DENHAM SPRINGS — Locating everything from fire hydrants to blighted houses will soon be a lot easier for city officials and the public.
The Denham Springs City Council voted unanimously Monday night to invest in a mapping system that could host a wide variety of information about the city’s assets and become a portal for residents’ input.
The city will contract with Denham Springs-based Environmental Science Services for $15,000 to develop a first phase of the geographic information system maps in the next few months.
Andrew Milanes, a vice president with the company, said the tools will allow the city to make better, more data-driven decisions.
“It will make the city more efficient and it will make the public more aware,” he said.
At the outset, the system will host data collected by the city several years ago about public works infrastructure, including the location of fire hydrants, water lines and manholes. It will also contain information collected late last year about property left blighted after the August 2016 floods.
“It’s almost a one-stop shop where you can go to online and find out everything you need to find out for a particular location,” said Mayor Gerard Landry.
Although the tool would be limited at first, representatives from the consulting firm and city council members talked about expanding the maps to include a portal for residents to report complaints, such as a clogged drainage ditch or a pothole. Future tools could also show the locations of mosquito spraying, parks and hazardous materials.
“From a public safety standpoint, it creates a wealth of information,” said council member Jeff Wesley, who is the city’s former police chief.
In adopting a GIS system, Denham Springs is following what Walker began a couple years ago and is bringing the city more in line with surrounding parishes.
In East Baton Rouge, for example, the public can access everything from blighted property to stream gauge levels and economic development districts.
“Were riding that second wave,” Landry said. “The technology is proven.”
Jamie Etheridge, chief of operations for Walker, said city workers there are in the process of cataloging public works infrastructure. Etheridge, who is contracting with the same consultants, said the big impetus towards GIS is protecting its assets, including water and gas lines.
He said the city has spent about $50,000 so far on equipment and software, and he expects to spend up to $30,000 more on the system.
The parish, meanwhile, has not implemented a wide-ranging GIS program despite interest from multiple agencies and departments.
Permit Director DeeDee Delatte said officials from multiple parish agencies discussed building such a platform a decade ago, but the project grew too costly and unwieldy.
The parish assessor, Jeff Taylor, went ahead and built a public-facing mapping portal that includes information on property values, flood zones and taxing districts. He has shared that tool with the parish, and it is used widely.
Livingston Parish Planning Director Sam Digirolamo said there is still interest in the parish government to have GIS maps that contain data on “anything underground,” such as water, sewer and cable lines.
“We would like to implement that one day, but the funds have not been there to do so,” Digirolamo said.
Published FEB 26, 2018 on theadvocate.com.