Williamston infrastructure now accessible on GIS mapping program

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By David Meade
The Town of Williamston now has digital access to the town’s infrastructure information through a new GIS mapping program. During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council heard from Paul Hammer about the new GIS mapping program which can be accessed by cell phone, tablet or computer. Hammer has been working on the digital mapping project for about two years and has almost finished with mapping of the town’s water and sewer systems. The mapping also includes the electrical system in Mineral Spring Park. The new system allows town workers, or anyone actually, to look up information about the town’s infrastructure including location and size of water and sewer lines, numbered manholes, bacterial sample points and fire hydrants. It also shows names, addresses and parcel numbers of properties. Maps are embedded with links to reflect the information, he said. The GEO data base links, areas and positions are located by GPS and are on a grid map. It can also be used with Google Earth to pinpoint locations, according to Hammer.
Hammer said the town was fortunate to have so many old records. A number of old maps and plans of the town’s water and sewer system were scanned and are now available in digital form. Hammer said the town’s “Green Book”, which has detailed hand drawings of the town’s original water system from 1935, has been included in the available information. Public Works Supervisor David Rogers said  most of the original system is still in use. Rogers, whose father worked for the town when the water plant was located near where the old depot now is, said the town’s water system has  seen three major upgrades and expansions since it was orginally built eighty two years ago. The first major upgrade was in 1952 and another was done in 1975. Rogers said the town did a $1 million upgrade on the water system last year. He said the new GIS mapping system will be very useful to the town, especially in planning and dealing with problems that arise from the aging infrastructure. The town’s sewer system is also undergoing upgrades. Rogers said sewer upgrades are being done from the plant out to the smaller collection lines as funding becomes available. All of the old information and more recent upgrades have been included in the mapping system, he said.
During his report to Town Council, Hammer said the program can also be used for public safety.
He said the public works application is the main reason the town hired him to produce the mapping system, but it can be used for general information, law enforcement and public safety and as a great resource in applying for grants.
“Grant recipients love to see GIS,” he said.
The program has an application for the fire department which can help with routing for firetrucks and response times. It can also be used to help with evacuation scenarios, he said.
The program can also be used for law enforcement. With the input of specific data, it can show crime instances and pin point crime in the town.
Hammer said the town limits were located line by line and input into the GIS system. The service area outside the town limits is also included.
Hammer said electrician Jim Darby, was very helpful in mapping out the electrical system in Mineral Spring Park.
Over the years, Darby has been instrumental in upgrading and expanding the electrical system which runs throughout the park area. The system is the basis for the town’s lighting of the Christmas Park during the holidays, which first began in 1958.
There have been upgrades and expansions on the system over the years, however a good portion is still using old wiring. Hammer said the GIS mapping program shows electrical circuits, panels, transformers and numbered outlet boxes and their locations. He said the mapping was done with GPS and with hand drawings Darby had of the system.
Councilman Rockey Burgess asked if the information and mapping could be printed to pdf. Hammer said is is based on microsoft access, with excel and word and is a fully open system.
Hammer plans to hold a training session with councilmembers and town employees sometime soon.
Hammer also recommended the town consider adding the zoning map to the system.