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Wallingford Tech Committee seeks input from Economic Development on GIS
Published: August 24, 2015 | Last Modified: August 25, 2015 10:41AM
By Eric Vo Record-Journal staff
WALLINGFORD — As the Town Council’s Technology Committee continues to explore implementing a public-use Geographical Information System, the committee wants input from the Economic Development Commission, who would be working more closely with users of such a system.
The Technology Committee has not convened during the summer months, but some members met with Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and Economic Development Coordinator Don Roe two months ago. A presentation was made, where the administration was told about the benefits of having a GIS for residents and making a paperless Town Council, according to Councilor Christine Mansfield, who also serves as the Technology Committee’s vice chairwoman.
Since the committee’s resurrection in January 2014, the town made technological advances. For example, some town employees are beginning to get set up with email, according to Mansfield. The committee will also have the Town Council office run as a paperless operation to determine the amount of cost savings.
Another “low hanging fruit” item the committee is pursuing is the creation of a GIS for the community to access online.
“Our job is to bring forth feedback from the community back to the administration,” Mansfield said Monday. “I’ve been to a number of business networking events and heard from a lot of businesses and realty agents that have had frustrations.”
The usability of the GIS will depend on the “various layers and depths” of information, Roe said Monday.
“Our audience tends to be site selectors and development people,” Roe said. “It ties into how you find site selectors, brokers and developers assembling information about communities and particular sites and facilities.”
Mansfield heard from residents and business owners who were charged a surcharge by certain vendors because they live in Wallingford. If a vendor needs to drive to Town Hall to verify information, it may charge a surcharge to the client to cover travel fees and other expenses, Mansfield said.
“That’s a penalty for living where I am,” Mansfield said. “At some point, that might become a public and business community risk.”
Mansfield believes implementing a GIS can eliminate the possibility of a surcharge because people can verify information from a computer.
I want to protect how good our business climate is,” she said. “I just want to stay one step ahead and that’s why we brought it to the mayor’s attention and Don Roe’s attention.”
Dickinson, however, has reservations about the system.
“Increasingly you see all the hacking and issues surrounding putting things online,” Dickinson said Monday. “Certainly that’s a concern.”
Mansfield, however, said the committee could use area municipalities that have a GIS as an example of information being secure and highlighting the fact that there has been no “security breaches.”
“I don’t think anything is safe on the Internet,” Dickinson said when talking about other municipalities. “The federal government can’t even protect its own information.”
Donald Kennedy, who is running as an independent mayoral candidate against Dickinson, supports having a GIS for public use. He disagreed with Dickinson’s thoughts.
“The information is public. The only difference with the GIS system is you can do it from your office; without it, you have to go sit through the records room,” he said. “There’s no security concerns. There are no risks that people will know too much because anybody can walk into that records bureau and pull out anything they want.”
Dickinson added that he believed it would cost the town money to set up the GIS.
“When you make it available to everyone, everyone is paying for it through taxes,” he said, “but not everyone will be using the service.”
Despite his concerns, Dickinson said he remains open-minded.
“There are some thresholds that have to be met. Part of the concern is how much would it cost for us to implement that and certainly the security issues are significant,” Dickinson said. “But again, if you’re saving money in some way, that’s a real good argument. If it’s not going to save you money and cost money, it becomes an issue of evaluating the risk and costs.”