There is Hope for GIS in Rural Communities: A profile of Hope, Arkansas

By Joe Francica

Hope, Arkansas - GIS
City of Hope, Arkansas: A vision for GIS in a rural town

Directions Magazine recently conducted an interview with the people responsible for establishing GIS technology in the city of Hope, Arkansas, a rural town of about 11,000 people and more popularly recognized as the birthplace of former president Bill Clinton.We asked Catherine Cook, the city manager, and Darrell Allen, GIS Manager about how it got started and their current site configuration. The information they provided is a detailed look at how one city is taking advantage of GIS and how it maintains its mission.Their insights will be extremely informative to those local governments who are just now looking at what might work best for their rural communities.

1.How was GIS first introduced to the City of Hope?
The City Manager, Catherine Cook, heard about GIS at the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) and the ACMA (Arkansas City Management Association) conferences in 1995/1996.The CAST (Center for Advanced Spatial Technology)Lab from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville supplied information through a presentation about GIS and its many uses at the ACMA conference.This exposure got the ball rolling and the idea for Hope to start a GIS program was discussed.The then Assistant City Manager David Sterling and Shelby Johnson, at that time with CAST, did a presentation of the GIS concept to the Board of Directors.

2.What factors, political or managerial, prompted you to consider investing in the technology?
Ms.Cook saw an opportunity to create, store, and use information about the City's infrastructure and tasks more efficiently.More readily available data about Hope and the surrounding area would give the City a better way to help its citizens and bring in economic development.

3.What sources of information (consultants, universities, etc.) helped to formulate your opinion on the value of this technology?
The resources sought to gather information about GIS came from other cities' experiences, ICMA, the Arkansas Municipal League, the National League of Cities, CAST, and the internet.

4.Can you describe the "day to day" applications for which you use the technology to inform the public or other city officials?
"What is the zoning here?", "What subdivision am I in?" "Where is the nearest sewer?" and "Am I in the city limits?" are common, day-to-day questions received by City staff.Information in the GIS can help answer these and many
other basic questions, in addition to providing location maps for prospective Economic Development clients and for grant applications.

5.What obstacles, if any, did you face in promoting the technology in order to receive funding?
The City of Hope Board of Directors saw the potential benefits of this technology and did not have any substantial problems to funding a GIS development and maintenance. The only thing that could be an obstacle in the future is if we do not keep promoting and showing results to the Board.This is something Catherine has stressed since the beginning.Always give periodic updates to the people who decide the future of the program.

6.What departments have you determined should be using the technology and how are you promoting the need to share resources?
All departments would benefit from some aspect of having a GIS.All department Superintendents are encouraged to seek assistance with any question or project that could be answered or enhanced with maps or some form of location-based information.

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7.What are your long range goals for deploying this technology in helping the city to be a better managed community?
Integration of pertinent information created through the GIS into the Emergency Services facet of the City and other entities is a long-term goal for the program.The community expects faster and more efficient responses to be ongoing goals from the Fire and Police Departments and the Ambulance Service.Other long-range goals include better planning, having more information available for Economic Development prospects, and inclusion of data on the internet so citizens can look-up answers to questions, thus avoiding a trip to City Hall or the Public Works building.

8.What system did you choose?
I chose ESRI's ArcView GIS software due to features and previous experience.

9.What is the current configuration (software, hardware, data, staff)?
Software: We are currently using ArcGIS 8.1 (ArcView package) for the main GIS software. We also have ArcView 3.x, TerraSync for GPS data collection, MediaMapper for digital photo/GPS integration, and Blue Marble's Geographic

Hardware: The department has a Trimble Pro XRS GPS unit, a HP 755CM plotter, a HP 4500 color laserjet, an UMAX 11x17 scanner, a Sony digital camera, and a Contour XLRic laser rangefinder that integrates with the GPS.The
computers running the GIS are a dual Pentium Xeon workstation and an IBM Pentium III laptop.

Data: The City of Hope GIS consists of a wide array of data.The base is the street network that consists of street centerline data created by a GPS. This data was produced for the local utility company before the City of Hope began its system.We have zoning, subdivisions, sewer system, addressed streets, infrastructure at the park, City property locations, and dozens of smaller layers of information.

Staff: The staff currently consists of only Darrell Allen as the GIS Coordinator.

10.How much was your initial cost for installation?
Initial expenditure for startup was approximately $30,000 for most of the items listed above. The workstation has been upgraded since the start and the laptop added, along with software upgrades, but the base items are still the same.The base data (GPS road network) was given to us by Hope Water & Light, a local utility company.It cost them about $15,000, thus saving us time and money.

11.What training did you or staff members obtain?
I received a Cerificate in GIS from the University of New Haven.This was composed of a series of four Graduate courses in GIS.I have also taken two courses in ArcView 3.2 and an Introduction to ArcView 8.1 class since employment with the City of Hope.

12.What is your ongoing budget to sustain GIS technology development?
This varies from year to year, but the average is about $15,000.Large projects, like DOQQ production slated for next year, would significantly increase that amount.

13.Do you spend more on software? Data? Hardware?
So far in the three years since the City of Hope GIS began, more has been spent on building the hardware system, but will change when various projects come up.The expenditure will probably be cyclic due to hardware needing to be replaced every 3-5 years.

14.On a daily basis, what takes most of your time?
There are generally no two days alike, but map production is probably a big time consumer that comes in spurts..The GPS locating of the sewer system takes a lot of time, but is not done but one day every couple of weeks, on average.

15.What are your long term goals for using the technology?
I would like to see the all the various departments able to access and use the data on their own.For example, the wastewater guys using the manhole layer and a GPS to navigate to a remote manhole.I would like to see our 911 system and Police Department using address point locations to respond to an emergency. The main goal is to have others using the data to make better, more efficient decisions during their daily work routine.

Visit the City of Hope, today at

Published Friday, May 17th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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