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Mapping the future: County GIS map website made more user friendly

March 2, 2012

Auglaize County Geographic Information System (GIS) Director Joe Collin demonstrates features of the new mapping application online.

Beginning today, a new application should make navigating Auglaize County geographic information system (GIS) mapping easier.

“We tried to keep it similar to what we already had and make it simpler to use,” Auglaize County GIS Director Joe Collin said as he clicked through the site, noting changes, many of which make it more user friendly. “There are no real changes to the map application put in place in 2005 other than a few layers added over the years. It’s a lot of the same tools, we’ve just made them easier to use.”

Time also has been spent testing the new application, to try and find any errors before the public encounters them.

“One of the big things was we wanted it to have the same feel as big mapping sites,” Collin said.

With the updates, Collin said Auglaize County’s map site is one of the easiest to use. Links to the site can be found at auglaizecounty.org.

The updates cost the GIS office $6,000, which comes from a special fund established through the collection of a real estate transfer fee. The fund also is used to pay for a flight every six or seven years, the most recent of which cost $75,000.

A search box can be found at the top of the page and autocomplete helps with spelling questions. Even after just two letters, the system will begin to build a possible list of parcels or owners, which displays at the bottom of the page.

The new application is compatible with different formats and allows for data to be exported out.

Other tools and features of the new mapping application include combined map services, map tips, a mouse wheel pan, improved navigational tools, magnifier, multi-layer results that present in accordion format, measures of distance and area, ability to print maps and selected information to user specified size and scale.

It also searches by owner, street address and parcel ID, resizable results windows, ability to show or hide the legend, display coordinates, zoom to coordinate, show or hide overview map, hyperlink provided to existing property card, insertable redline graphics for points, ability to save graphics to desktop, printable mailing labels, custom attribute table pages, custom map views, bookmarks, ability to save defined settings in options and advanced searches.

The ability to easily create mailing labels, is a feature Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart mentioned. By boxing in an area, the labels can be created for a block party or to notify residents of street work, making his job easier.

He said the updates also give users more control of what they are printing and is more flexible.

Using aerial photos taken from 1957 to 2011, the system allows users to easily see changes in the county’s landscape and also provides maps with just parcel markings. Map services from popular sites, such as Bing or Google, also can be applied to Auglaize County maps through the site.

Additional layers mark soil types, drainage, fire hydrants, buildings and elevations. A community information button displays details about area schools, voting precincts and emergency services based on the parcel’s location.

All the tools are listed on a legend, which updates as mapping layers are turned on or off.

“You’re getting the same data and information and it’s easier to access 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Reinhart said. “We wanted to find software assuming a person my age was at the other end of this. The learning curve is extremely short on this.”

The mapping site counted 22,924 visitors, 74 percent of which were returning visitors, in 2011 and 3,171, with 77 percent of which were returning visitors, to date in 2012.

“It’s being used and used quite a bit,” Collin said.

While maintaining the same look and feel as the old application, Collin said the new application is built to work with new technology with consideration also made for what changes needed to be made. In particular, it is compatible with the newest version of Internet Explorer, as well as all other types of browsers people use, as shown by a list of how the site was accessed by people in 2011, which included through the PlayStation 3, Blackberry, Android, and other mobile devices, in addition to more traditional browser formats.

“We built this application in conjunction with the same company that assisted us with the existing application,” Collin said. “The new application will have more functionality than the old one. The way technology goes, we would have had to do something soon, the software was getting outdated.

“With the way software has built up, there are so many layers we can utilize, so many other options now,” Collin said.

The new application allows for seamless data updating that will not have to be duplicated, eliminating a step. It also offers more control over how and what type of data displays.

“We will look to add more information and layers to the site as time moves on,” Collin said of layers which could include Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps, zoning, county culverts, and oil and natural gas wells.

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