Officials "map out" areas with state officials

Officials "map out" areas with state officials
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - State, county and city representatives gathered together Wednesday to exchange information and make sure everyone is working from the same map.

The State Geographic Information System Board meeting took place at the Old Greene County Courthouse in Paragould on Wednesday.

State Geographic Information Officer Shelby Johnson said there's a lot of forward thinking taking place in Region 8 counties.

"One of the reasons we came to Northeast Arkansas," Johnson said. "Was because of some of the exciting work that's been going on here. Earlier this morning we heard about how Greene County is using geographic information systems to record assets on their map. For example, we learned about how they're tracking the status of culverts on county roads. We learned about how they are tagging those culverts with a condition assessment for good, fair and poor. Then they're using that information on a map to see where they need to do additional work to make improvements to the culverts or where they've done work on new culverts that they don't need to revisit. We also learned about how they're following a post-flood assessment. So, they know this is information that they need to feed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency after a disaster for example."

Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon said it's vital that everyone be on the same page.

"You want to make sure your data is correct," McMillon said. "From the city and county levels, we pass that information back up to the state level. But it helps for emergency purposes. So, locally we want to know the street that we're going to for emergency purposes. That it is identified. That it is marked and you want that emergency service to get there as quickly as possible. At the statewide level, whenever we have a statewide emergency like the flooding we had recently in Randolph, Clay, and Greene counties. . .we can identify where those problem areas are. And that data is collected at the GIS office."

"It eliminates duplication," Johnson said. "And it puts us all on the same level of information. And a good example of that is after a disaster. Like the recent flooding. It is vital that our State Department Emergency Management, our Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and those of key state agencies who a planning a response use the same map as the Emergency Management Coordinator's at the city and county levels."

Johnson said they also went over how to use the software.

"We're also working on educational activities," Johnson said. "As you can imagine, the software can be hard to use. And also, understanding where the data is and how you can use the data. And so, a lot of the rest of the day we're going to hear presentations from users who have learned how to use the data and how to apply the software."

Johnson said it takes everyone working together.

"It's really important," Johnson said. "Because no single entity is the exclusive author of the data. This technology requires and demands coordination. For example, the ownership map comes from the county assessor office. Road and bridge information comes from road and bridge. Those two different entities are the most authoritative source about the data. So, they have to coordinate. And then, at the state level, we want to work with all of those entities to roll that information up at the state level so that other agencies have that information. For example, our Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Arkansas Game and Fish, Arkansas Resource Natural Commission, Arkansas Geological Survey. . . all of those state agencies need that local information to enhance their mission that they're accomplishing in Arkansas. So, we have to coordinate with each other to have the best information together."

McMillon said everyone having the same information is necessary for the best and quickest response possible to emergency situations.

"When communication is down," McMillon said. "You need to know where your problem areas are and where you need emergency services. It's important that we have all of our mapping systems. Not just for our own information and purposes, but for other counties and cities across the state. Because this just helps coordinate the efforts statewide. And then, as those statewide efforts come down to the local levels."

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