10/22/07 — Fremont weighs city mapping program option

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Fremont weighs city mapping program option

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 22, 2007 1:45 PM

FREMONT -- With hopes it might help avoid future problems like its once-imploding sewer system, town officials are looking to relatively new technology.

Town Manager Kerry McDuffie said he became familiar with how useful geographic information systems are when he worked with the town of Cary.

A Cary city worker who managed maintenance came into the mapping office and said a certain manhole -- on Interstate 40 -- did not exist, McDuffie said.

Using the city's map data, the geographic information systems department was able to lay aerial photography over a map of public works access points, the town manager said.

The manhole's location became immediately apparent. It wasn't smack in the middle of I-40, it was in the median, McDuffie said.

"Apparently, they didn't think to look in the median," McDuffie said. "The guy said 'Thanks,' and walked out."

McDuffie said he has enlisted the help of a Seymour Johnson employee who specializes in electronic mapping.

The town was scheduled to have its first trial version test run of Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI ArcView mapping software this week, the town manager said.

The type of information such software provides could prove useful as residents take an expanded interest in the town's sewer project and its future fate.

Two residents bantered with town aldermen for nearly 1/2-hour this week about rates of water inflow and sewer output, one saying repeatedly that he thought "something just wasn't right."

Alderman W.T. Smith also wondered why output of waste water seemed to be double what they were taking in.

Many of those gallons were explained by rainwater and other sources, the town manager and city maintenance supervisor said.

McDuffie also told aldermen that a histogram that concerned Alderman Leroy Ruffin, which detailed monthly spikes in water input, would look much different when plotted out over a longer period of time.

"We're probably going to adjust that for the board, to give them something more accurate to look at," McDuffie said. "We need to put it together in a way that's meaningful and useful to the board."

McDuffie admitted there is still infiltration -- sewer lingo for water that leaks into a system -- present, despite a $1.77 million project to overhaul the system, managed by the Greenville-based Wooten Co.

Wooten Co. engineers have said that no system is completely free of infiltration and inflow, but the best systems have the least.

And while that project is nearing completion, having dynamic digital maps will certainly help maintenance and planning in the future, McDuffie said.

"Whether it's aerial photographs, valves, water meters, sewer taps, storm draining, property lines -- you can pull up any combination of these things on the computer and zoom in and zoom out for different levels of detail," McDuffie said.

Wayne County has its own instance of a geographic mapping system, which is available for use with Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers at http://maps.waynegov.com/viewer.htm.

But Fremont's own version of the software will help its office perform more efficiently, McDuffie said.

"If somebody wants to build a house here, how are we going to provide utilities to that house," the town manager said. "All of these things will make it easier for us.

"Really, the only difference the public will see is we'll be able to provide more accurate information, quicker."