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New map streamlines data

The system that the Town of Bethlehem is implementing to streamline its information for employees and make data more accessible was demonstrated during the Wednesday, March 12, town board meeting.

A Geographic Information System, or GIS, is a multi-layered digital map that implements a broad spectrum of information and spatial data into an easily accessible format.

The system is currently set up as an intranet system that can be accessed by town employees and used on a view and query basis, said Jason Baum the town's technician and GIS specialist.

"You're probably familiar with GIS," Baum told residents during a PowerPoint presentation. "Like Google Maps, that's a GIS."

The town takes information developed by contractors, such as Saratoga Associates when they helped create a comprehensive plan, and uses it to continually update the GIS. The town is also in the process of digitally scanning thousands of engineering plans and blueprints from projects into the system. Supervisor Jack Cunningham said the scanning process should take around three years to complete.

"Better informed decision making, that is really what this is for," said Baum. "The idea is to make that information actively available in the field."

Baum said that rugged wireless laptops with GIS could be used on site.

The system has a variety of practical uses throughout the town and is used by different departments, including Town Hall and the highway, police, water and sewer, and public works departments, Cunningham said.

"We've been actively building this system for about three years now -- long before I got into office," said Cunningham. "We are mapping out the entire town."

The supervisor said the town has been investing into GIS over time and that other towns, such as Colonie and Guilderland, use similar systems. During the meeting, Baum said that Colonie was a few years ahead in their GIS and have advanced to the point were real-time information is being uploaded into it.

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