. He was referring to the implementation of a Geographic Information System (GIS) in the Borough, which was the central issue at last Tuesday’s Council meeting.

GIS can store, analyze, integrate, and display digital data that is related to a given location.

Council members also voted to renew the contract with Civil Solutions, the company that is configuring the GIS and providing training to engineers and staff.

The renewal will cost the Borough $48,850 to further develop the base mapping and implementation, to maintain the information and system, and to receive further assistance. Of those monies, Borough engineer Christopher Budzinski noted that $15,000 to $18,000 of it would be “paid on an as-needed basis” and “might not be needed” at all.

Donald Mayer-Brown, the project engineer, and Mr. Budzinski presented a report on the possibilities of the mapping system to Mayor Trotman and Council. Civil Solutions employee Karen Mitchell demonstrated using GIS to locate information.

Global positioning system (GPS) navigation, Google’s mapping technologies, and up-to-the-minute weather maps were highlighted by Mr. Mayer-Brown as common GIS operations. Noting that GIS has “become very much a part of our culture,” he added “we think it’s time to use it here.”

The GIS would allow residents and departments belonging to the Borough or jointly held with the Township to obtain data about parcels of land. In his presentation, Mr. Mayer-Brown estimated that the operations of the Tax Assessor’s Office, Health Department, Engineering Department, and Sewer Operating Committee, among other departments, would be enhanced by such mapping technology.

The Borough currently has a draft version of various digital maps, which include zoning, tax, spatial, and sewerage information. It will be accessible through the internet, and is expected to be made available for public use by the year’s end, according to Mr. Budzinski.

Mr. Wilkes called the implementation of a GIS as a “win-win situation for all residents,” saying that “those of us who work in the community find this to be incredibly compelling.”

GIS was characterized as a way to spur increased cooperation between the Borough and Township by Council member Roger Martindell, who underscored the importance of having mapping systems between the two municipalities in which the data could be easily integrated. Mr. Mayer-Brown remarked that the software is widely used, and that the governmental bodies should be able to interface information seamlessly.

Princeton University will also contribute to the Borough’s system by sharing its own GIS data, which includes topographical and aerial information.

Ms. Mitchell responded to Council member David Goldfarb’s fears about system security by noting that various layers of information could be password protected, so that only the appropriate parties could have access to it.

Since 2000, the GIS project has cost $365,000 according to Mr. Budzinski.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi said that “all of that data saves the Borough money,” adding that “we’re going to see paybacks on it pretty quickly” once the information system is up and running.

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