Bertram eyes high-tech map system funds

By Nathan Hendrix

Staff Writer

Burnet Bulletin

The Bertram City Council is considering an investment of up to $35,000 for a system to digitize city databases and documents to give employees access to critical city information via the internet.

If approved, the city would contract with 3cGeo to provide geographic information system (GIS) services – a method of integrating city data into digital maps.

Brian Shirley, owner of 3cGeo, spoke with the Bertram Economic Development Corporation two weeks prior to the council meeting; he said the information was “received positively” by the corporation, but the EDC wanted to gauge the council's interest before agreeing to provide funding for the project.

The program costs up to $35,000 for initial setup and requires a monthly hosting fee of $350.

“[The EDC] can help fund this if we use it for economic development,” Bertram Mayor Adam Warden said.

Economic development is far from the only use of the digital mapping system, according to Shirley.

He said the company can create over 100 different overlays to city maps including:

• water and sewer information, including location of water towers;

• zoning information with hyperlinks to regulations;

• floor plans for schools and other buildings for emergency response use;

• maps of storm shelters;

• a database of citizens with special medical needs for emergency response use.

3cGeo has been working with the city of Bertram for the past three years maintaining zoning maps, but City Secretary Georgina Hernandez just recently became aware of other services the company can provide.

Utility Director Adam Lambert requested additional services to make water and sewer systems maps available online for the utility workers to access on-site. He said Streets/Parks Supervisor Stephen Floyd is the only staff member with complete knowledge of the systems.

“Half the guys on [our staff] don't know where the meters are out in the rural areas,” Lambert said. “They call Steve. When he goes, we're in trouble.”

Hernandez said previous utility directors didn't have a desire for the technology, but Lambert could utilize it to save time.

“Adam has been wanting something that he can put on his iPad®, zoom in and look at what we have,” she said. “That's what he needs out in the field so he doesn't have to run back to city hall to pull up a map.”

3cGeo provides similar services to several other municipalities and a university that experienced the same dilemma with senior employees.

“This creates a municipal knowledge base for you to tap in to,” Shirley said. “One of the motivators our clients have is they have senior-level staffers with a lot of local knowledge. This is a great way to capture that before they take another position.”

Cities have also used the program to implement and monitor long-range plans and projects.

“This system got started because [the city of Wolfforth] wanted to take the information generated from their comprehensive plan and use it on a daily basis, as opposed to it being in a notebook on a shelf,” Shirley said. “This provided the avenue to do that.”

He said cities smaller than Wolfforth have also provided positive feedback to the company.

“This makes staff more efficient,” he said. “One of the challenges for a small community is that you have to do more with less; one of the ways you can address that is with technology.”

Council member John Baladez said the features and reviews weren't the top concerns on his list.

“I look at features and benefits; I obviously look at costs,” council member John Baladez said. “More important than any of those is will we actually use it? You can give someone the best technology, but if they don't use it, it's as worthless as a rock.”

The council approved a motion to return the proposal to the EDC for funding assistance. Hernandez said the funding may need to be a consideration at upcoming budget meetings or spread across two budget years because the city only has $5,000 budgeted for GIS services.

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