Case Study: Making Data Visual and Accessible in Brunswick, NY

By MapInfo Staff

Ed. note: This article originally appeared on MapInfo's website and is reprinted here with permission.

Brunswick, New York., a town consisting of approximately 12,000 people which lies on the outskirts of New York's Capital Region, relies on an agriculturally based economy. The Town Board is responsible for managing large amounts of data and information regarding the building, assessor, water and highway departments. Originally, all property data was stored in numerous filing cabinets which made accessing this information extremely slow and difficult. When making real estate decisions, residents would have to consult the building and assessor departments to obtain information about a specific property. Numerous sets of files had to be searched by both departments in order to gather all of the necessary information, a process which could take hours or even days. The Town Board realized that it needed a centralized database to make this information more accessible internally and for the residents.

The lack of a central database also made fulfilling internal requests complicated and drawn out. For example, if the building department was working on a special project, employees would first have to collect all the parcel numbers surrounding the specific area and then match that information to the owners of those properties in order to notify them of the new development. Since this information was usually located in several different sets of files, employees would have to spend time chasing long paper trails and matching the parcel numbers to the addresses by hand which was extremely time consuming and inefficient.

"There just wasn't a central location for all of Brunswick's property information," said Patrick Poleto, councilman, Town of Brunswick, regarding the Town Board when he first took office on the board in January 1994, "We needed a computerized database that wouldn't just hold all the Town's data but that would depict the information in a way that is easy to understand, can be shared across departments and can be updated on a constant basis."

With the help of Troy, N.Y.-based MapInfo, the Town of Brunswick found a solution by developing its first GIS system in 2001 using proprietary software that was based on MapInfo solutions. Over time, the Town of Brunswick outgrew this system and needed to develop an application that could hold all of the town's information and make it accessible to employees and residents. Using MapInfo Exponare, a suite of pre-built, highly configurable, easy-to-use map-enabled applications, the Town Board launched a new site in February 2006 that could easily and quickly deploy maps and important data over the Town's internal network.

"MapInfo Exponare provides a single access point for all of the Town of Brunswick's property data that can now be easily updated, changed and added to," said Poleto. Powered by Exponare, the site enables employees to work with and analyze data visually, enabling them to perform queries, view and print maps and generate reports.

Now, if a resident requests a building permit or is thinking about purchasing a parcel of land, the Town Board can simply look up the property by typing in the address or parcel number, or by simply clicking on a map. The system quickly pulls up all the history of the land as well as information about neighboring areas, saving valuable time and effort. Digital photos can also be downloaded into the system in order to provide visual images of the property and aid residents in making well-informed building and real estate decisions. Users can get all the information they need in one place, rather than consulting multiple departments or searching numerous files. The system makes it easier for the Town Board to provide residents with the information they need and help them be more aware of what is going on in their immediate neighborhoods as well as in the town as a whole.

Since all the departments of the Town Board in Brunswick work so closely with each other, the Town Board plans to expand the application in the near future to include the water and highway departments. Being that most of the current water maps are outdated and some have been lost due to changing administrations over the years, the application will provide visual representation of where the water shut offs and fire hydrants are located so that employees can easily find this information. Once the highway department is connected, the site will show when repairs were done to the roads, helping to keep track of cleaning and paving in order to ensure good maintenance.

In addition, the Town of Brunswick plans to offer remote access to the site for employees and residents, putting important information about the town's land, property and roads right at their fingertips. "By deploying the site across departments and making it available to people whether they be in the office or at home, MapInfo helps the Town of Brunswick truly utilize and benefit from location-based information," Poleto said.

Published Friday, March 9th, 2007

Written by MapInfo Staff

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