Editorial 7/29/2014

County’s need for information pooled into GIS department

Whether its geographic information systems or geospatial information studies probably doesn’t matter, but supervisors agreed to establish a new GIS department. They are funding it with a $40,000 budget for the coming fiscal year.

That’s not really new tax money. 

That discussion took place Wednesday morning when supervisors were talking about upcoming budgets for Panola County’s Road Department and Department of Emergency Management.

Currently the road department, solid waste, emergency management and sheriff together already kick in about this same amount annually to pursue this type of information that can be used in their areas.

That geographical information has become essential for emergency responders and service type departments such as road crews and solid waste.

The big difference is that most of it will now be done “in-house” following the employment earlier this year of GIS specialist Chris Downs who is working through the Emergency Management to implement a system that identifies all things geographical in the county.

Downs is an MSU graduate who majored in GIS systems and recently attended a workshop in California honing his skills. The new employee offered to partially pay for the trip and training but supervisors apparently saw the benefit and voted to pay expenses in their entirety.

A recent investment in E-911 dispatch services and software will allow emergency responders to know exactly where an emergency cell phone call originates. Real estate parcels, whether for taxing purposes, sale or appraisal, can also be placed in the system.

The potential for this geographical data is almost limitless with the continued evolution of technology in government, homes and businesses. That Panola County is pursuing this capability prior to a federal or state mandate shows leaders and populace have somewhat adapted to change.

It hasn’t been that long since many of us lived on gravel roads and dumped our garbage in a nearby gully. 

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