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State’s attorney, sheriff working on tailored GIS maps

(Dec. 19, 2014) If law enforcement or the state’s attorney’s office wants access to a particular map of an area for an investigation or trial, the process can be arduous, even if the data already exists within the county’s geographic information system coffers.

State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby admitted he’d welcome any solution to the problem that presented itself, which it has, sort of.

County employee Mark Dunlevy is pursuing, at his own cost and on his own time, a master’s degree in GIS management at Salisbury University. To complete that degree, he must complete and document a GIS-related project.

Dunlevy has offered to produce a web map, essentially the same as a PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format) file with some filters that could add or subtract layers of detail according to the users’ wants or needs. The document will be “read only,” so users could not modify the file information.

However, Dunlevy’s professor will not allow him to complete the assignment while earning wages at his day job, and the Constitution has some very specific passages on completing work without compensation.

Ed Tudor, director of development permitting and review for the county, said the idea has been broached before, but always incurred significant costs. The county’s GIS data consultants, Spatial Systems, provided a quote in excess of $11,000 for a web map project, Tudor said.

County Attorney J. Sonny Bloxom, recognizing the problem, said he had “some ideas” on how to transfer ownership of the project from Dunlevy to Worcester County, without running afoul of regulations.

Some consultation with Spatial Systems would be necessary for the project, Tudor said, but at a cost of about $2,500.

Oglesby said, and jokingly regretted, he would be happy to incur the entire cost of the project if it meant he would get his maps. The initial proposal would share the cost between the county, sheriff’s department and the state’s attorney’s office.

“Judges and juries expect more,” Oglesby said, “maps are invaluable.”

If this project delivers the desired results, Tudor said, it would then be possible to tailor GIS data for other departments using their own set of content filters to produce relevant results for each department.

The commissioners approved the project to start, which it will after the new year, with the caveat that the ownership/compensation issues are worked out before final approval.

The project is expected to take a few months to complete.

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