Chamblee, Ga., partners for GIS and IT expertise
- By Stephanie Kanowitz
- Aug 02, 2017
Chamblee, Ga., is trying to put itself on the map -- literally. It’s working with a managed IT and security services provider on a geographic information system that officials hope will increase transparency and citizen engagement.
Until recently, Chamblee, a city of about 28,000 residents, had no GIS services. “We had the system, but we did not know how to use it,” said Jon Walker, Chamblee city manager. City workers tried using an out-of-the-box solution, but after two years, “we had nothing to show for it,” he said.
At least in part, that’s because the employees who were trying to grow Chamblee’s GIS were planners and economic development staff members, not GIS experts.
“We just haven’t been able to commit the resources internally to that effort,” Walker said. “Our economic development director was really trying very hard to put together storyboards for economic development prospects, and the effort that was going into that was really draining him from other projects.”
Now, however, that work is being handled by InterDev, a company the city tapped to provide a comprehensive package of managed IT and GIS services. InterDev can churn out the same GIS projects in hours that city staff would work on for weeks, Walker said, enabling workers to do their main jobs at full capacity. For the economic development director, “being able to focus on his projects and take the idea to someone who is very knowledgeable in GIS, who can do that storyboard in a day, has really freed up his time,” Walker added.
With its Esri-based MosaicGIS software-as-a-service platform, InterDev is creating a public-facing map based on county data to show where paving and streetscape beautification projects will be. MosaicGIS gives city workers access to a managed ArcGIS server paired with a database of the city’s geographic data points.
We've taken the city's five-year plan for paving, "mapped it, and we’ve put it out there for the public to see what streets are planned for paving and when,” Walker said. So far, the map contains two of the five years’ worth of data.
Site visitors can click on tabs to see an overview of the project, what’s happening in 2017, streetscapes and how to get more information. The site also uses aerial images and storyboards to engage the public.
“On the back end, it was more using what they had" -- aerial photos and some of the layers for the streets -- said Ashley Smith, InterDev’s director of government services. InterDev worked on "getting the center line straight, and then getting with the Public Works Department to make sure it’s a good product,” he added.
The GIS effort is part of Chamblee’s bigger modernization goals. InterDev upgraded the city’s Windows servers and improved its VMware and storage environments, Smith said. Now it’s starting to work on the networking side, replacing core switches -- all moves necessary for the GIS component to work.
“It gets the backbone of the infrastructure straight and stable for them, and then we can … start doing really cool things,” he said.
InterDev will also deploy workstations, desktop application support and data backup and recovery services. In addition to the onsite and nearby staff, InterDev uses remote administration tools, such as ConnectWise Automate, to monitor and troubleshoot Chamblee’s infrastructure.
Employees and outside firms managed IT services for Chamblee in the past, but when several workers left, “they took the institutional knowledge with them,” Walker said. InterDev helps fill that gap by working with the city to determine what IT and data are in place and creating a plan of action.
InterDev also supplied support staff in the city who were very effective at answering concerns and handling small problems quickly, Walker said, adding, "that’s something we didn’t have previously.”
Chamblee needs different resources at different times, such as a project manager for software implementation or someone to monitor systems, but the city doesn’t always have those resources on hand, he said, making the ability to reach out to InterDev for assistance important.
Right now, Chamblee is focused on public works GIS projects, but ideas from the parks and recreation staff are coming down the pike, Walker added. “There are projects that are completed or in the works that are going to help in the transparency and the community outreach,” he said. “That transparency is really very important to us.”
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.